Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
BeerBy Greg Richardson
Image by
Maggie Hoffman

October means many thing to many people. Halloween, football, harvesting, falling leaves.

For the Art of the Craft, October is all about Oktoberfest and pumpkin ales.

I started wondering what it is about October that people associate with drinking beer? Why Oktoberfest? Why not Junefest or Augustfest?

Most people have a sense that Oktoberfest began in Germany. The society that gave us the German Beer Purity Law must have a good reason for a festival in October.

It all started because of a wedding. Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King Ludwig I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to festivities in fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event. The festivities that first year were concluded with horse races in the presence of the Royal Family, and it was decided to repeat the horse racing in subsequent years. The original festival included a parade to honor the wedding.

In 1811, an agricultural exhibits were added to recognize the significance of Bavarian farming.  In 1850, the parade became an annual event. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892. Since the end of the nineteenth century, smaller booths gave way to larger beer halls.

Horse racing ended in 1960.

in 2010, the opening of two hundredth anniversary of Oktoberfest was marked with horse racing, historic costumes, and a beer brewed specially for the occasion.

Only beer which conforms to the German Beer Purity Law may be served at Oktoberfest in Munich. Ingredients are limited to four: water, hops, yeast, and barley.

You may not have been invited to a royal wedding recently, and you may not be planning to wear an authentic Bavarian historic costume for Halloween. You can, though, still celebrate your German heritage and the contribution of German brewers this month. German immigrants built the foundations of brewing in the United States, including companies which grew into the largest breweries we have today. In addition, many craft brewers have been inspired by German brewing ideas and methods, translating them into their own ales and pilsners.

Pumpkin ales, the second highlight of October, would not be served at Oktoberfest in Munich. Pumpkin ale is a gift of the United States, not Germany, to the world.

There is a wide variety of pumpkin ales, and an even wider variety of opinion on their benefits. For some, the emergence of pumpkin ales is a welcome sign of approaching autumn, like the appearance of pumpkin spice lattes. For others, pumpkin ales are a harbinger of craft beer adulteration and apocalypse.

Many people appreciate the ways breweries balance happiness and pumpkin flavor, though it can be a challenge to create the best combination.

While seasonal pumpkin ales are generally not favorites of mine, they are beers that people should try at least once if only to know what they are. Many craft breweries create seasonal autumnal ales, so there are plenty of choices. Let me know if you find one you really like, or you think I would like, and I will be happy to try it.

October is an excellent time to try a new craft beer. Many breweries are offering seasonal beers, beginning with pumpkin ales and continuing through the rest of the year. If you know you like the beers a particular brewery produces, that might be a good place to begin exploring, going beyond the usual suspects.

Have a pleasant Oktoberfest, and enjoy exploring the far reaches of pumpkin ales. 

Return to DaBelly

2014   DaBelly Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.