Soaking Up the Suds with James Crane
Oktoberfest brew an invention of necessity
Fun fact of the day: Oktoberfest starts in September. It also only happens in Germany. I’m sure you’ve all seen local celebrations that shared the title, but in truth, they are just celebrations of the real celebration that happens in Munich. Oh, and the original celebration had a lot more to do with horses than beer. And, no, the horses weren’t drinking.
Oktoberfest traces back to 1810, when King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxehildburghausen, and they held some horse races to celebrate. It was fun enough that they decided to repeat it the next year and most every year since, barring time off for war and disease. They also started sampling beer and added swings, tree climbing, bowling alleys and other attractions until it was just one hell of a party. Toward the end of the 19th century, they started serving bratwurst and beer in glass mugs. It started to look like the Oktoberfest we know and love.
The beer we refer to as Oktoberfest is actually called Marzen. Marzen — whose name comes from the German for “March,” when brewers traditionally made it — was, like many things, an invention of necessity. Unlike most lagers, Marzen was made to last a bit, as brewing used to be forbidden in the summer.
Brewing in hot weather was risky business. Higher temperatures provide a great environment for nasty organisms to colonize, nothing anyone wants. To avoid that, brewers made Marzen in March and drank it until the cooler temperatures came back. Beer made in September was ready to drink in October, so September was a great time to drink up that stash you hoarded in your cellar.
Marzen and Oktoberfest became tightly linked since the celebration serves Marzen. The beer generally ages in cellars until late summer, with the last of the bottles served during the festival. That aside, I enjoy Marzen just because they are delicious, like drinking a liquid bread. As far as lagers go, they are one of the best. I always grab a few every September to sample before pumpkin beer kicks it all off the shelves.
This week, I had a bottle of Dominion’s Octoberfest to celebrate. The golden orange color had a slight head. It was the perfect shade and smelled of malt more than anything else. There was a bit of caramel and a little bit of floral hops. The lager yeast also comes through in the nose. Nothing was out of the ordinary on this front.
The brew tasted just like it should. It was like drinking a pretzel. The malt was in the forefront, making each swallow delicious and savory. It has a slightly sweet finish with a hint of caramel. It was enough to cut the savory but not enough to be a turn off. While none of this was necessarily surprising, it was quite welcomed.
This beer wasn’t really a variant on the theme, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a solid Marzen that does exactly what it should. The body is light enough to be super drinkable. It is delicious and goes down easy. It’s a great beer to drink before the heavier beers of the holidays come around. Dominion does it just like it should.