Lederhosen? Check. Beer stein? Check. Oktoberfest hits Petaluma
To Germans, Oktoberfest is about so much more than just eating and drinking copious quantities of German food and beer. Its origins traced back to the 1810 wedding of Prince Ludwig, who would later become king, and Princess Therese. Locals were invited to celebrate at the fields in front of the city gate, which were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”)in honor of the princess and still bare that name today, although locals have shortened it to simply “Wiesn.”
Officially celebrated in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, Oktoberfest actually starts in late September and runs into the first weekend of October and includes all sorts of fair-time festivities, from parades to carnival games to music and dancing. And although it was originally a non-alcoholic event, it has since turned into the world’s biggest fall beer festival.
Only six breweries are authorized to serve beer at Oktoberfest and usually deliver their suds in wood barrels directly from their Munich Breweries. All six are available in the United States, but nothing beats the freshness of hand-tapped barrels, straight from the brewery.
The six official Oktoberfest beers are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spaten, and Hofbräu, all of which must adhere to strict Bavarian beer laws from 1516 known as “Reinheitsgebbot.”
Americans call them “Oktoberfest” beers, however the Bavarian style that is tapped most often at the real Oktoberfest is in the Marzen category of the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines and is described as, “An elegant, malty German amber lagerwith a clean, rich, toasty and bready malt flavor, restrained bitterness, and a dry finish that encourages another drink.
The overall malt impression is soft, elegant, and complex, with arich aftertaste that is never cloying or heavy.” Marzen’s sound almost as good as they actual taste, with my true test of quality being whether the one in front of me is befitting of the phrase, “...that encourages another drink.”
When I cannot wait for the next sip, I am drinking a great Marzen. There are many American breweries that produce Marzens and other Oktobefest beers, and as of late, have beenturning out some impressive products. Year in and year out though, Sierra Nevada goes one step further and collaborates with a different German brewer to create a unique yearly Oktoberfest beer.
I think each year’s taste better than the last, with this year’s collaboration with German brewing giant Bitburger being my favorite so far. However, this might just be because it is the one that is in front of me, but no matter who Sierra collaborates with, they seem to always turn out a great Oktoberfest beer.
For those wondering about the blue and white diamond checker pattern that seems to pop up around this time of year, it is the officially flag of Bavaria and is synonymous the world around for all things Oktoberfest. In fact, all a brewery has to do is decorate their can or bottle with blue and white checkered diamonds and I am sure to buy, knowing it will have something to do with the smooth flavors of Oktoberfest.
It would be great to spend two weeks celebrating like a Bavarian, but most of our bosses would not go for it. However, our local restaurants, bars, and social houses do a pretty good job of paying tribute to Oktoberfest with special menus, often paired with season appropriate beers.