What Oktoberfest Means to Me

Originally published in the September 2022 Issue of the Old Town Crier Magazine

Remember those terrible assignments in school? I hated them. Mainly because the subject was always dictated to you. It was things like country, family, friends, school, or worse, the church.

One such assignment stands out to me from elementary school. The name of our school was Broadview Elementary. It was right down the road from the Broadview Inn, a local pub. The joke was that the school was named after the pub, which is hilarious when you are seven years old.  The assignment was called “What Broadview Means to Me.” The students got to vote on the best essay, which was to then be submitted to a state contest. The title of my essay was “What Broadview Means to Me, A Penitentiary.” I likened the school to a prison. I described it as a place void of freedom. A building where the expression of ideas was restricted, and democracy was dead. We were to read our essays to the class. My classmates roared with laughter and cheered at the end of my dissertation. If they could have, they would have hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me through the halls of the school. I was a hero. No, I was a god! I was Zeus, using my pen to hurl my lightning bolts and smite my enemies. Well, at least I thought I was. Even though I won, the school never submitted my essay. The teacher just rolled her eyes and said, “Very nice, Timmy.” The kid who was awarded the win wrote about how nice the teachers were and about how much she loved spelling, math, and Pizza Wednesday. Really? No one loved math! They were looking for conformity, not creativity.

I’ve come to terms with it now. Well, at least after I wrote that last paragraph I did. Writing can be a wonderful form of therapy. I now understand the importance of such assignments. Even though it was appreciated by those whom it was meant to entertain, my essay was doomed from the start. You will never ingratiate yourself to anyone by disparaging them. The assignment ended up being a very good life lesson.

Now, please allow me to write about something that is dear to my heart. Something that touches my very soul, Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is a gathering of love and friendship. It is a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate life itself. The first Oktoberfest was a wedding reception after all. The soon-to-be Bavarian King Louis I was set to wed Princes Theresa von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Wedding receptions are celebrations of love, life, and the joining of families. The Germans try to end the festival as close to Reunification Day, October 3rd, as possible. Oktoberfest is the perfect way to celebrate the rejoining of their country. It is a festival that embodies the meaning of community. Plus, it’s the best beer you’re ever going to drink!

My buddy Devo and I have gone to the festival in Munich on several occasions. On the first day of one of our trips, we got to the festival around 11 AM. We tried several tents but could not find a table. One of the rules is that you must be at a table to drink. However, a tent waitress, or Beir Frau, has a lot of leeway when it comes to the rules. We entered the Augustiner Beer Tent for one last try. A Beir Frau recognized us from the previous year. She ran up, hugged us, got us a beer, and told us that she would find us a seat. We were overjoyed. As I was enjoying my liter of fest beer, I looked over at Devo. He was wiping his eyes.

“Are you crying?” I chuckled.

“A little,” he said. “I can’t help it. I love it here. I feel like a kid at Christmas.”

What a great analogy. The feeling of joy on Christmas morning for a child is quite similar. Oktoberfest is joyful. Food, drink, and merriment abound. Song and laughter fill the air. It’s truly the world’s biggest kegger. People from almost every country attend, even the French. The Germans really don’t like them, but a couple do occasionally show up.

Oktoberfest beers are traditionally lagers. The Marzen-style lager, the original fest beer, is amber in color and malty with a medium body. It is by far the American brewers favored style. The German brewers lean toward lighter lagers nowadays. Lagers that are much more suited for all day drinking. Many American brewers will offer these as well. So, get out and enjoy the many Fest Beers and events that your local craft breweries will be offering. Invite your friends and family! That’s what Oktoberfest is all about! And unlike Christmas, Oktoberfest is a two-week event that includes three weekends. In Munich alone, five to six million people attend and over seven million liters of beer are poured. Maybe Christmas should take note.

Here are a few of my favorite local breweries that offer great fest beers. Prost!!

Port City Brewing

As always, Port City is offering a great line of German beers for Oktoberfest. Among them, their Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal Award winning Oktoberfest Marzen Style Lager, made with both Munich and Vienna Malt. Their Swarzbier is a black lager that is deep brown in color and smooth in taste, with notes of coffee and toasted malt. This one will run out before the others, so grab one soon. Their German Pilsner is fantastic and harkens to the types of beer you would get at the festival in Munich. They also offer a Hefeweizen, and the Rauch Marzen, a smoked version of their Oktoberfest bier. 

Denizens Brewing Co.

Denizens Brewing Company has two beers from their Hike the Alps series just in time for Oktoberfest. The first is their Marzen. Brewed with a unique Bavarian lager yeast, this fest beer showcases a sweet bready malt profile balanced by floral hops. The other is their Hike the Alps Rauchbier. Brewed with European smoked malted barley, this red colored lager has a bready malt sweetness balanced by the flavor and aroma of wood-fire smoke. Denizen Brewing is always a great choice for an afternoon or evening brew.

Aslin Beer Company

Aslin Beer Company also has a fun variety of Oktoberfest releases. Their Festbier is a traditional German style Golden Lager, very similar to what you’d get at the tents in Munich. They also have Doch, a traditional German Marzen, and Much Ado, a German style Helles lager. Full Basic, a dark Czech lager, is also being released with their Oktoberfest beers. Aslin Beer Company consistently makes good beer.

Tim’s Whiskey and Cigar Recommendations

What whiskey is going to go best with your Oktoberfest beer? Call me crazy, but the best whiskeys to drink with fest beers are Irish pot-stilled whiskeys. Don’t stop reading, hear me out. These whiskeys are made with un-malted barley and complement the fest beers very well. You’re getting the best of Germany and Ireland. What’s better than that?

Jameson Black Barrel Irish Whiskey

This is a blended Irish whiskey that is double distilled and matured in deep charred oak barrels. It contains a large portion of Irish pot-still whiskey, so it’s perfect to pair with an Oktoberfest lager. The whiskey is thick on the palate and has a long finish, the lagers tend to be crisp and finish quickly. The peach, coconut, and cinnamon notes complement the lager’s maltiness. A delicious Irish and German blend, who would have thought.

Padron Series 5000 Natural Cigar

I wanted a second opinion when selecting this cigar. I consulted with my friend John Pann, one of the owners of John Crouch Tobacconist in Old Town Alexandria. John is my go-to on these matters. We discussed the German lagers, and John immediately went for the Padron Series 5000 Natural Cigar. These wonderful full-bodied smokes do not overpower. With notes of coffee, chocolate, walnut. and nutmeg, they are a very smooth smoke with a buttery finish that seduces the palate. A great accompaniment to both your fest beer and Irish whiskey. Enjoy.

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