Yup, it’s about that time again - time for another missive from your grizzled beer correspondent, straight from the front line trenches of the local beer scene. It’s a dirty job, trudging from this pub to that, sampling beer after beer, but hey, someone has to do it, and I’m your beer Mike Rowe, so let’s get cracking!
I’ve written here before about New England-style IPAs, and the ever-growing popularity of the juicy, hazy brew, but I must-needs ask a question. When is enough enough? I was recently conducting under cover “research” on an Illinois craft brewery that I had only visited once, and that just after they had opened. As you probably know, it can take some time for a new brewery to fine tune their brews upon opening, as they learn how to scale up their recipes to new brewing systems, so I like to return to said establishment, and give their beers a second airing. I’m nothing if not thorough, but that’s why I earn the big bucks, right?
Anyway, at that time, maybe about a year ago, the brewery had a fine tap list of beers for a young brewery, with a variety of styles that I thought had great potential. But, on my return visit, the offerings at the brewery were dominated by NE IPAs. And I’m not embellishing – out of twelve taps, seven were devoted to variations on the style. Seven haze bombs that boasted of having this hop or that hop, but all with the same general taste profile: a hazy appearance, an over-the-top cloying citrus juice bite, and an astringent mouth feel that left my palate as bone dry as the desert. Can you tell I’m not a fan of the style?
This isn’t to say that I dislike all examples of the style; I’ve had great “milk shake” beers, brewed both locally and regionally. But, for every good one I’ve had, I’ve had two or three that didn’t pass muster, yet many of those are getting widespread acclaim. It’s quite possible that I just don’t get it, that it’s just not a style suited for my palate, and that’s a real possibility. And, it’s also possible that it’s the “juice, brah” crowd (a term I’m outright stealing from a like-minded individual), and the “gotta go git me some” herd mentality that comes with that beer demographic, that is really under my skin (and honestly, there’s some of that, to be sure). So, yes – Get off my lawn! In any event, I’m looking forward to the pendulum swinging back, with a return to crisp and clean beers that shine like liquid gold in the sunlight. I do like to wax poetic. Ok, rant over – let’s move on!
Save the date! On Saturday, September 16th, Byway Brewing in Hammond will partner with the non-profit group Rockopelli, and host Rocktoberfest. The rain-or-shine event will run from high noon until 10:00 PM, and feature an all-German food menu, with V for Vienna and Pilsner lagers on tap. Five bands will be on hand, with President Hooch, The Jades, Yellow Days, and Origami Button confirmed for the event. A $5 cover charge gets you in the fest.
If you’re not familiar with them, Rockopelli is a locally-based charitable organization that hosts music festivals benefiting select local charities. Rockopelli 2017 raised nearly $13,000, which was donated to Planting Possibilities, Emma’s Footprints, and Murph’s Gift of Music, organizations that help adults with disabilities gain meaningful employment, offer care for families who have a child in a NICU, and provide music lessons and instruments to young musicians on Chicago's south side. Clearly a worthwhile venture. You can find out more about Rockopelli here: http://rockopellifest.com/
“O’ zapft is!”, or in English, “It’s tapped!” marks the traditional beginning of Oktoberfest in Germany. Once the Mayor of Munich utters that simple phrase, a two-plus week festival devoted to beer ensues. Munich’s Oktoberfest generally runs for about 16 to 18 days, stretching from mid-September until the first weekend in October, and during that stretch, fest-goers consume a LOT of beer: some 6.9 million litres of beer. (Yes, that’s “liters” in English, but we’re talking Germany here – so work with me, people!)
And Marzen-style beers were the traditional style served at the Munich Oktoberfest. Marzens, a malty amber lager, were originally brewed in March (hence the name), and then cold-lagered during the summer months. Characterized by a malty, sweet flavor, this amber lager checks in at a healthy ~6.0% ABV. But, over the years, the higher ABV of the style did not prove to be conducive for festivals, so the beer evolved into a Festbier, best described as a pale Marzen, but with an ABV closer to ~5.0%.
Most craft Oktoberfest beers sold here in America fall somewhere between these two extremes, with an orange-amber color, and a toasty malt flavor, similar in style to Dortmunder/European-Style Export beers. And highly placed sources tell me that such will be the case for New Oberpfalz’ Oktoberfest beer this year. But don’t be sad, those same sources tell me that a true marzen beer will be brewed again at a future date. And, 3 Floyds just (as of late August) released Munsterfest, their Bavarian-style lager, which pretty much checks all the same boxes. Check them out!
So when can you get some New Oberpfalz Oktoberfest Beer? It’s now available in six packs, and the brewery will host their Oktoberfest celebration on September 16th, when the first keg will be tapped. The food menu for the day will include Schweinhaxen and Bratwurst, and Oktoberfest beers from breweries all over the world. For those so inclined, a $25 ticket will get you a New Oberpfalz Logo German-made tankard, a commemorative event poster to hang in your beer cellar, and your first pour of New Oberpfalz Oktoberfest Lager or other New Oberpfalz beer.
Still working the Oktoberfest theme, it’s an unfortunate but cold reality that there are no true Oktoberfest celebrations here in Northwest Indiana. One would have to trek to Milwaukee or Indianapolis for such fests, I guess, so we’re going to have make do with an Oktoberfest of the mind. I’ll give you a few minutes to gather the necessary ingredients: Oktoberfest Beer – check. Lederhosen – check. Oompah band (and I’ll accept a recorded version, as hiring a full-on Oompah band can be cost prohibitive) – check. Large glass stein – check.
Ok – let’s commence! In my mind, we’re gathered with a slew of friends, and sitting outside on the deck. My lederhosen is killing it - knee-length, 100% suede leather, with suspenders over a bold check pattern shirt. The oompah music is on, and we’re enjoying a properly-prepared bratwurst, enjoying a crisp yet sunny fall day. Ohh, and the Oktoberfest beer, poured into a clear stein, is glowing in the sunshine. Raise your steins, and clink – Prost! And so on….
And to round it out, any such Oktoberfest would require at least a couple of renditions of the following song. I think these are the lyrics, but quite honestly, I’ve never heard them when I was sober! C’mon – you know it, and if you don’t, just sway along and fake it, with your stein hoisted up shoulder high!
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Oans, zwoa, drei, g’suffa!
Zigge, zagge, Zigge, zagge, hoi, hoi, hoi !
Zigge, zagge, Zigge, zagge, hoi, hoi, hoi ! Und dann stoß ma's am miteinand !
Zigge, zagge, Zigge, zagge, hoi, hoi, hoi ! Und dann trink ma's aus !
Zigge, zagge, Zigge, zagge, hoi, hoi, hoi ! Wir gehn noch nicht nach Haus ! Prost!
Thank you! Goodnight! Elvis has left the building! Until next month, keep the faith, my beer-migos.