Sunday, October 04, 2009

Munich in Virginia

Oktoberfest concludes today in the city of Munich, in Bavaria, Germany.

The Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally, takes 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 will go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). The festival is now 17 days when the 1st Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1.
Got that?

In Arlington, Virginia, yesterday under glorious autumn sunshine, Capitol City Brewing Company held its 10th annual Oktoberfest, outside on the plaza of Shirlington Village. More than 30 breweries participated.

Of the eight local breweries that just the week prior had garnered medals at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), five sent representatives. Northern Virginia area good beer fans were able to offer congratulations in person ... as did I.

Jason Oliver, 4x gold medalist

I expressed my admiration to Jason Oliver for his achievement: winning 4 medals in the difficult-to-brew lager categories, and even more so, in a brewpub open for only a few months, Devils Backbone near Wintergreen, Virginia. Jason was particularly ebullient about his gold for Danzig— a 'Baltic porter'(a lager brewed with ingredients similar to a porter ale). He had previously brewed that same rare style in his earlier position as longtime executive brewer for the Gordon-Biersch brewpubs in the Washington, D.C. area.

One of Jason's medals was for his Kellerbier, the lager equivalent of cask-conditioned ale, but he wasn't able to bring a cask to the Fest. I told him I would have to visit the brewpub to taste some; Jason agreed. (In fact, none of the participating breweries were pouring cask ale.)

Heather and James

I gave Heather Donahue a congratulatory hug. She's the local representative for Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland. In addition to winning 4 medals at the GABF, the brewery had been honored as the Mid-Size Brewery of the Year. She was pouring its gold-medal winning Dogtoberfest (Oktoberfest Lager).

Dude! Where's My Vespa?

Chris Rafferty —head brewer for the Arlington, Virginia location of Rock Bottom Brewery— poured me a sample of his gold-medal winning coffee stout called Dude! Where's My Vespa? It had a strong coffee essence, but minus any expected coffee bitterness. Chris had accomplished this, he explained, by cold-brewing freshly roasted coffee beans from local (Annandale, Virginia) micro-roastery, Beanetics. The abv on the brew was 6.8% —a reason why you might forget where your scooter was, dude.

Crazy Jackass

It's the second time around, medaling, for Jackass Rye Ale from Sweetwater Tavern. Nick Funnel (emphasis on the second syllable) —Executive Brewmaster for the company's three northern Virginia brewpubs— explained that the beer is a difficult brew. Rye is high in gluten and literally sticky. Straining the liquid wort from the mash —which normally takes an hour and a half— can take twice that with the beer's grist of 50% rye. To expedite the runoff, Funnell added rice hulls —the outer casings of rice kernels— into the mash. He'll be re-releasing Jackass Rye as part of a pre-winter celebration in November.

Although the German Oktoberfest has concluded, here in the US, Octoberfest (with a 'c') celebrations will continue through the end of the month. There's an annoying penchant for appending "toberfest" to all sorts of first syllables: Rocktoberfest, Hoptoberfest, Sale-toberfest, etc. I posted online, perhaps futilely, requesting a moratorium be placed on the coining of these silly words. Here's one response I received on Twitter: "It's making a mockery of the fest. A Mocktoberfest, if you will."

Indian Fare at Oktoberfest 3

The festival offered plenty of schnitzel and other 'Oktoberfesty' food. But other than pretzels, what was a vegetarian to do? Well, how about Indian fare? I enjoyed a wonderfully spiced Channa Masala, and washed it down with an un-Oktoberfestish IPA from Clipper City Brewing: Loose Cannon.

Austrian wines at Oktoberfest 3

Just before I left the festival, I chatted with a young gentlemen who had stepped out of a wine shop. Inside, he had tasted samples of several Austrian wines (fine and appropriate for the occasion). I asked him if he would be sampling any of the many beers. "No," he replied. "They're only beers."

Well, yes, there were 'only' beers being served outside. Maybe that was why the plaza was completely thronged with festive Oktoberfesters. Enjoy your autumn!

The crowd
  • More photos here.
  • This year, Munich Oktoberfest began on 19 September.
  • The 2008 Shirlington Festival experienced a bit of regulatory difficulty. This year, all was smooth festing.
  • Caveat lector: As a representative for northern Virginia wholesaler Select Wines, I sell beers from Clipper City and Flying Dog.

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