Oktoberfest: a Tradition Worth Seeking Out cover

Oktoberfest: a Tradition Worth Seeking Out

By ,


As October winds down and before the holiday beers come into the market, it’s time to take a moment to reflect upon the annual Oktoberfest beer season.
The Oktoberfest tradition originated in the Bavarian city of Munich in 1810 to celebrate the wedding engagement of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, and came to the United States over the following 150 years wherever German immigrants settled. In New Orleans, for example, the German population influx was one of the factors that led to the city’s reputation as the brewing capital of the South before Prohibition, leading to extensive Oktoberfest celebrations in the area that remain active to this day. Oktoberfest is about more than just the beer style. It’s a tradition started more than 200 years ago that is still close to many communities in the United States.
Tasting recommendations included!





NoteStream NoteStream

NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!

The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.

For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.




Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!

Save to App


Oktoberfest: a Tradition Worth Seeking Out

Happy Anniversary!

As October winds down and before the holiday beers come into the market, it’s time to take a moment to reflect upon the annual Oktoberfest beer season.

The Oktoberfest tradition originated in the Bavarian city of Munich in 1810 to celebrate the wedding engagement of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, and came to the United States over the following 150 years wherever German immigrants settled. In New Orleans, for example, the German population influx was one of the factors that led to the city’s reputation as the brewing capital of the South before Prohibition, leading to extensive Oktoberfest celebrations in the area that remain active to this day.

Crown Prince Ludwig

Crown Prince Ludwig

Photograph circa 1874

Public Domain

Oktoberfest....in July?

Traditionally, the Oktoberfest season takes place from mid-September to early-October.

However, every year, craft breweries ruffle beer geek sensibilities by releasing their Oktoberfest lagers as early as July. This seasonal drift has been annoying craft beer drinkers for years, but breweries will keep doing it because they need to be able to have the seasonal beer in the market for as long as possible, and they contend consumers won’t purchase the beers after the season is done.

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen

Speaking of the beer itself, the traditional Oktoberfest style is a Märzen, a full bodied amber colored beer that has a significant malt

profile and is lagered for several months at cool temperatures. It’s not very hoppy and tends to be about 5-6% ABV (alcohol by volume). Not surprisingly, some of the most popular and well regarded examples of the style are German, such as Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen, Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen, and Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen.

Photo Courtesy Nora McGunnigle

American Offerings

But American breweries have created their own tradition of Oktoberfest beer as well. Samuel Adams’ Oktoberfest is perhaps the most

ubiquitous beer of the season, and has been reviewed the most by far on the rating website Beer Advocate. Brooklyn Brewery sources specialty barley, malted exclusively for them in Bamberg, for their Märzen. Avery, Harpoon, Great Lakes, Victory, Great Divide, and many more provide a seasonal Oktoberfest beer every year to honor the German festival and its huge influence on brewing in this country.

New Orleans Style

In New Orleans, where I live, there are two Oktoberfest traditions that are especially close to my heart. The first one takes place

at the best beer bar in New Orleans, and one of the best in the world, the Avenue Pub. Every year, owner Polly Watts works with small family breweries in the Franconian region of Germany to import small casks of unpasteurized lagers. “Some of these breweries are so small that there is no English translation on their website,” according to Watts. “Some don’t actually export kegs on their own, so to pull this off Shelton [Brothers Importing] and Weissenohe [Brewery] bought their own cooperage, and they deliver the kegs straight to the farmhouse breweries for filling. The kegs then rest in Weissenohe’s caves until they are ready to ship to the US.”

Mahr’s Bräu Ungespundet

Mahr’s Bräu Ungespundet

Photo Courtesy Nora McGunnigle

"Antistich" Casks

Watts says that these small farmhouse breweries create these beers as a labor of love to keep German brewing tradition true to its roots.

“The traditional German beer market is being overrun with mass produced beer, the same way the US was decades ago, and this whole venture is an effort to save it from extinction.”

This year, the Avenue Pub tapped “anstich” casks from Mahr’s Bräu, Brauerei Zehendner, and Krausz.

The Chicken Dance

The second New Orleans Oktoberfest tradition is the celebration held over three weekends by the area’s German heritage and culture club,

the Deutsches Haus. Founded in 1923 by the large German immigrant community, their Oktoberfest is a tradition thousands of people from New Orleans and all over Louisiana enjoy and look forward to every year. They serve beer from the Becks, Bitburger, Köstritzer, Spaten, and Warsteiner breweries in Germany, as well as a classic German Kolsch brewed in Louisiana at Covington Brewhouse.

The family friendly event also provides German food and music, and many iterations of the Chicken Dance.

The Chicken Dance

The Chicken Dance

Photo by Joe Mabel

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Prost!

Oktoberfest is about more than just the beer style. It’s a tradition started more than 200 years ago

that is still close to many communities in the United States. This NoteStream focused on New Orleans’ traditions, but cities across the country all embrace this fall festival as the symbol of our transition from summer into autumn.

As the last days of October slip by, raise a glass and toast this brewing tradition. Prost!

Prost!

Prost!

Photo Courtesy Nora McGunnigle