Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Oktoberfest
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Known the world over as the biggest beer festival ever in the history of absolutely everything, Oktoberfest apparently started in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later Konig Ludwig - ring any bells?) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. It is likely, however, that it was a development of an earlier festival, probably bucolic and/or pagan in origin, that celebrated the end of the summer. It has come a long way since then - over six million visitors, and nearly a kilometre of urinals (not dissimilar to Leeds city centre on a Friday night).
The beers were originally "marzen" - copper-coloured lagers with a firm malty body, and a low but noticeable hop presence. These were traditionally brewed before spring and summer temperatures made brewing hit-and-miss; the beers were brewed and stored for the end of summer, probably for harvest festival. Nowadays, it seems to be the case that all Oktoberfest beers are pale, Helles-style beers, with a slightly elevated alcohol content. It seems that no-one really knows why this change occurred, but it seems as likely to be simply fashion as any other reason.
The beers tried in the video blog are from Paulaner, Hofbrau and Erdinger. The Paulaner is, frankly, a bit poor; nothing fundamentally wrong, but a bit grainy, without much body, and a bit weedy. The Hofbrau is more the ticket; fuller, with a chunkier malt backbone and a good hop character, finishing fairly dry. The Erdinger wheat beer is a bit odd; at first taste, it seems quite interesting, perhaps in contrast with the pale lagers before it, but a few more enthusiastic sucks on Ninkasi's teats reveal it to be a bit of a muddle; neither a marzen nor a dunkelweisse, nor a beer that I'd like to drink in any quantity, hence the postscript to the vid. For my money, of the three, the Hofbrau is the most interesting; I realise that there are other more interesting Oktoberfest beers out there, I just couldn't find them.