The best of Oktoberfest

By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 26, 2007

Erdinger Oktoberfest Weissbier
Erdinger’s weissbiers (a variation on hefeweizen, or wheat-beer, style) are the best selling in Germany. Why shouldn’t it get in on the Oktoberfest fun? This one is not a Märzen, but rather sort of a hybrid of the two styles: cloudy, but with a touch more caramel sweetness than your usual hefe.

Sam Adams Octoberfest
Boston Beer Company’s American spin on the style is a mite too malty for my tastes. (Adding just a bit more aroma hops might counteract that.) But it’s still a very fine beer, standing up strong even when compared with the big boys from Bavaria.

Wachusett Octoberfest Ale
Interesting. Every aforementioned beer has been a lager. But this is an ale. (Ales are brewed using top-fermenting yeasts, and lagers, slower and colder, with bottom-fermenting strains.) But if, geographically and formally, it’s not an Oktoberfest beer, it does have the hallmarks of the style, with a copper color and heavy malt character.

And, hey, why not break down the barriers even further? As Dornbusch says, “Why not a pilsner ale? How about a Burton Lager? Or a Bavarian Stout? Why don’t we have Bohemian IPA?”

Indeed, in this month’s All About Beer magazine (High Times for the bearded and big-bellied set), Randy Mosher argues that Germany’s reverence for rules need not inhibit American brewing ingenuity. The Reinheitsgebot, he writes, that “hallowed and ancient document, scribed onto goatskin, the symbol of all that is Germanic brewing, has intimidated us all into keeping to the straight and narrow.” Why not, Mosher asks, a “Porterbock,” or a stronger, darker “Novemberfest”?

After all, the hidebound solemnity of German brewing is admirable. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give it a jolt of extreme-beer adrenaline. Sometimes rules are necessary. And sometimes they’re meant to be broken.

For more information on German beer, visit Horst Dornbusch’s site: germanbeerinstitute.com.

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