Oktoberfest officially began over the weekend and runs through to October 4 this year. Here’s where I usually remind our readers about the history, tradition and beer of Oktoberfest.
It began as the wedding-party-to-end-all-wedding-parties back in 1810 when Bavarian Prince Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Germans, being consummate big-party people, begged for the shindig to be repeated and it became an annual tradition. Depending upon when German Unity Day falls each year, Oktoberfest runs for sixteen days and ends on the first Sunday of October.
Americans have adopted this annual observance but, due to its name, have modified its meaning into a month-long celebration of the fall season, food and, of course, beer.
The traditional beer is Märzen Bock; a rich, malty, slightly boozier Bockbier usually made in March to age throughout the summer and be ready for the beginning of fall. Naturally, Lager and Hefeweizen are also enjoyed.
Most Americans are usually unaware of the other German beer styles, perhaps because as goes Oktoberfest as an example of the best of their entire culture so goes the beer enjoyed with it. In other words, if we were to ask the average U.S. citizen to describe a German it’d be Tyrolean caps, Lederhosen, zaftig damsels in Dirndl dresses, big ol’ pretzels, piles of Bratwurst and one of the country’s “big three” of beers.
A growing trend in home and craft brewing, however, involves one of Deutschland’s least-known – and understood – styles; Gose. Pronounced “go-zuh,” this top-fermenting ale uses coriander and salt along with a wheat-heavy grain bill and a dose of lactobacillus. The inoculating bacteria combined with the malted wheat and minimal hop presence make Gose incredibly tart, citrusy and sour. The inclusion of salt is still debated; either due to any salinity present in water sources used originally or to temper the sourness without adding the bitterness additional hops would provide. When done wrong – and I had a couple at the recent Beer Fest – they can be dreadful concoctions. When done right, however…
As long as we Americans aren’t 100% adherent to the German Oktoberfest traditions, I’m recommending we put our Lager aside – for now – and try out the new Salt of the Gulf Gose from Santa Rosa Beach’s own Grayton Brewing. They actually used around 31 gallons of triple-filtered Gulf of Mexico sea water to make this! After numerous samplings of varying parts per million, this pale, cloudy gold beer was the result. It has a bright, candied Meyer lemon rind and musty funk nose while intense, tangy flavors of Lemon Pez, Arnold Palmer (the drink, silly) and Warheads Sour Candies are wrestled back under control by sweet cereal malt and just enough saltiness. Grayton’s Gose starts off like licking a 9-volt battery but settles down into a mouth-watering, refreshing beverage.
Whether you go for Oktoberfest’s real dates or not, consider making this part of your party this year.