Oktoberfest better late than never

It’s great how traditions have built up over the years and Oktoberfest is one of them. Bars and breweries the world over clamour to carry out their own commemorations of the annual 16-day celebration of beer (could go on for a 17th day due to a technicality) that takes place in München. However, most are caught out by one thing, the majority of the actual Oktoberfest celebrations take place in late September. Apart from the occasional bar or two (where one was greeted by the sight of Alan & co in the Brewdock decked out in lederhousen) and the IFSC pop-up Erdinger extravaganza, it seems most bars wait until October to break out the Bauhaus.

I had the opportunity to attend the launch of the Porterhouse’s Oktoberfest earlier this month and in keeping with the Irish approach to “die Wies’n” I waited until now to blog about it. Not all the beers offered during the festival would be considered beers allowed to be served in Munich (6% beers brewed within the city limits by Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Spaten, Hofbräu or Löwenbräu). While the only “official” beer was Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Bier, the two weeks in the Porterhouse was more a festival of German brewing generally.  The always excellent bitterly and austere Jever Pilsener (shows that not all austerity emanating from Germany is bad) was available on draught, as was Weissenoher Bonator, Wieninger Helles and Schlenkerla Weizen. In bottles, there was Augustiner Helles, Tegernseer Spezial, Wieninger Guidobald Gold in bottles. I had the opportunity to do tastings of most of these beers in Probus over the course of the year thankfully because precious few were in the country over the past few weeks.

For the festival, the Porterhouse brought back its seasonal brew Hersburcker Oktoberfest. While it is based on the standard Hersbrucker Pils, it doesn’t have the same level of bitterness and the same level of floral aroma. Instead, it has become a malt-forward beer dominated by its malt bill of Vienna, Caramalt and Munich. It’s malt on the nose and in the taste. The body is golden/amber thanks to the addition of Vienna malt and perhaps is closer to the true Oktoberfestbier/Märzen style. The beer was matured in the brewery for 6 weeks prior to release. The sweet caramel flavour belies its 6% abv. For me the taste is reminiscent of a waffle cone. It has a dry, sugary flavour with the vaguest hint of gingerbread.  It is strongly reminiscent of beers from Hall & Woodhouse’s Badger range such as Tangle Foot and Fursty Ferret.

Of course no respectable Oktoberfest would be complete without out an Oompah band. There’s something fantastic about brass bands attempting to belt out popular tunes – the kitscher the better.  And every so soften for them to belt out Ein Prosit followed by “Schenkt ein, trinkt aus, schenkt ein, trinkt aus”, which gets steadily more raucous as the night wears on. There’s a great one on youtube of a band playing Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. An Oompah band is really the ultimate party band (if the Saw Doctors are unavailable) so forget the DJ and the karaoke.

Prost!

Musings on the best Irish beer fest yet

The All-Ireland Craft Beer and Cider Festival has attracted a lot of attention online and save from repeating a previous post, I have opted to provide a series of short observations on the festival. Oh and did I mention that I attended all four days because where else would I be!

Packed house on Festival Saturday

In no particular order:

  1. Biggest festival yet! Huge crowds over the four days (over 10,000 according to Ruben @TaleofAle). It was packed on the Friday and many had made their way up from the Aviva after the Ireland-Sweden march but Saturday was something else. The crowds simply kept on coming with a queue to get in and an even bigger one at the token stand.  if keeps growing like this, it’ll probably have to move into the main hall next door.
  2. Two collaboration brews can be best described as sweet. The O’Hara’s/JW Sweetman’s version containing honey. There’s a story to be told about it but can be best summed up as there’s a group of people out there nerdier than beer enthusiasts – honey people! Troubled Hooker from guess which two breweries (see my previous post if you can’t for the life of you work out who it is) was a mistake gone well. It was supposed to be a Double IPA but became almost a sweet Belgian Tripel, even sweeter than Kwak.
  3. Dry-hopped Irish reds, what’s the point? The malt sweetness is there for a reason. Leave the hops for the “Irish” pale ales & co.
  4. The Hop Randall festival goes to try the Kinsale Pale Ale with added Simcoe, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. The Hop Randall  has now been introduced by the Bull and Castle and the Bierhaus in Cork . Has it already been condemned to the realm of gimmick?
  5. Franciscan Well wasn’t picketed by members of the craft purist front and the casks ran dry fairly early on. Punters weren’t put off by this big beer-owned concern.
  6. In previous years Dungarvan trialled their seasonal beers for the following year (Comeragh Challenger and Mahon Falls). Cormac brought six variants with him, including a Saison, Amber Ale, Mild, session DIPA, Wit IPA and an IPA. I  still don’t know which or if any are scheduled for release  in 2014.
  7. Every time the show the All-Ireland Hurling Final On festival Sunday, it ends in a draw.
  8. In past years people flocked to the White Gypsy stand to imbibe on the stronger beers available. However, I don’t know what is happening down in Templemore as a string of very fine session beers turned up at this year’s festival.
  9. Did every band at the festival do a cover of The Lumineers’ Ho Hey? Don’t get me started about the Johnny Cash covers!
  10. Two barley wines at the festival and two were duly sampled. I know barley wines are known for their port/sherry like comparisons but I’m not going to go into how one was sweet (Porterhouse) and one was dry (O’Hara’s). That’s just going too far!
  11. Putting the newer breweries in one corner (although Brú was across the way) grouped in one corner was a great way of concentrating interest in them. One thing noticed is that the newer breweries have fantastic branding and T-shorts for sale (in the past this sort of behaviour was confined to Metalman and the Porterhouse).
  12. Beers to look out for include Eight Degrees’ Amber Ella (might give Howling Gale Ale a run for its money in the popularity stakes), Kinsale Pale Ale (a great beer to show to festival novices that Ireland can match Sierra Nevada et al), Mountain Man’s Hairy Goat (nice copper ale for the autumn) and hopefully Five Lamps will release the darker version of their Liberties Ale (they have a lager so why put out a golden ale?).
The fantastic branding from some of the newer breweries at the festival