I have been long intrigued by Oktoberfest. I was maybe only eight or nine years old when my uncle gave me a massive souvenir beer stein from his travels to Munich. I used it to hold my Lisa Frank pencils at the time, but thanks to the subliminal messaging of looking at it on my homework desk for 18+ years, hoisting a bier stein over my head at one of the beer tents in Munich has been on my to-do list for a long time, and maybe too long. A festivity that hosts 6.5 million people, 7 million liters of beer and nearly 120 thousand sausages sounds like a grand-old time to my German roots. Sadly, I am not donning a dirndl and heading to the homeland this year, but luckily we have the main reason to celebrate (beer!) in plenty of quantity at Surdyk’s.
Traditionally, Oktoberfest beers, also known as Märzens, are brewed in the spring (hence the name) stored in cold cellars through the summer, and finally tapped when the fall arrives and they are perfect for drinking. These brews have sweeter, toasty malt complexity, countered by spicy German Noble hops and a crisp, lager finish that is the benchmark for the variety. Not surprisingly, these beers pair perfectly with sausages, bratwurst, mustard and roasted pork.
If you want to have the most authentic experience, you must drink a “true” Oktoberfest beer, as they are the only beers served at the festival. These beers must be brewed in Munich proper, follow Reinheitsgebot, a 500-year-old German purity law (now just a regulation, but still adhered to by most breweries) that only water, barley, and hops are allowed in the beer. We have four of the six these traditional beers: Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Paulaner, Spaten. If you feel the need to toast your fellow reveler—be sure and look them right in the eye! I was taught by my German friend, if you forget to do this anywhere in Germany (not just at Oktoberfest after three liters of beer) you are cursed with seven years of bad luck—in bed, not even to mention the lecture you will get!
If you’re like me and just drinking at home in the states, we can happily guzzle some of the year’s best seasonal beers. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a craft brewery whose fall seasonal doesn’t fall into the Oktoberfest / Märzen style with varieties from Summit, Schell’s, Shiner, Lucky Bucket, Leinenkugel, Sam Adams, Brooklyn, and Boulevard to name a few. My favorite standout this so far this year is Millstream Oktoberfest—really creamy with a pronounced caramel, bready and malty flavor, making it almost chewy. Oktoberfest varieties are a natural with another favorite of mine, alpine-style cheeses, dense, nutty, and rich, and along with one of the homemade pretzels from the Cheese Shop, especially delicious this time of year. Best of all this weekend, September 21 and 22 Surdyk’s will be doing its own version of Oktoberfest – many of these beers and more (over 30 varieties!) will be sampled this weekend from 11:30am until 7pm.
Prost! -Lindsey Coleman @surdyksliquor