Oktoberfest in Germany. Many people conjure up images of lederhosen, hearty barmaids in dirndl outfits hoisting eight liter steins of beer at a time, coronary-inducing sausages and loud rounds of singing. And they wouldn’t be far off the mark. From the mayor’s opening declaration of “O’ zapft is! (meaning the beer’s been tapped)” to the last frothy drop of lager, Deutschland’s annual event lasts 15-17 days and attracts an estimated six million revelers. America, however, has a slightly different notion of when Oktoberfest should be held.
Perhaps it’s because we don’t go as hog-wild for the occasion over here on our side of the pond and, therefore, celebrate less days than the Germans do, but American Oktoberfest events are usually held mid-October; hence the name, right? Originally, yes. The first Oktoberfest was held on October 12, 1810 as a wedding celebration for (then) crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The horse race planned for the wedding party coupled with the heroic amount of beer available made for such a fun occasion that the party was repeated annually. In the mid-1800s the city organizers of Munich decided to move the start of the party to late September as the days are longer and warmer thusly becoming a celebration of the coming of October.
The American notion of what the party is supposed to be has me in mind for an American-inspired Oktoberfest beer. Our old friends from Choc Brewing in Oklahoma have what they call “Choctoberfest.” The usual style of beer for the fall in Germany is bock, part of the lager family… very malty and very little hop presence discernable. As I’ve written in previous columns, the richer malt presence provides a warming effect to ward off the chill of fall. Choctoberfest is an American spin on the classic style.
Like all Choc beers, Choctoberfest is unfiltered and bottle-conditioned giving this particular beer a cloudy honey color with an eggshell-white head that disappears rather quickly. Thin lacing is left around the glass. The smell is all malted grains: marzipan, lemon zest and caramel dominate. A touch more malt-sweet than the average German-born festbier, Choctoberfest is saturated with flavors of maple, roasted nuts and fresh-baked bread. There’s nice, crisp carbonation throughout yet the left over texture is creamy. Its sweetness is a perfect counterpoint to the rich salt and snap one would get with a weisswurst or Schweinsbraten. Prost!