In the northern hemisphere, today is the first day of autumn, and the daylight hours already are noticeably fewer. In Munich, Germany, it's the first day of Oktoberfest, putatively the largest party in the world.
Jumping the gun by nine days, Gordon-Biersch brewpub in Tysons Corner, Virginia, celebrated the annual release of its Oktoberfest lager, on Thursday, 13 September, Brewer Grant Carson, bedecked in Bavarian garb, presided. The pub, plunked in a suburban mall, was filled that night. A traditional German band played beer tunes (Ein Prosit), and a 2-liter boot of Oktoberfest was passed around, folk sipping communally.
Carson told me that, six weeks earlier, he had brewed the 5.9% alcohol-by-volume, amber-colored lager with imported-from-Germany Wyermann malts (pilsner, Munich, Caramel, Melanoidin) and German hops (Hersbrucker). After fermentation, he lagered the beer (matured it at cool temperatures) in horizontal tanks during the intervening 35 or so days.
I found the beer to have a firm toasted-biscuit malt flavor, with a finishing touch —just a touch— of caramel sweetness. And, if you searched for it —I did— you noticed some floral Hersbrucker hop spiciness. Delicious! I invite 'hop heads' to join in the fun and become re-introduced to the intoxicating (pun intended) flavors of malted barley.
About.com Washington, D.C. posts a list of Oktoberfest-themed festivals in the greater Washington, D.C. area, some of which, such as Gordon-Biersch, have occurred already, and many of which will take place well into October (not quite following the time-line of the Munich festival).
Two long-standing area establishments deserve special mention. Blob's Park in Jessup, Maryland —a Bavarian beer hall, beer garden, dance hall, and restaurant— has been open since 1933. It was closed in 2007/8, before being re-opened by the great-nephew of the original owner, German immigrant Max Blob. The Selinger family opened the Old Stein Inn in Edgewater, Maryland in 1983. Last year, son Michael and his wife Beth rebuilt and re-opened the restaurant and beer garden after a devastating fire.
See other round-ups of D.C. area Oktoberfests at: DCBeer.com, Washington Post's Going Out Gurus, and Mid-Atlantic Brewing News' Hop Tips.
As to the world's largest party, here's what's happening in Munich, Germany, today through Sunday, 7 October.
Oktoberfest is a 16-day festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world's largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event.
The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival would go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1.
From the official Oktoberfest website:
On Saturday, September 22nd, the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noontime, 12pm, the lord mayor of Munich will have the honor of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst. It pays to arrive early in order to experience the festivities up close and personal and it's quite common for visitors to come around 9am to secure good seats. The festival will last until October 7th.
- More photos from the Gordon-Biersch tapping: here.
- Related story on the Munich Oktoberfest: Einstein's Oktoberfest.
- My 'local,' Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia, is blocking off the courtyard in front of the brewpub on Sunday, 22 September, for a day-long festival including a traditional German band, a German-inspired food menu, the tapping of the brewpub's Oktoberfest lager —Hitzig Frau, and, very un-traditionally, 22 IPAs (very hoppy ales) from other mid-Atlantic breweries.
- Via TimeAnd Date.com, the autumnal equinox occurs on the U.S. east coast at exactly 10:49am today, Saturday, 22 September 2012. The autumnal and vernal equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.
- Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.