Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
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
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
Have a pleasant
Oktoberfest, and enjoy exploring the far reaches of pumpkin ales.