Throw Your Own Oktoberfest Party With These Beers

While some craft beer snobs turn up their noses at the Marzenbeirs served at Oktoberfest for their lack of IPA-level hops, these beers are fantastic, and make at least one beer writer more than a little giddy.

Yes, Oktoberfest is upon us once again. The festival is an anniversary celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I (though he was the crown prince at the time), to his wife Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12th, 1810. The festival runs for the 16 (or so) days leading up to the first Sunday in October. The ginormous festival in Munich sees over 6 million people come out to wear Dirndl or Lederhosen, participate in fair activities, eat pretzels, sausages, potato salad and roast chicken, and of course, drink heaps and heaps of beer in 1 litre maß steins.

We are lucky to have a variety of great Oktoberfest celebrations here in Toronto. From The Original Kitchener-Waterloo version, to Steam Whistle’s excellent party last week, to parties at Mill Street and Toronto Oktoberfest. But the one I look forward to most, and am willing to drive nearly to Quebec to join in with, is Beau’s Oktoberfest, happening this weekend in Vankleek Hill.

Kicking it with Sybil Taylor at Steam Whistle's Oktoberfest

Kicking it with Sybil Taylor at Steam Whistle’s Oktoberfest

I’ll cover that weekend in more depth in another post, but let’s be honest: Not everybody can blow off work on Friday, bomb out the 401 to Cornwall, head north, and camp in a field all for the sake of drinking large volumes of delicious Beau’s beers. But like St Patrick’s Day when everybody becomes Irish, Oktoberfest is a time when everybody is German. We try to remember the names of the World Cup-winning team members, confuse our w/v pronunciations, and find ourselves surprised at just how big those maß mugs are. We all want a chance to celebrate. So why not do what I’m doing with my kids this Thursday? Throw a little Oktoberfest of your own!

Here’s what you’ll need: Some wurst. And no, Red Hots will not do. Go to a real butcher. Get some Oktoberfest-style sausage. If you’re like me and don’t dig on the swine, check out Field Roast vegetarian sausages. They’re pretty dope. You’ll need sauerkraut, and while making it is so easy it’s shocking, it’s also too late. If you haven’t already got a bucket fermenting in your house, you’re going to need to get some. Strubs is a good, easily available variety. It wouldn’t be Oktoberfest without pretzels and David Ort has a pretty banging no-knead pretzel recipe in his Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook. The method is as easy as can be, and the results are fantastic. Oh, and you’ll need some beer. The good news is, the LCBO has a few great options in for your consideration.

Oktoberfestbeir or Marzenbeir are lagers made in March (that’s the “Marzen” part of the name), and aged through the summer for Oktoberfest. They are higher in alcohol than the Pils and Helles popular in Munich. Historically they would have been dark lagers, but were lightened in the second half of the 20th century, and now all six from the Munich brewers are basically golden in colour.

This year the LCBO has three Oktoberfest-style beers. Two from local producers Creemore and Barndoor, and one from Munich, Hofbrau. There are also two Oktoberfest-themed mix-packs. One from Beau’s and another featuring 3 beers from non-Munich breweries.

Creemore is already pretty widely accepted as a master of lager, though in this case, their Oktoberfest Lager clocks in pretty low at 4.8%. Still it’s malty and dry as you would expect with a bit of herbal hops. It’s a good option, and is likely widely available.

Barn Door is probably a new one to many readers. It’s the experimental arm of King Brewery, much like the Mad & Noisy label for Creemore. Their Oktober Fest Beer is more in line with the style in terms of abv, at 6.5%. It’s malty and sweet, but doesn’t have the complexity that I would expect from a Munich festbeir.  Still it’s not a bad starting point if you’re picking up a few to try.

Hofbrau Oktoberfestbeir from Munich is unsurprisingly head-and-shoulders above the local offerings. The malts are sweet and a little grainy. There is a snappy almost peppery hop bite and a nice touch of sulphur from the yeast that is more prominent on the nose, but is notable on the palate as well. It is also the best value, at $3.10/500ml bottle. For $6.20 you can fill your stein. You do own a Stein, right?…….

Hofbrau Oktoberfestbeir

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

One Comment

  1. Posted October 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks very much for mentioning the pretzel recipe, Chris.

    Too bad they didn’t bring the Ayinger Oktoberfest beer into the LCBO.

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