Oktoberfest kicks off in earnest this weekend, with a full calendar of events running from now until the end of its namesake month. You may think that dancing to oom-pah music clad in lederhosen is not your idea of a good time – you Oktoberfest grinch! Here’s a few suggestions to get you into the mood.
1) Try some Marzen beers. I’m an ale drinker by trade but these bold Marzen or Oktoberfest beers are cause for a rethink of the lager category. They are so-named because they were originally brewed each March (Marzen) at higher alcohols to withstand the summer months, and released well-aged in time for Oktoberfest. With ABVs weighing in at the high five percentiles and above, these richly coloured beers have the texture and malt complexity to convert even the most ardent of lager dodgers. Visitors to Urban Purveyor Group venues, comprising ten Bavarian Bier Cafes, as well as Munich Brauhaus (Melbourne) and Lowenbrau Keller (Sydney) have the rare opportunity to try five Marzen beers from Munich breweries Lowenbrau, Spaten, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. And if you get down to The Local Taphouse in Sydney right away, you can try Sierra Nevada’s awesome Marzen collaboration with Bavarian brewer, Brauhaus Riegele. Bottled product will be available at the St Kilda venue.
2) Do Oktoberfest al fresco. The WA-founded Oktoberfest In The Gardens has expanded beyond Perth (Saturday October 10) to Melbourne (Fridays 23 and Saturday 24 October) and now Sydney (Saturday 31 October). You’re in good hands with the beers: Hofbrau, Paulaner and Lowenbrau will be there, complete with abovementioned Marzen brews, while the major event partner is the world’s oldest brewery, Bavaria’s Weihenstephan. Brisbane’s answer is the long-running Oktoberfest Brisbane, one of the Top 10 Oktoberfests outside of Germany, according to National Geographic magazine. It runs over the weekends of 9-11 and 16-18 October. Beers come courtesy of Bavaria’s Tucher Brewery (Lager and Wheat Beer) and Queensland’s own Burleigh Brewing Co. (Dunkelbier).
3) Get educated. Writes Pete Mitcham: It may come as a surprise to some of our readers that Oktoberfest is not a festival designed to gather large numbers of foreign tourists with the express purpose of quickly becoming completely and utterly legless. Those wishing to reconnect with some of the more cultural and historical elements of this great Bavarian tradition can visit the Melbourne Immigration Museum on October 4 for a German Bier Workshop. Guest speakers German beer expert Geert Hendrix from Heron Tower Beverages and Gerhad Patzold and Greg McElherron from Beach Avenue Wholesalers will talk guests through the traditions, stories and importance of Oktoberfest while enjoying tastings of six German beers. They can then select a bottle of their favourite to enjoy (all included) with complimentary German snacks. Further details here.
4) Visit a brewery. This year will be the tenth iteration of Bridge Road Brewers’ now legendary Oktoberfest celebrations. Brewery founders Ben Kraus and his partner Maria Frischmann know how these functions are supposed to play out. Frischmann hails from the heart of the Tyrol region in Austria and has worked as a bier-maid at the Munich Oktoberfest. Kraus gained his brewing knowledge in the same region and is known for his Germanic beer styles – look out for his take on a Marzen at the Beechworth, Victoria events on Saturday October 10 and Sunday October 11. And in Queensland, Ipswich’s Four Hearts Brewing is in on the act with an Oktoberfest event at its Pumpyard venue. Four Hearts has produced four new beers for the event, running over the weekend of 25-27 September: a Wein Lager, a Summer Wheat and an Alt Bier.