Perhaps more than for any other season, we look forward to the new release of fall seasonal beers. The Octoberfests and pumpkin beers that appear this time of year seem to fit the season and our taste perfectly. It also seems like every craft brewer produces one. Folks love them.
The name of these beers derives from Oktoberfest, the yearly celebration in Munich. For more than two weeks (in September!), beer flows there to the tune of seven trillion liters. Patrons consume a comparable quantity of cheeses, sausages and all manner of German delicacies. A grand celebration indeed.
You may not know that Munich’s Oktoberfest restricts represented brewers to those established in the city of Munich itself. Here is the list of Munich brewers: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten. Together they provide the refreshment as people celebrate the new harvest, and the last sultry days before winter.
Oktoberfest also has a practical side, or at least originally it did. It was a way to finish off the previous spring’s production so that beer from the current harvest can take its turn in the vats and cellars. This hearkens to pre-refrigeration days. Back then, German law forbade beer production during the dry months between April and September for fear of fire. That problem no longer holds, but the chance to celebrate, and to attract tourists, has made Oktoberfest an important item on the calendar.
In the US, Oktoberfest means those wonderful spiced brews that appear in the fall in homage to the beers of Munich’s celebration. Similar in style to Octoberfest, pumpkin beer is just that: a brew made with pumpkin. Back in the day, brewers in this country made pumpkin beers for practical reasons. The abundance of fall pumpkins supplied an inexpensive sugar source. Like Oktoberfest, these brews are spiced and hearty.
Here in Massachusetts, fall apparently began the second week of August because this year’s crop of Octoberfests and pumpkin beers has begun to roll into the stores. As of this writing, Octoberfests from Sam Adams, Otter Creek, and Harpoon have arrived. Many more are due, including the exemplary German ones, which are regulated as to when they may appear. For pumpkin beers, you will find Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead, Harpoon’s UFO, Smutty Nose, and Wolaver’s Organic waiting for you. And this is just the beginning. Stay tuned!
As a class, these tasty beers are heartier than the frothy summer beers that have been racing out of the stores all summer. Along with the spices, one notes a strong malt inflection. These beers make a happy complement to the sort of food that football games on TV invite. To spell it out, these delicious Octoberfests go great with pizza, chili, burgers, tacos, and any win for the home team. As always, you decide the occasion, we’ll provide the beer.
Note: Judging from last year, and the early arrival of this year’s array of fall specialty beers, if you find one that you particularly like, consider stockpiling a case or two. Many of last year’s fall specialties ran out before Thanksgiving rolled into view.