Aside from the pumpkin beers, fall is typically characterized by Oktoberfest style beers. But does anyone really know what an Oktoberfest beer is? How is this style of beer any different from festbier, Märzen, or the classic Vienna lager? Here in America, we do not have the rich history of lager style beers that Europe, and in particular Germany, has. Oftentimes, we Americans tend to lump most lager styles together, so I thought that in honor of Oktoberfest, I would explore the history of this style.
Prior to the mid 1800’s, beer in Germany primarily consisted of dark styles, like dunkels and bocks. This changed in the early 1800’s when Gabriel Sedlmayr, whose family owned the Spaten brewery, took a trip around Europe to learn other styles of beer production. When Sedlmayr saw that England was using coke to dry malt, allowing the malted barley to be a paler color, he brought this technique back to Germany and shared the idea of using these types of malt to make German style beers.
Today marks the 1st day of Oktoberfest, the German celebration of… beer? Let’s go with that, since it seems to be all anyone knows of the festival, in America at least.
Local brewery Tenaya Creek brews up their Oktoberfest beer yearly in celebration of the festival. This was released a few weeks ago, but today seemed like the perfect day to pop open a bottle.
As you can see above, this beer has a bright, clear, copper color, as is common to most Oktoberfest beers (also known as Märzen). The aroma is nice and grassy from the German Magnum and Czech Saaz hops that this is brewed with. The beer has just the right balance of maltiness and dryness, giving this beer a nice bready flavor with a quick, refreshing, dry finish. The hops give this beer a nice firm bite in the finish, with lingering spicy/peppery and floral flavors.
This beer is best served with some bratwurst sausages. Spicy brown mustard will compliment the hops and some sauerkraut will contrast with the toasty Vienna malts. Finally, the crisp finish will refresh your palate and leave you wanting more. If you are getting hungry, and too lazy to make this yourself (like me), check out the Sausage Fest food truck and head to Tenaya Creek the next time they are there serving up their bratwursts!
Last night at the bar it was mentioned that many people don’t realize how many different types of beer there are. I thought I’d give a brief overview:
To simplify things, there are primarily two different types of beer: Ales and Lagers. At the most basic level, the difference between the two is the type of yeast used to ferment the beer. Lager yeast ferments at colder temperatures and ale yeast ferments at higher temperatures. Lagers and ales break down even further into different types of beers.
This is the most prominent type of beer simply because this is the kind of beer that Budweiser, Miller and Coors are. Other common lagers are the popular Mexican beers: Corona, Dos Equis, Pacifico etc. These beers are best served at ice cold temperature and as such have a lighter more “refreshing” taste. Or as I think of it, kind of watered down taste. The predominant lager beers are American lagers and pilsners. Again simply because this is what the big 3 companies make. The good lagers are the kind that Germany makes: marzen, bock and dunkel. These beers are typically darker colored and have a much more complex taste than the common American lager. However these beers are still lighter in flavor and feel than most ales and don’t have a predominant hop taste.
These are the more complex beers with a wider range of style. These range from the wheaty Hefeweizen and white beers (like Pyramid Hefeweizen or Blue Moon) to the dark stouts (like Guinness). Pale ales and India pale ales sit in the middle of the spectrum. IPAs and pale ales are recognized by their hoppy bite. Ales are the predominant type of beer everywhere except North America. I couldn’t begin to try and explain every type of ale because there is just so many kinds!
Ales are by far, my favorite kind of beer just because there are so many different kinds. The few beers that ive blogged about here have all been ales. I’ll try to continue to review different beers and use that opportunity to describe the beer type and it’s common characteristics.