7.2 million annual visitors, 7.7 million liters of beer, and roughly 111,000 foiled attempts of theft of glass mugs. Finally, Munich’s 16-to-18-day celebration of drunken revelry and boundless bratwursts, better known as Oktoberfest, is upon us.
Oddly enough, the beer brewed and named to honor this centuries-old tradition, marketed by both American and German breweries in the US as “Oktoberfestbier,” isn’t what’s served in Munich at the Oktoberfest at all. Luckily for us, it’s better.
The vast majority of what we refer to as Oktoberfestbier is an amber to copper-colored, malt forward lager known as märzen. Before the widespread availability of refrigeration, märzen was brewed in March (März), toward the end of the brewing season, to be stored in cool lagering caves through the summer, and served at the Oktoberfest in mid-September. It’s malty, it’s rich, it’s elegant. In short, it’s damn tasty.
Märzen was the beer of choice at the Oktoberfest from 1872 until 1990, when it was replaced by the lighter bodied, less flavorful, golden, “festbier,” that is served at Oktoberfest today. While the six Munich-based breweries that are permitted to serve beer at the Oktoberfest do still produce the traditional amber colored märzen, they do so chiefly for export to the United States. And for that, we’re grateful.
A couple of my favorite examples of märzen -- now on tap at HopCat Madison -- include the German staple Ayinger Oktober Fest-märzen, as well as a great representation of the style from Chicago’s most authentic German lager producer, Metropolitan Brewing. Metropolitan’s Afterburner Oktoberfest is a tremendously refined, clean and toasty malt-driven lager. While erupting with malt richness, the beer finishes dry enough on the palate to necessitate subsequent sips, or gulps, as is appropriate for a celebration of overindulgence such as Oktoberfest.
While traditional märzen may have fallen into obsolescence in Munich, I’m proud to see that, in an ironic twist, it is the American beer drinkers’ palate and US craft brewing industry that are keeping the German brewing tradition alive. Prost!
Y'all are pretty funny. Over the weekend, we posted a story from Food & Wine magazine about a Twitter-based system for naming the next great craft beer. An Australian comedian, Mel Buttle, proposed a formula of "the job your granddad did plus a word you don't fully understand. Mine is The Boxer's Contingency."
Solid. A bunch of HopCat Facebook fans had equally good suggestions, which I'll share in a second. First, I'll give you mine - the Inflammable Grocer. Not very exciting, perhaps. But one of my grandfathers was indeed a grocer, and the word "inflammable" has always driven me nuts. While the "in-" prefix suggest that it would signify the opposite of "flammable," the two words actually MEAN THE SAME DAMN THING. I always think of this from "The Simpsons":
Anyhow, many of HopCat's fans had better suggestions. Here are some highlights...
Jacqueline: Trucker's Relativity
Theresia: Assembly LIne Workers Sobriety (Ha, I get it!)
Ted: A Supervisor's Billingsgate
Mary: Effluent Operator
Andrew: The Woodworkers Bemuse
Rob: Refinery Detente
Dave: Mechanic Bailiwick
Sydney: Principal Deep Web
Alex: General's Schadenfreude
Dan: Barber's Magnets (We've found a Juggalo!)
Molly: Turgid Handyman
Jackie: Mailman's Obsequity
There are two things beer drinkers are at least aware of during the fall: Oktoberfest beers and Pumpkin Ales. Believe it or not, both have rich histories.
Oktoberfest beers are the (originally named) amber lagers that accompany Oktoberfest, held in Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day folk festival that runs from the middle of the September through October 1st. It is the largest of its kind in the world, boasting an annual attendance of more than 6 million people who drink more than 7.7 Million liters of Oktoberfest Beer.
The origin of Oktoberfest stretches back to October 12th 1810, when King Ludwig I of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghoausen. Although it was not typical, the citizens of Munich were invited to celebrate the wedding. The festival has changed a lot since then. The beer too has changed to accommodate large quantities of consumption.
Originally, the beer brewed for the Oktoberfest was much higher in alcohol content and richer, similar to that of the German Bocks. Now it is a lighter in body Marzen lager. Official Oktoberfest beers must adhere to the Reinheitsgebot (or "German Beer Purity Law") and be produced inside the limits of Munich. There are only six official Oktoberfests produced. But that doesn’t keep the majority of craft breweries throughout th world brewing up something similar in the fall and naming it “Octoberfest.”
Here are two good ones that are joining the HopCat GR roster this fall:
Wolverine State Brewing Co. out of Ann Arbor specializes in lagers, and has gained a reputation for “nailing styles.” This beer is no exception. You get a little biscuity malt character on the nose and palate along with a subtle caramel sweetness all while staying light and crisp. It's a beer that is the perfect pairing for all your fall activities, from tailgating to burning leaves.
Few people may realize that early colonial Americans had better access to pumpkins and brown sugar than they did malted barley. And they used the meat of the pumpkins as fermentable sugars for brewing in times of need. Although modern pumpkin ales are grown to resemble that of pumpkin pie in a glass, its important to note that pumpkin beers were one of Americas first original beer styles long before pale yellow swill that took over in the 1900’s.
Southern Tier Cold Press Coffee Pumpking is making its debut to us this fall. We have couple of barrels in house and are waiting to throw them on. I'm excited to try this beer. I know pumpkin beers are either a “love em’” or “hate em’” style, but I think the addition of coffee is a fun spin on what is already a creative American style.
The beers discussed in this blog are available at HopCat Grand Rapids. Each location has its own roster of beers. To see what's on tap at your nearest HopCat, check out the up-to-date beer menus on the webpages for each location, or simply come on by, and we're pretty sure you'll find something to enjoy. Be sure to come back to our blog for more fall beer suggestions from our experts!
You're thirsty. An unfortunate number of our neighbors are hungry. We can do something about this.
HopCat's six Michigan locations have joined an effort called Hops Against Hunger. This is an initiative from the hunger-relief organization Feeding America, which is working to tackle the country's hunger crisis head-on during September, its official Hunger Action Month.
Hops Against Hunger unites 40 Michigan breweries, restaurants and bars in fund-raising efforts for local food relief. As part of our ongoing participation in the FeelGood Tap program, HopCats throughout the state will donate will donate $1 for every pint sold from a select list of beers to one of Feeding America's member food banks. Help fight hunger while you enjoy a pint? Win-win, right?!
When Hops Against Hunger began last year, a dozen establishments were able to raise more than $20,000. With several times the number of participants this year, we have every reason to believe we'll help raise quite a bit more.
Here are September's FeelGood Tap beers for each of our Michigan locations:
- HopCat Grand Rapids (Feeding America West Michigan): Green Zebra Watermelon Gose, Founder’s Brewing Company
- HopCat East Lansing (Greater Lansing Food Bank): Rambler Pilsner, North Peak Brewing Company
- HopCat Detroit (Forgotten Harvest): Pine Knob Pilsner, Rochester Mills Brewing Company
- HopCat Ann Arbor (Food Gatherers): Strawberry Blonde, Arbor Brewing Company
- HopCat Kalamazoo (Food Bank of South Central Michigan): Tasmanian Hatter IPA, New Holland Brewing Company
- HopCat Royal Oak (Gleaners Community Food Bank): All Day IPA, Founders Brewing Company
HopCat is sponsoring the second-annual Blue Bridge Music Festival, curated by community radio station 88.1-FM (WYCE) and taking place Sept. 29-30. Taking place on the blue pedestrian bridge across the Grand River in Grand Rapids, the event is the official live-music component of ArtPrize Nine.
Eight Michigan artists will perform during the free festival and are each nominees for ArtPrize Song of the Year, which awards a $1,000 prize by public vote. The songs also are also eligible in the general ArtPrize feild as part of the time-based category. For a schedule of performances, check out WYCE's website, and you can hear all of the nominated songs below, along with their official ArtPrize voting codes.
HopCat, needless to say, will be offering beer and Crack Fries during the event. See you on the bridge!
Jesse Ray & the Carolina Catfish: Two Face Talkin' (Vote code 66652)
The Bootstrap Boys: 90 Proof (66648)
Brad Fritcher Moods: Blackest Eyes (66650)
Watching For Foxes: Breaking Down (66653)
Asamu Johnson & the Associates of the Blues: Crazy About Helen (66651)
The Great Ones: DO IT 4 THE LOVE (66654)
Yolonda Lavender, Favorite Key (66647)
Michigander: Stolen (66649)