Sunday, September 23, 2012

What is Oktoberfest?

It's a beer and a festival! This year marks the 179th Oktoberfest, which started yesterday and will last for 16 days. Held in Munich (Bavaria, Germany), Oktoberfest is the world's largest fair, with somewhere around 5 or 6 million attendees each year (1). During the festivities, visitors consume almost 2 million gallons of beer.

Beer maids and waiters must be able to carry 10 beer-filled mugs at a time. (3) (7)
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The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 (2) to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race! Anniversary celebrations were held annually thereafter, which each becoming larger and more elaborate, including the introduction of carnival rides. (3)

Underneath one of the big tents at Oktoberfest 2012.
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Oktoberfest beer is a variety of the Märzen style, which I discussed in a previous post about smoked beer. Like all German beer, the Oktoberfest beer is brewed according to strict German standards called the Reinheitsgebot (4), which has been in effect since 1516. Also known as the German Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot precisely defines the four ingredients allowed to be used to brew beer: barley, hops, malt, and yeast (3). While I'm a big fan of innovative craft beer, I can certainly respect the brewing traditions that Germany has upheld all this time.

I've tried a few different Oktoberfest-style beers this year, including:
  1. Tröegs' Scratch #73 "Fest Lager", which they've unofficially dubbed OkTröegerFest. At 5.5% ABV and 35 IBUs, this yeasty lager was growler-worthy. I very much enjoyed this one-off and would be appreciative of another appearance next year (hint to the Trogners if you're reading this!). You can read more reviews on BA and RB. Justin's Brew Review gives it an "A-".
  2. Yuengling's Oktoberfest was also rockin'. However, it was a limited release because Yuengling does not have the capacity (5) to produce seasonal brews. I had difficulty finding any to try, but I did receive a sixer thanks to my father-in-law who was able to purchase an entire case! I'm milking it (beering it?) because I don't want to run out too quickly. BA likes it better than RB, but Justin's Brew Review gives Yuengling's offering a solid "A".
  3. Samuel Adams calls their version Octoberfest (yes, they Americanized the beer's moniker). It is both excellent and available. Boston Beer (brewer of the Sam Adams brand) rarely disappoints in my opinion, and this is no exception. If you like the Oktoberfest style beer, you should go get yourself some of this. It rates well on BA, and RB ranks it very highly for the style. Justin's Brew Review gives it an "A+".

The mayor of Munich ceremonially taps the first keg at Oktoberfest 2012.
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Many places throughout the world hold their own (smaller!) version of Oktoberfest. Locally in York, PA, we have the 2nd Annual Yorktoberfest coming up on October 27-28. My wife and I will be attending, so let me know if you'll be there too -- we can toast a brew. Also, look for a post after the event. You can read about my experience at last year's Yorktoberfest here (a "live" post) and here (a more detailed, follow-up post).

How are you celebrating Oktoberfest? Are you planning on attending any festivals? Wearing lederhosen? (6) Or drinking Oktoberfest-style beer? Let me know in the comments or send me a message on your favorite social media site: you can get me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.


(1) Source:
(2) Note that the math does not add up: 2012-1810 = 202, but this is only the 179th festival. That's because the fair has had to be canceled 24 times due to cholera epidemics and war (3).
(3) Source:
(4) I love long German words! This one is pronounced RYN-hytz-geh-boht. You can listen to the pronunciation here.
(5) Sources: a tour of Yuengling's Pottsville, PA brewery that my wife took me on over a year and half ago that I have yet to blog about (yes, I'm behind) and
(6) You can get a nice, basic pair of lederhosen (leather pants) for a mere 165 euros ($215) here.
If you really want to go all out, you can get some premium pants for $325 on the same site. They also sell dresses and other authentic German garb on that site.
(7) The Guinness world record was set in November 2008 by Bavarian Anita Schwarz when she carried 19 full beer steins (5 in each hand and 9 on top) that weighed a total of about 90 pounds over a distance of 40 meters and placed them on a table without spilling a drop. (Source: and Image Source:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blogging 'Bout Bad Beer

I've had a question on my mind for a while: should I blog about bad beers?
 This meme is not meant to imply that Dos Equis is a bad beer.
I blog about good beers and rave about them. So why not rant about bad beers? Equal opportunity beer blogging, right? I guess my main hesitation in blogging about bad beers is that I know I'm no expert. Who am I to say that a beer is bad? Maybe I just don't care for the style. I certainly don't claim to be a beer savant, so what does my opinion really matter anyway? Your opinion is surely different than mine on occasion, so you're never going to fully rely on what I have to say. My opinion may have some sway with you (you are reading my blog, after all), but in the end, it's your opinion that matters as to whether or not a beer is good.

At the same time, as a beer blogger, I believe that I have an obligation to report my unbiased opinions to readers. After all, it's good to know what bad beer tastes like so that you have a point of reference for good beer. You really can't define something without its opposite. I like how Boak & Bailey puts it:
Taking the time to drink bad beer is a useful way to calibrate the tastebuds, correct your perspective, and stimulate the tastebuds. Sometimes, it's just about remindering yourself that bad beer is still beer and won't kill you.
So what do you think? Do you want to read occasional reviews about bad beer? Or would you rather just read about the good ones? Let me know what you think in the comments, or on FacebookGoogle+, and/or Twitter.