Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Oktoberfest Beer

Oktoberfest: A Beer Drinking Tradition

      Oktoberfest is known around the world as the beer drinkers heaven. It's sixteen days of nothing but food, music and tents overflowing with barrels of German Beer. The patrons of Oktoberfest consume more than 7 million liters of beer in this short time. All of the beer served at Oktoberfest must meet strict guidelines called the Reinheitsgebot or "German Beer Purity Law", on top of this the beer must also be produced within the city limits of Munich. Under this criteria only six breweries can produce and serve Oktoberfest beer, Augustiner-Brau, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Paulaner-Brau, Spatenbrau, and Staatliches Hofbrauhaus.

      The Oktoberfest style of beer is a lager called Marzen due to the historical brewing season during March, called Marz in German. Without modern refrigeration the beer was lagered to be kept cold in the hot summer months and brewed with a higher alcohol content. The German style tends to be full bodied, with a sweet malty taste and a low hop level just to balance the flavor. Here in the states the Oktoberfest craze has spread through the beer lovers and brewers alike. Many American producers make seasonal beers in the German style and the famous German breweries are exporting their beers to the U.S.

Here we are highlighting some of these traditional beers coming out of Germany ranging from a Weisse Dark to a Helles. 

Brewer: Hacker-Pschorr
Beer: Weisse Dark
Location: Munich, Germany

      Hacker Pschorr is one of the more distinguished breweries in Germany. It has been brewing beer since 1417 and is one of the original breweries to be commissioned for the first Oktoberfest in 1810.  Weisse Dark is a wheat lager produced with 60% dark and light malted wheat and 40% malted barley.  It boasts a deep amber color and more robust flavor than the original Weisse beer. The Malted slightly sweet flavor brings a sense of chocolate and smoke but is balanced by the fruity aroma and hints of yeast and clove. With a 5.3% alcohol content it falls in the middle of the pack for the Dunkelweizen "Dark wheat" style. 
Brewer Pairings: Nutty cheese, pork, chicken, dessert. While this beer looks like a dark and intense glass to drink the nuances of yeast and sweetness are best highlighted with fatty fare. 
Chef's Taste: Our second favorite beer in the tasting. We smelled caramel, chocolate, wine, and fermented cider. The taste had an overwhelming sweetness, with almost no bitterness from hops and a very low alcohol detection.  It would work well as a cooking beer, and paired with hearty sausage, roast meats,and balance out acidic meals. 

Brewer: Schneider Weisse
Beer: Hopfen Weisse
Location: Kelheim, Germany

     This brewery was opened in 1872 by Georg Schneider and his son and has now been passed through six generations of the Schneider family. This Hopfen Weisse is a collaboration of brewery Garret Oliver of Brooklyn brewery and Hans-Peter Drexel of Schneider Weisse. Brewed as a Weissbock or Weizenbock "strong wheat" this stronger hefeweizen "Yeast wheat" poured as a pale amber color. With a fruity aroma and more pronounced bitterness from the extra hops this beer has a different complexity than any other in the style. The citrus notes, creamy but refreshing finish, and smooth body is something you wouldn't expect from a beer with 8.2% alcohol content. 
Brewer Pairings: Meat, chocolate, spicy cuisine. The sweetness can still hold up to being paired with dessert but the complex bitterness matches the heat of Thai and Mexican dishes. 
Chef's Taste: On the aroma we detected big notes of citrus and brine. This had a very creamy mouthfeel and no lingering flavor. The alcohol is more pronounced than any of the others in the tasting and it has some bitterness on the end. Drink this with a charcuterie and cheese platter, the hard nutty cheeses brought out the beers orange note. 

Brewer: Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan
Beer: Weihenstephaner Vitus  
Location: Freising, Germany

      Known as the oldest Brewery in the world, Weihenstephan was founded by Benedictine monks in 1040. Now almost a thousand years later it is still in operation and now run by the State of Bavaria. The Vitus is another Weizenbock "strong wheat" lager but is cold aged in the monastery cellar to increase the complexity and create a distinctive body and mouth feel.  The deep golden straw color invites even the most wary beer drinker in and doesn't reveal the fact it has 7.7% alcohol content. Smelling of sweet honey, spicy cumin, and bitter lemon zest the taste offers an expanse of flavors including clove, bubblegum, wheat, and coriander. The true star for this beer is the mouthfeel; unbelievably rich, creamy and smooth but still light and effervescent with a dry finish and tinge of alcohol to cut through the almost cloying sweetness. 
Brewer Pairings: Dessert, cheese, bread. While this beer is big on flavor and body the sweetness is easily paired with desserts as well as creamy fondue and crusty bread. 
Chef's Taste: This was our favorite beer in the tasting. It smelled musty and sweet like fruit. The huge creamy head translated into a smooth body and an overall easy drinking beer. When swallowing the beer slowly a powerful flavor of banana took over adding sweetness. The beer paired well with fish dishes, fruit, and acids like tomato.

Brewer: Brauerei Heller Trum Schlenkerla
Beer: Helles Schlenkerla Lagerbier
Location: Bamberg, Germany

      Nestled in the center of historic Bamberg beneath a cathedral one will find the brewery tavern of Schlenkerla. Dating back to somewhere around the 15th century this famous Bamberg landmark is now run by the Trum Family. The Helles "light colored"  style of beer is a pale lager utilizing the methods of pale ale in the lager style of beer. A clear pale yellow is topped with a creamy white head that makes you think of summer. The light aroma of citrus, grassy hops, and smokey notes differ from the usual dark, malted wheat beers of Germany. This has the slight sweetness of a well made pilsner with a more prominent bitterness from noble hops and finishes with depth from the hint of smokiness. With a light body and plentiful carbonation  the crisp mouth feel gives it a high level of drinkability. While this has the lowest alcohol level at 4.3% it is more noticable due to the accenting bitterness. 
Brewer Pairings: Soft cheese, Salad, seafood, chicken. The pale lager is a widely popular style in America so its flavor is more recognizable. The light bitterness pairs well with grilled food and ties into the smoke notes. 
Chef's Taste: We first noticed the clarity difference in this beer from the others. The aroma brought about sweet honey and citrus hops. Although lighter it had a strong bitter flavor from the hops and the smokiness overtook any of the sweetness. This would work great as a backyard beer, perfect for smoked meats and barbecue.

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