Oktoberfest is coming!
The first Oktoberfest celebration was held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany in 1810 when all citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on the 12th day of October in that year. The festivities, which were held on the fields in front of the city’s gates, were brought to a close with horse races. It was those horse races, repeated the following year, that gave rise to Oktoberfest, or “Wies’n” as the locals refer to it, as an annual tradition that continues today. Each year, six million souls converge on the fields in front of those same city gates, now referred to as Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”), to engage in what is known as the world’s largest festival and fun fair.
What’s in the pint?
The Oktoberfest style of beer largely refers to the crystal clear, now gold to amber Märzen style lagers that we’ve all come to love. Each year, I know that summer is entering its final phases when I taste the bready, crusty, nutty notes imparted by the use of Munich malts. Delicate noble hop notes are present, but only to balance the sweet, malty qualities that dominate the palate. Currently, these beers are produced much closer to their release in late summer, though they were traditionally brewed in the spring, the end of the brewing season before the advent of refrigeration.
Any observer and consumer of American craft beer knows that these traditional and historical styles are only a guide and starting point – one doesn’t have to look too far to find an imperial-style Oktoberfest beer, boasting ever higher alcohol contents, or hoppy Oktoberfests, which deliver more aroma and bitterness as a result of more aggressive hopping rates in both the kettle and fermenter.
For me, though, it’s difficult to beat the balance and sessionable alcohol content characteristic of the more traditional style Märzen. Nebraska brewers seem to agree, as there is no shortage of beers to satisfy this short wish list.
Find an Oktoberfest event near you!
Thirsty yet? Do not fear – numerous takes on this popular style will be flowing at Oktoberfest events all over the state. Visit the Events tab of the Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild homepage (www.nebraska.beer/events) for details on upcoming Oktoberfest and harvest season happenings. I’m starting to see these offerings on store shelves and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a number of them appear at this coming weekend’s Great Nebraska Beerfest, which is being hosted at Papillion’s Werner Park.
So, let’s toast the final weeks of summer – crack open a local Oktoberfest and repeat after the Münchner, Prōst!
Brewer and Distiller – Green Flash Brewing (Lincoln)
Treasurer, Nebraska Brewers Guild
Jeff Hansen is something of a jack-of-all-trades. He’s called a number of professions home over the years but has finally settled down into brewing. Eager to get a start, Jeff made his way up the ladder at Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City before having to relocate for his wife’s work. Since moving to Omaha, Jeff has established himself as one of the two lead brewers at Brickway Brewery and Distillery. More recently, though, he was selected to serve as Treasurer of the Nebraska Craft Brewer’s Guild. Jeff is equal parts calculated and comedic. The passion that he infuses into the Nebraska craft beer scene is certain to be felt for years to come.