Since my favorite NFL squad was on the road this week, I celebrated Oktoberfest under the ominous glow of the Red Zone channel in high definition. I was feeling the pressure to rate for the masses a cornucopia of this years Oktoberfest brews, but after each beer went down my gullet coincidentally, the pressure began to subside.
What did emerge however, was the disappointing realization that each of my favorite American craft beer maker was missing the mark on the Oktoberfest style. Oktoberfest beer has become a proud tradition and signifies the best time of the year of the fall, harvest festivals, and yes I’m going to throw this in….football!!
What all the websites will tell you (and our last year’s ratings already alluded to) is that Oktoberfest began in Munich as a public party for the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony on October 12, 1811.
But why are Marzen beers brewed in March and drank in October? March is the end of the winter, and nothing has grown since the fall of the previous year. Therefore, folks in Germany used the various remaining wheats, malts, and barleys that were leftover from the winter and brewed one last batch of robust beer. Since these brews ended up so unique and flavorful, the Marzen beer signified a tradition worth keeping around and tapping in the fall!
So now we are here 200 years later, and I am getting paid to drink and rate Oktoberfest beers. Pass me another bratwurst! The first thing that I noticed, was that each American beer was this unusually unnatural vivid orange color. I suspected that there is artificial coloring going on there with each one. In contrast with each German Oktoberfest I sampled, those beers seemed to have more natural colors of amber and copper.
Secondly, the American Oktoberfest beers are dominated by mostly all malt notes and no hint of bitters whatsoever. Many of the American beers weren’t subtle at all about the kind of malt flavors, Victory for example, was way too heavy on the coffee notes. The German styles balanced a nice robust malt with subtle bitterness, more true to the German style.
Lastly, some of the American crafters couldn’t help themselves by sneaking in overt hoppiness into the brew. I definitely appreciate the hoppy pale ales and IPA’s, and the United States is leading in this regard, but this is Germany’s tradition and their style so for once, ease up on the hops.
So in sum, my recommendation to the American crafter beer makers is to stop trying to be so cute, and stick to the fundamentals when it comes to Oktoberfest beers.
Oktoberfest, it’s that time of year again. If the Germans know anything about beer, than they sure know something about meats. For those of you that live in the Philadelphia area or even New york/New Jersey for that matter I encourage you to visit Illg’s Meats in Bucks County Pennsylvania. You can even pick up some of Illg’s delicasies at the Apple Valley Farm stand in the Reading Terminal in Center City Philadelphia.
According to the Illg family, “Ernst came to America in 1952 and settled in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia, at 29th and Master Streets; a good neighborhood for lunch meats and sausage. German, Irish, Polish and Jewish people. They liked our meats. So business exploded. And all we had was a little rowhouse-in front, the store; in the middle, the icebox; in back, the sausage kitchen; upstairs, the family. So we moved to Chalfont. We took over a store from a butcher who was American but with German parents, so he had a few German items. We just put our items out, and all of a sudden we didn’t know where all these people were coming from. It’s not just people from Germany like these meats, you know. It’s people from Poland, from Russia, from all over Europe. We even make Hungarian sausage. We’re Germans, but we make it. And we make it good.”
I grew up eating the lunch meat, brats, sauerkraut, and butcher cuts from the Chalfont store. But comfort food has kind of been my go-to cuisine and nothing takes me back to my childhood better than some basic ole’ fashioned Wiener Schnitzel.
Basically, its merely a fried breaded veal cutlet served with a lemon wedge.
The Winer Schnitzel Recipe:
1 lb of fresh veal cutlets from Illg’s Meats tenderized and pounded flat
1 cup of UNSEASONED bread crumbs
1 cup of flour
Splash of milk
2 tablespoons fresh parsley flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of butter
First pound out your veal cutlets. Next, mix some fresh ground pepper into your flour and set aside.
Beat your eggs with the milk and set aside. Mix your parsley with the bread crumbs. Next you will be breading your cutlets by dipping each cutlet into your flour mixture assuring that the entire piece is coated and shake off any excess flour. Next dip it into the beaten eggs, and finally dip the cutlet into the bread crumb mixture. Repeat this process for each piece. Heat your cooking oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the butter until that melts and begin frying your breaded cutlets until golden brown on each side.
Once each side is fried set aside on a paper towel to drain any excess oil. Squeeze a lemon wedge on your Schnitzel and serve with a lemon wedge and parsley garnish.
Really, Wiener Schnitzel is an Austrian dish, but culturally, its close enough. It is also tradition to serve your Wiener Schnitzel with parsley herb potato wedges and a parsley garnish. I would pair this bad boy with this years Whiskey Goldmine Oktoberfest Champion Spaten Oktoberfest!
The Illgs Store by the way, is at 365 Folly Road, Chalfont, PA is open from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Tuesday through Friday and from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday. “Tell people to call (215-343-0670) before they come, and I will give them directions,” says Ernst Illg.
Oktoberfest Beers: A 200 Year German Brewing Tradition
By Team Goldmine
The German Tradition of Oktoberfest started in Munich Germany in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of the Crown Prince of Bavaria. An Oktoberfest beer, or Marzen style lager is brewed in March and stored cold through the spring and summer, and finally tapped in October. Compared to a regular German style lager, the Oktoberfest bier is brewed with more malts and higher alcohol content in order to survive the long spring/summer storage. One of our favorite styles, the Oktoberfest Marzen Lager is usually darker, full bodied, with more flavor than a traditional lager. Below is a list of the Top 10 Oktoberfest beers of 2011!
1. Spaten Oktoberfest Marzen- -Germany. 5.9% ABV
Crisp, well balanced, excellent head, natural amber color, balance is subtle in rich malts & bitters. Crisp pleasant finish. Our 2011 Oktoberfest Champion!
2. Hacker Pschorr Original Oktoberfest—Germany. 5.80% ABV
Golden Brown color, great wheat aroma, smooth but crisp, excellent mouthfeel interesting malt tones, tastes of malts and notes of honey. Finish is slightly flat.
3. Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen—Germany. 6.00% ABV
Pours a rich copper color, perfect carbonation settles to rich head. Bitter, malty, complex and dry. Achieves perfect balance of maltiness & bitterness.
Great for being out of a can! Settles to a cloudy light orange/amber color with a rich head that sticks to glass. Out of the American Oktoberfest brews, this is the quintessential German Oktoberfest style.
5. Ayinger Oktoberfest Marzen—Germany. 5.80% ABV
Malty, Crisp, Dry with Light Hops. Hints of Coffee and very well balanced. Our 2010 Oktoberfest champion.
6. Stoudts Oktoberfest—Pennsylvania. 5.00% ABV
Pours a dark copper cloudy cover with light head and toffee malt notes. Sweet, citrusy and malty. More noticeable hoppiness than others, smooth finish & balance.
7. Great Lakes Oktoberfest –Ohio. 6.5% ABV
Made with Harrington 2 Row Malts and Hallertau U.S. German style Hops, here is another flat out stud from Great Lakes. This brewery has the lock on lagers.
8. Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier—Germany. 6.30% ABV
Robust, crisp, sweet and dry. Made with ale yeasts and ours an unusually light golden color. Frothy head, light on the malt characteristics, but the wheat bitter balance is nice.
9. Flying Dog Dogtoberfest Marzen—Maryland 5.30% ABV
Made with German Perle and Hallertau Malts, and brewed with 100% German ingredients. A medium and solid crisp lager.
10. Flying Fish Oktoberfish—New Jersey 5.50% ABV
Pours an orange to light copper with thin carbonation. Malty, crips, with a sour aftertaste. Flavor dissapates rather quickly. Hints of coffee in the malts. Finishes crisp.
11. Victory Festbier—Pennsylvania. 5.60% ABV
12. Becks Oktoberfest—Germany. 5.00% ABV
13. Sam Adams Oktoberfest—Massachusetts. 5.30% ABV
14. Saranac Oktoberfest—New York. 5.40% ABV
15. Brooklyn Oktoberfest–New York. 5.50% ABV.
Oktoberfest officially begins on September 18 and goes through the first weekend of October. This year the traditional German brewers did what they due best, taking 4 of the top 5 spots in our 2011 rankings. Our esteemed panel consisted of 5 judges, one being a craft beer sommelier. Please note: these rankings are based upon the beers available in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey area. We searched 7-8 locations and tasted every Oktoberfest beer available.
Click the Link Below to Download Your 2011 March Madness Tournament Bracket Now…
By Team Goldmine
Introducing the inaugural Whiskey Goldmine March Madness Beer Tournament Bracket Championship! 64 of the world’s best beers have been chosen and will go head to head in our March Madness Bracket Style tournament. It’s win or go home in one of the greatest all style all flavor taste tests ever created. In order to advance, the beers will have to win multiple taste tests in each round, sometimes blind and double blind taste tests. From the first two rounds, to the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and to the Championship Game, the March Madness Tournament winner will be declared the 2011 Beer of Champion! Download your 2011 Tournament Bracket now!
Click the link below to view the bracket. (Don’t be afraid to zoom in.)
By Jeremy Thomson, Tom Pittakas, Pat Smith, Paul Reiter, Tim Rodgers and Matt Goldstein
Over the last few years, there has been a serious trend towards beer in a can and Oskar Blues and Slyfox are running the show. Oskar Blues and Slyfox don’t just make 1 good beer in a can; they each make 4 or 5 great beers in a can. As well, you have to admit, the draught can like Young’s Double Chocolate and Guinness is pretty damn cool. Just admit it. You know you love beer in a draught can!
1. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout, 10.5% ABV, Lyons CO.
2. Slyfox Phoenix Pale Ale, 5.1% ABV, Phoenixville, PA.
3. Maui Coconut Porter, 5.7% ABV, Lahaina, HI.
4. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale, 6.5% ABV, Lyons, CO.
The annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado had over 3500 entries this year and was completely sold out 5 weeks in advance. The GABF is a 3 day event held by the Brewers Association with over 100 beer judges and 500 breweries. The 2010 GABF went from Thursday the 16th through Saturday the 18th. The original GABF in 1982 only had 22 breweries.
Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Blue Moon Brewing Company, Denver, CO
Dr. David Ryder
Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Crosby & Baker Ltd.
Utah Brewers Cooperative, Salt Lake City, UT
Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Microstar Keg Management
Mad River Brewing Company, Blue Lake, CA
Mad River Brewing Company
Brewpub Group and Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Country Malt Group
TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea, CA
Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group
Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA
Pizza Port Brew Guys
Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
If you are in the Philadelphia area, and looking to celebrate Oktoberfest in authentic fashion, you should really check out Rieker’s Prime Meats in Fox Chase. Located at 7979 Oxford Ave in Philadelphia. This authentic German deli was founded in 1970 by Walter and Ursula Rieker. Both Walter and Ursula were born in post WWII Germany which initially was struggling economically as a result of being torn apart by the war. At the age of 13 Walter was certified as a butcher and moved to Philadelphia to seek a better opportunity. I remember my Grandma Braun exclusively getting any and all kinds of German fare at Rieker’s. If you were from that part of the city, it was a given that it was the place to go. knockwurst, Kielbasa, fresh or smoked, spaetzle, laugenbretzel, rye bread, potato pancakes…you name it. And the sauerkraut? Well you can see the stuff being pressed down in the barrels behind the deli counter homemade, fresh, and with bacon!
Let’s not forget that Germany is the place to go for fine chocolates and desserts. The selection of German candies and chocolates is immense. I recently had been frequenting the Fox Chase area, and as soon as I passed by the store front, I had to go in and pick up some brats for Oktoberfest (See our Top 10 Oktoberfest Beers). Since the Eagles are away this week, I will cook this feast in the comfort of my own home. The main course
will be the brats simmered in beer, and on the grill. I will serve these tangy brats with fresh spaetzel, sauerkraut, and German potato salad. Feel free to add any other of the delectable foods freshly prepared to the menu as you see fit. Finally, pair these bad boys with our 2010 Oktoberfest Beer Champion Ayinger Oktoberfest or runner-up Beck’s Oktoberfest. Auf Wiedersehen und Guten Appetit!
For the Brats:
12-16 of their fresh Oktoberfest bratwurst (A white bratwurst packed with caraway and marjoram herbs)
2- 12 ounce bottles of Spaten Oktoberfest (the o.g. Oktoberfest beer or any lager will do)
2- medium size red onions diced
1 green bell pepper sliced
1 red pepper sliced
¼ cup of sugar
Pinch of caraway seeds
Pinch of marjoram
1 stick of butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Crusty Sarcone’s club rolls to serve brats on
Tin Foil pan(s) for grilling
2 pounds of Rieker’s homemade bacon sauerkraut (just heat on the stove)
2 packages of Rieker’s spaetzel (just fry up with a little oil)
2 pounds of Rieker’s homemade German potato salad
1 bottle Sweet Loewensef mustard
Preheat grill and set to low heat. Combine all ingredients into your tin foil pan and simply put on the grill. Allow to simmer until the brats are cooked all the through for about 25-30 Minutes. (Don’t poke them with a fork or you will “release the juice!”) Serve on the rolls with your choice of sauerkraut and/or mustard. Heat up the sides and go to town!
By Tim Rodgers, Charlie Pavlov, Howard Goldstein & Matt Goldstein
If Oktoberfest means drinking over 40 different beers in a 36 hour period, than yes, it’s a festival. Germans like to watch Fussball and Americans prefer Football, so in honor of the upcoming season, we did both. We started our Oktoberfest in fine European style down at PPL Park in Chester PA awaiting Sebastian LeToux and the Union going against the Chicago Fire. We continued the debauchery a mere 15 hours later in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial field awaiting the 2010 Philadelphia Eagles home opener. All the time, working tirelessly, sampling beer after, beer, after beer. We cleansed our palates between courses of Vietnam prawns, stone crab claws, filet mignon, and 3 pound whole lobsters. Sorry, no wienerschnitzel.
Why go through all of that trouble? Well, it’s the 200th anniversary of the German Tradition of Oktoberfest started in Munich Germany in 1810 to celebrate the marriage of some prince. But as Far as the German beer crafters are concerned, the Marzenbier (March) beers are brewed in March but drank in the fall as the craft of making such fine brews require the spring and summer to prepare. They are primarily full bodied, higher in gravity and alcohol as a result of having to be stored for those months.
The change of seasons from summer to fall is a beautiful thing, and so is the harvest of fine foods, but more importantly fine beers. So we found it necessary to sample all of the Oktoberfest Marzen beers that were available to us, and give you this year’s rankings:
1. Ayinger Oktoberfest, 5.8%, Germany:
Superb flavored malts, hints of coffee, well balanced, and excellent Oktoberfest.
2. Beck’s Oktoberfest, 5.0%, Germany:
Great orange color, caramel, toffee, and coffee notes, very complex flavors yet smooth. We know. We’re as surprised as you are.
3. Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest
5.8%, Germany. Smoothly carbonated, great flavor.
4. Flying Fish Oktoberfish
5.5%, Cherry Hill, NJ. Balances the hops with autumn malts and caramel of the Oktoberfest style.
5. HofBrau Oktoberfestbier
6.3%, Germany. Interesting pumpkin and spice notes.
6. Stoudt’s Oktoberfest
5.0%, Adamstown, PA. Very good balance of bitters, hops and malts.
7. Lefthand Marzen Oktoberfest
6.0%, Logmont, Colorado. Great flavors of coffee and caramel.
8. Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest
5.4%, South Burlington, VT. Pine and cherry notes, good, interesting.
9. Spaten Oktoberfestbier
10. Weyerbacher Autumn Fest
5.4%, Easton, PA
11. Slyfox Oktoberfest
5.8% ABV, Phoenixville PA.
12. Dundee Oktoberfest
5.5%, Rochester, NY.
13. Lakefront Oktoberfest Lager Beer
5.7%, Milwaukee, WI.
14. Sam Adams Oktoberfest
5.3%, Boston, MA.
15. Heavy Seas Marzen
5.4%, Baltimore, MD.
16. Saranac Oktoberfest
5.4%, Utica, NY.
17. Victory Fest Bier
5.6%, Downingtown, PA.
18. Leinenkugels Oktoberfest
5.1%, Chippewa Falls, WI.
19. Paulaner Oktoberfest
20. Sierra Nevada Tumbler
5.5%, Chico, CA.
21. Southern Tier Harvest Ale
6.4%, Lakewood, NY. (Too Hoppy for an Oktoberfest)