Category Archives: Zymurgical Musings

Imbibing Culture

What does it mean to “drink locally”?

The shadows are getting longer on this late afternoon in early autumn as I pull in from a long bike ride. I need a beer. Like most of us in North America these days, I’ll probably head down the road to the local brewery to quench my thirst or stop by a taproom that stocks a selection of beers brewed in the region.

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Many of us have heard or even uttered variations of the following: Drinking beer brewed locally connects us with the place where we live. Drinking locally is a deliberate act that signals a rejection of mass-produced wares. Beer brewed by the sweat of the brow of the folks down the road is more authentic than the fizzy liquid that flows forth from large factories across the land. Beer brewed locally tastes better. And beer brewed locally might just taste of the place in which it was brewed.

But what does it actually mean when we say we “drink local”? This is a question I have entertained since the earliest days of A Tempest in a Tankard. I started thinking about it again after reading a recent article entitled “The Next Big Thing in Beer is Being a Small Taproom.” Of course, being a small taproom means selling most, if not all, of what you brew to patrons who live within a stein’s toss of the brewery. Local is in like it hasn’t been since the days before Prohibition.

As I begin to re-formulate my thoughts on locality, place, terroir, aura, and authenticity for a few new projects, I thought it might be worthwhile to isolate questions I have couched within longer Tempest articles and pose them here in relatively open-ended form. Chime in with your thoughts!

1. Do we feel more connected to locally-brewed beer than we do to beers brewed elsewhere?

2. What do we mean when we say “authentically local”? Who and what do we exclude in this place-marking gesture?

3. What does it mean to be “local”? Is it the brewery itself, rooted in its particular place, or is it the ingredients? Does the brewery down the street brew with “locally-sourced” ingredients, or does it brew with malt from Germany, the United Kingdom, or Belgium?

4. Does the use of internationally-sourced ingredients at the brewery on the corner render its beer less “local”?

5. What are the spatial constraints of the term local? Does it refer to ingredients produced within a hundred kilometers of the brewery, or –– if the brewery is, say, Belgian –– can the term also refer to hops produced in Bavaria’s Hallertau region but used in Brussels?

6. What if your “local” beer is brewed under contract in a different region or state? Who decides, in the end, what constitutes a locally-brewed beer?

7. What about the brewer who simply can’t brew a beer with “local” ingredients? Is the beer produced at a brewery amid the warehouses of a light industrial district any less “authentically local” than the beer that contains maple syrup tapped from trees on the brewer’s land?

8. In recent years some commentators have suggested that brewers and their innovations are a more decisive component of “terroir” than the soil in which the hops or grain are grown. Does this sentiment stretch the notion of terroir to its breaking point? Or is there something to it?

9. Beer was once stamped with a sense of place due to a number of factors beyond the control of local brewers. Nowadays, brewers in Austin can create helles Bier that tastes like those brewed in München. What happens to the uniqueness of terroir when skilled brewers separated by an ocean can make beer that tastes virtually identical?

10. Beers may be a reflection of place, but can we “taste place” in beer?

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I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please take a moment to address any of these questions in the comments. Cheers!

If you’re interested in how I have approached these questions, check out the following articles:

A Reflection of Place, But Dimly

Pinning Down Place

Romancing the Local

Returning for Another Sip of Terroir

Images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Beer Flights: The Smart Way to Drink

5300-plus breweries in the United States and counting. Another 775 in Canada as of 2016 (and counting). A veritable explosion of new and innovative breweries in Europe’s strongholds of brewing tradition: Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

Judges at the 2016 edition of the Great American Beer Festival evaluated 96 general categories of beer covering 161 beer styles.

Never before has such a prodigious diversity of beers been available to those of us who like to drink them.

With all this variety, beer flights are more important now than ever before. I’m sure many would agree –– fortunately, flights are ubiquitous at North American craft-influenced establishments, and are on the rise in Europe. But occasionally I’m left scratching my head when hostility to flights bubbles to the surface.

Vinepair recently posted an article asking brewers to name a beer trend “that needs to die.” One response had to do with flights. Patrick Barnes of Islamorada Beer Company in Florida offered this response to the question of which beer trend he’d like to see go the way of the dodo bird:

“Beer flights. Beer is meant to be drunk by the pint, not by the shot. There are a lot of flavors and aromas that are lost in small tasting glasses, as well as switching back and forth between tasters wrecks your palate.”

Since the Vinepair article started making the rounds, more than a few friends, acquaintances, and members of Facebook beer groups have voiced support for doing away with beer flights. (Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that someone has expressed an antipathy toward flights. Back in early 2015, a barkeep in New York’s capitol region wrote an incredibly subtle think-piece entitled “Flights are dumb, and you’re dumb if you like them.”) Why this hostility to flights, perhaps one of the better ideas to come out of this phenomenon we call craft?

Before going any further, though I do have something against the typical shaker-type pint glass for reasons I’ve touched upon in my “Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker,” I have nothing against pint measures and have drunk my fair share. They have their time and place. Like in a beer garden, for example.

But to return to Barnes’s response: the assertion that beer is meant to be drunk by the pint is absurd. Why by the pint? Does every style of beer lend itself to being drunk by the pint? And why don’t we drink wine by the pint? After all, German late-harvest Rieslings have often have a lower alcohol percentage than many imperial stouts.

It’s similarly misguided to suggest that flavours and aromas are lost in small tasting glasses. A 4-ounce snifter that tapers toward the rim concentrates far more aromas than any 16-ounce pint glass of the shaker variety ever will. (I’ll go out on a limb here and assume that the vessel to which Barnes refers when he speaks of pints is the common shaker glass.)

Granted, switching back and forth between tasters can wreck your palate, especially if you have a high-IBU double IPA, an intensely hopped NEIPA, or a wild/sour in the flight. But let’s step back from the bar for a moment. Before the flight even gets off the ground, as it were, it’s the brewer’s or taproom manager’s responsibility to make sure his or her staff are familiar with the best ways to construct a flight so as to avoid palate fatigue. This could take the form of in-house training or subsidized Cicerone courses, or what have you. (Yes, I know that many breweries and taprooms already engage in this best of practices, but since some folks keep trashing flights … .)

Even the oldest brewery in the world is getting into the game

Now, one could adduce more potent arguments against flights along the following lines: Assembling a flight ties up a member of the bar staff who has to pull a number of 3- or 4-oz pours instead of one nice, hefty 16-oz pint. The bar staff then has to make sure that the drinker knows what each beer is. Though I do empathize with harried taproom staff, flights eminently address that wonderful issue of variety I mentioned at the outset. After all, the way I see it, a significant part of being a “craft” brewery or taproom involves education about beer and its myriad styles. Flights are the way to go.

An enlightening side-by-side tasting of gueuze and kriek: Boon, Tilquin, Cantillon, Girardin, etc.

  • Flights allow you to taste beers side by side. Depending on the flight that you or the bartender put together, you can taste a number of similar beers to see what makes a style tick, you can taste stouts next to porters to see what makes these styles subtly or not so subtly different, or you can run the gamut from a lager to a lambic. Say a brewery offers a range of IPAs –– something not entirely uncommon these days. Try them all next to each other in a flight. If you’re at a taproom, put together a flight of IPAs from different regions and taste them next to one another. Not only is this fun, it’s educational. Tasting beers side by side is much more of a revelation than drinking beers in succession.
  • For people just getting into craft beer –– or even for seasoned veterans –– flights provide an easy and enjoyable way for brewers or taproom staff to introduce drinkers to new styles, innovations, or experiments without the visitor needing to go “all-in” on a pint. (That smoked meat and maple syrup porter aged on juniper branches and blueberries sounded interesting in theory … )
  • Knocking back a few pints in a beer garden or in the pub on the way home from work is great if the beer clocks in at 4.8%-5% ABV. But when you’re talking American-style IPAs and numerous latter-day stouts, many of which clock in well north of 6.5% ABV, you’ll be feeling the hit sooner than later. Flights can make the next day that much more bearable.
  • Sure, anyone living in the vicinity of a particular brewery can head over from time to time to taste his or her way through the brewery’s offerings, pint by pint. But if I’m traveling through town and have only one shot at experiencing what a brewery has to offer, a flight means that I don’t have to get hammered in the process. I might eventually settle on a pint; offering a flight of beers gives me a chance to find that beer or beers.

So there you have it. Flights are smart, and you’re smart if you like them.

And sometimes only a pint will do. Cheers, everyone!

Related Tempest articles:

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

Epicurean Unbound: Five Ways to Expand Your Drinking Horizons

Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2017 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

Tankards Everywhere: Tempest’s Beerscapes of 2016

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Fermentation in progress, Weihenstephan

I was at Schloss Belvedere a few days back, the famous Viennese museum that houses the even more famous Kiss by Gustav Klimt. Alongside some of his other iconic works such as Judith und Holofernes hung several paintings dating from the year of Klimt’s death in 1918, all containing the word “unvollendet” (incomplete) somewhere in the title. Like Schubert’s 8th Symphony –– Die Unvollendete –– Klimt’s incomplete works gesture tantalizingly toward what would have been.

The same cannot be said for my growing stack of paper and metaphorically bulging computer file filled with work in various stages of incompletion: inchoate thoughts on everything from the German Purity Laws to the perennial debates about canning and canons of taste; travelogues that set out on a journey with no end; and the myriad attempts to turn aroma and flavour sensations into transcriptions of my imbibing pleasures.

One aspect of my attempts to put pen to paper on a regular basis has remained relatively constant since I arrived in Vienna: I get side-tracked too easily by all there is to see and do in Vienna, in Austria, in Central Europe, and elsewhere on this continent. The desire to post regularly has remained just that. I have to admit that I considered putting Tempest on ice on more than a few occasions, but the sheer enjoyment of writing about all things fermentable keeps drawing me back to the keyboard.

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The Speyside Way in the Scottish Highlands

Almost every one of my trips over the past three years has involved the cultural history and contemporary moment of drinking up. This year alone I walked 15 km from one distillery in Aberlour to another in Ballindalloch along Scotland’s Speyside Way.

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Kloster Andechs. I suspect that most of the visitors aren’t here to attend mass.

I followed in the footsteps of thirsty pilgrims in search of spiritual and corporeal solace at Kloster Andechs.

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A local beer from Carinthia’s Loncium at the Dolomitenhütte

I hiked up a mountain for a view of the Austrian Dolomites and a much-deserved local beer at the top, and cycled with friends along the Danube in Austria’s Wachau region during the height of the grape harvest.

And that’s not all. As I began to gather my thoughts for this piece on the occasion of Tempest’s third trip around the orange orb, I realized that it’s been quite the ride since this time last year.

České Budějovice (Budweis), Plzeń (Pilsen).

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Polished coppers at Pilsner Urquell

Austria’s Innviertel.

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Bogner, makers of some of the best Hefeweizen in Austria

Brussels and Flemish Brabant.

You really can't go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

You really can’t go wrong with a wheel of lambics.

Munich, with its expansive beer gardens and lively beer halls, and Ayinger a half hour away. img_8346

A top-notch hop museum in the Hallertau and several museum exhibitions in Munich commemorating the 500th anniversary of the German Purity Laws (Reinheitsgebot).

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

The German Hop Museum in Wolnzach (Hallertau)

Oktoberfest in Munich, and a hop harvest festival in Freising, home of Germany’s oldest brewery.

You won't go hungry in Bavaria.

You won’t go hungry in Bavaria.

And Scotland! Edinburgh’s majestic pubs.img_0722

The search for a 60 Shilling ale which proved about as fruitless as trying to sight the Loch Ness Monster. And drams of whisky to chase whatever Scottish ale I did find.img_0902

So here we are. Some of the notes and fragments detailing my adventures will see the light of day in due time, but in the meantime I offer you a few words’ worth of images, a visual down payment on writing to come.

Cheers to you, my fellow imbiber, for accompanying me on my journey these past three years! It’s you who keeps me writing.

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Check back in a few days for my write-up about the outstanding beer I cracked to celebrate three years.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Tempest’s Beer and Travel Highlights from 2015-2016

So much to do, so little time. With all those beers I’m sure you’ve been searching out and drinking over the course of the year, one or two Tempest articles may have slipped you by. Not to worry! On the occasion of Tempest’s third year traveling to far-flung places to bring you the best beer experiences, here’s a short round-up of highlights.img_1258

(Click here for the updated version of my ongoing Index of articles and posts over the years.)

Occasionally I’d manage to find a small sliver of time between friends coming to visit and excursions to far-flung parts of Europe combining hiking, cycling, and the pursuit of all things zymurgical. The result? Much of what I wrote between November 2015 and now came out in bursts and took the form of series. I did set down a handful of stand-alone pieces, a few of which I’ll list before introducing the highlights of the serial articles I wrote:

A World of Stouts for Your Weekend is an exploration of stouts beyond the British Isles that’ll keep you warm on any non-summer night. Rich brews from Japan, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Sri Lanka.

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel. Few might think otherwise, but the Central European beer scene encompasses more than Bavaria and Bohemia.img_6917 For the intrepid beer traveler, the Innviertel of Upper Austria is a gem of bucolic scenery, colourful towns, and top-notch breweries that don’t see wide distribution.

Say No to Style Loyalty. We live in an era of unprecedented beer selection, yet a number of venerable styles currently on the books are on the verge of extinction. Mild Ale, anyone? Perhaps the most salient piece I wrote all year. Pour yourself a glass of a beer you’ve never had and give it a read.

Wild-Fermented Beer in Belgium

Of Coolships, Cobwebs, and Cantillon––Need I say more about this iconic brewery? Maybe just one thing: go there at least once in your life. This post was by far my most popular post of 2016, but be sure to check out all the other fermented delights that Belgium has to offer while you’re there. And the chocolate.

Where the Wild Beers Are: Brussels and Flemish Brabant––Rent a bike just outside of Brussels and follow along to breweries such as Drie Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, and Boon. “Where the Wild Beers Are” also has plenty of suggestions about where to get your sour funk in Brussels when you’re done with your ride.img_7928

The Oktoberfest Series

O’ zapft is! These may well be the only three words of German you need to know beyond bier and prost, but you might also be wondering about the rich history of the world’s largest beer festival. “O’ zapft is!” sets the stage.oktoberfest-hofbrautent-fdh

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810––Did you know that Oktoberfest started its two-hundred year history as a horse race in honour of a royal wedding? It wasn’t until the latter half of the nineteenth century that Oktoberfest started to resemble the festival we all know and love today. Learn more about how beer tents supplanted “beer castles,” and how the golden Festbier eventually replaced Märzen on the Theresienwiese in these two articles:

Where Did All the Märzen Go? Provisioning Oktoberfest Imbibers over the Centuries

Autumn in a Glass: Märzen, Oktoberfest Beer, and Vienna Lager

The Vienna Beer Garden Series

Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens––Vienna: city of classical music, café culture, and stunning architecture. Vienna is also home to a rich but understated beer garden scene. Learn about the history of Vienna’s beloved Prater before heading to the Schweizerhaus for a beer and roasted pork knuckle.

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens––When you’re done with all the museums and sights that Vienna has to offer, hop on Vienna’s superb public transportation network and head out in search of Vienna’s vibrant shades of green.

Up next: Tempest’s Beerscapes of 2016.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Where Did All the Märzen Go? Provisioning Oktoberfest Imbibers over the Centuries

Nearly 40,000 people headed out to the horse race just beyond the Munich gates on that first Oktoberfest day in 1810. Families and groups of friends staked out places to sit on the meadowland heights surrounding the track and began tucking into their bread, sausage, and beer as the races began. The mood was festive at this Olympic-style race, and the event was a resounding success. After all, Munich at the time numbered 40,638 souls, and most of them came out to enjoy the race (Eymold, 327). It wasn’t long before plans were laid to repeat the event annually on what soon became known as the Theresienwiese (Therese’s meadow), named in honour of Crown Prince Ludwig’s bride, Therese Charlotte Louise von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. Try saying that even once after you’ve had a few Maß of beer on today’s Theresienwiese.

From Modest Beer Stall to Opulent Beer Castle to Massive Beer Tent –– Or, How to Keep Tens of Thousands from Going Thirsty

If the horse race was the main attraction during the early years of the festival, the merriment soon spread out along the margins of the track. Bowling was popular, as were wheelbarrow races, swings, shooting galleries, and the first carousel that graced the Wiesn in 1818. Looking back briefly to 1814, the German poet, Achim von Arnim, noted that thirsty travelers could find ample Bretterbuden (simply appointed wooden stalls) in which Munich’s tavern keepers slung beer in half-liter tin-lidded tankards (Dornbusch, 49). At first, the guests sat on benches at tables under the open air. Soon, though, the Bretterbuden expanded to offer indoor seating.oktoberfest-postcard-munchenkindlstein As the festival began to extend over several days, provisioning all the attendees became a necessity, in particular since Oktoberfest had begun attracting festival-goers from all over Bavaria. The Bretterbuden proliferated.

With the enormous rise in prestige of the Munich breweries from the 1880s, their presence at the festival began to grow as well. In 1895, the now-defunct Thomasbrauerei built the first Bierburg (“beer castle”), a hall large enough to accommodate 800 thirsty patrons. A 1907 decision to do away with the Wirtsbudenring (a ring of 18 tavern stalls) fundamentally altered the complexion of the Wiesn, opening the door for other breweries to compete with the splendour of Thomasbrauerei’s beer castle. By 1910, all of Munich’s largest breweries had commissioned leading architects to design impressive festival halls that cited decorative elements from the Baroque and Biedermeier eras.

But even those structures weren’t large enough to accommodate the droves of imbibers who descended upon Munich each year. Breweries soon turned to massive tents to simplify the challenge of seating increasingly large numbers of patrons. In 1913, the last year before the First World War broke out, the Pschorr Brewery erected a tent so large that it could hold 12,000 stein-hoisters –– the largest beer structure that has ever stood on the Oktoberfest grounds. It wasn’t long before the beer tent replaced the beer castle, transforming the physical appearance of the Theresienwiese and shaping our contemporary imagination of Oktoberfest in the process. As of 2005, the entire festival grounds offered seating for 100,000 festival-goers; the largest fest hall is the Hofbräu tent and garden, with 10,000 seats.oktoberfest-hofbrautent-fdh

Roll Out the Barrels! The Changing Fortunes of Oktoberfest Beer Styles

Ever headed to Munich during Oktoberfest and been surprised to see that they serve one beer only –– a burnished golden beer at that? Isn’t Oktoberfest beer supposed to be an amber-coloured and richly malt Märzen beer, you might be thinking? If you’re Central European, you’ve probably never been caught up in this confusion. To many Canadian and American beer enthusiasts, though, Oktoberfest remains synonymous with Märzen.

In case you’re wondering where all the Märzen went, here’s a short explanation.

During the first several decades of the Oktoberfest, breweries brought whatever they had on hand to the festival –– usually some sort of forerunner of today’s Munich Dunkel. It wasn’t until 1872 that Spaten’s Gabriel Sedlmayr began brewing a beer specially for Oktoberfest –– a Märzen beer based loosely on the Vienna Lager first brewed by Sedlmayr’s colleague, Anton Dreher, in 1841. This amber beer was a shade or two lighter than the dark beer typically available in the Bretterbuden, and that much easier to knock back. Märzenbier soon conquered the festival.

Fun facts:

Dial “M” for Märzen: After Sedlmayr introduced the drinking world to his particular brand of Märzen in 1872, the barrels that arrived at Oktoberfest bore an “M” insignia. Each cask –– known as a “Hirsch,” or stag –– contained 200 liters and weighed around 300 kilos (Eymold, 328).

Horses and wagons: Breweries used horse-drawn carts to deliver their casks of beer not only to Oktoberfest, but to the inns and taverns of Munich right down into the 1950s (Eymold, 328).

Parades! The first parade was held in 1835 on the occasion of the silver anniversary of King Ludwig I’s marriage to Queen Therese. The parade was a spectacle of decorated wagons and inhabitants from across Bavaria decked out in the Tracht (lederhosen and dirndl) of their respective regions –– the origins of today’s Trachten- und Schützenzug procession that takes place on the second day of Oktoberfest. Back in the day, the festival parade was meant as an impressive demonstration of Bavaria’s “national” character. Festive parades were also held on the occasion of the 100th and 125th anniversary of Oktoberfest. Since 1949, the festival parade starting in Munich’s center and winding its way through the city to the Theresienwiese has been an annual opening-day tradition.

But even the reign of Märzen would prove to be temporary. In 1953, an even lighter Festbier –– Augustiner’s Wiesnedelstoff –– entered the festival ring. Soon all the major breweries had followed Augustiner’s lead, and began serving this eminently quaffable Wiesn beer alongside their Märzen. Wiesnbier displaced Märzen entirely by the late 1980s, becoming simply Oktoberfestbier.

Nowadays, Oktoberfest is about one beer, and one beer only. And only by the Maß. Which is just fine –– it eliminates the need for ordering so you can concentrate on the festivities.oktoberfest-postcard-augustiner-wiesnedelstoff The servers bring armfulls of 1-liter tankards right to your table. Take one, pay up, and Bob’s your uncle.

Here’s what you can expect:

Brewed to 13.5-14 degrees Plato and lagered for eight weeks at minus one degree Celsius, Oktoberfestbier is now a protected trademark of the Munich breweries. The result is a beer somewhere between a helles Bock and a helles Lager that clocks in somewhere between 6% and 6.3% ABV. Burnished gold in colour, the beer exudes aromas of fresh bread, honeyed malt with a touch of light toast, and a mild herbal or spicy hop fragrance depending on the brewer. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, Oktoberfestbier has a mild residual (honey nougat) sweetness, flavours of lightly toasted bread, and just a hint of hop bitterness. The beer is reminiscent of Alpine meadows, with a refreshing mineral character. Round, supple, and clean. And the epitome of what German speakers call süffig (quaffable).

Darauf ein Oktoberfestbier!

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Related Tempest Articles:

O’ zapft is! Oktoberfest 2016

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810

The MaltHead Manifesto

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

Sources:

Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016.

Bier- und Oktoberfest Museum, Munich (visited 17 September 2016).

Astrid Assél and Christian Huber, München und das Bier: Auf großer Biertour durch 850 Jahre Braugeschichte (München: Volk Verlag, 2009).

Horst Dornbusch, Prost! The Story of German Beer (Boulder: Brewers Publications, 1997).

Image Credits:

“Münchner Kindl mit Bierkrug,” Paul Otto Engelhard/München, 1913 (postcard image).

“Augustiner Edelstoff,” Holzfurtner, Plakat, Offsetdruck, 1976 (postcard image).

Hofbräuhaus tent, Theresienwiese, Munich (F.D. Hofer).

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810

On 17 October 1810, 40,000 people converged on a field beyond Munich’s Sedlinger Gate to watch a horse race staged by the Citizens’ Militia (Bürgermilitär) in honour of Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The numbers were impressive, given that the population of Munich at the time was only 40,338 inhabitants. It seems no one complained when the next edition of the festival rolled around the following year on the Theresienwiese, ushering in what rapidly became a hallowed annual autumn tradition.

Watching horse races was a leisure pursuit much enjoyed by Bavarians in the nineteenth century. Any person who owned a horse could enter the annual race. From 1810 to 1913, the horse race was the main attraction at Oktoberfest, but other forms of entertainment soon put their stamp on the festival.oktoberfest-1810-peter-hess The Munich Rifle Association (Münchener Schützengesellschaft) organized a prize shoot in 1810 that has remained part of Oktoberfest to this day. From 1811, organizers of the agricultural fair aimed to spur peasants and farmers within the kingdom of Bavaria to ever higher quality and efficiency. Makeshift bowling alleys vied with wheel barrow races, and savvy innkeepers began to cater to the culinary needs of festival-goers.

With each passing year, more and more simply-appointed stalls popped up along the race track, provisioning hungry and thirsty guests with beer and food. At first, the guests sat on benches and tables under the sheltering blue sky, but during the 1820s stalls began offering indoor seating for those days when the sky was not so blue.

Today, Oktoberfest and beer tents go together like beer and Weisswurst, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the nineteenth century that the current Oktoberfest landscape of architectural structures dedicated to drinking beer began to take shape. With the enormous rise in prestige of the Munich breweries from the 1880s, their presence at the festival began to grow as well. In 1895, the first “beer castle” (Bierburg) was built by the now-defunct Thomasbrauerei. Other breweries followed suit. The Thomasbrauerei’s beer castle was large enough to accommodate 800 thirsty patrons, but even that was not large enough. On the eve of the First World War, the Pschorr Brauerei turned to a simplified tent design to pack in an astounding 12,000 stein hoisters –– a capacity that has not been exceeded since.

Within the space of a mere eighty years in the nineteenth century, Oktoberfest transformed itself from a spectacular Bavarian folk festival into a festival that celebrated beer. Between 1910 and 2010, beer consumption rose from 1.2 million liters to 7.1 million liters.img_0277

Even if the Oktoberfest’s last horse race was held in 1913, the initial festival attraction lives on in Munich’s topography. We may now think of Oktoberfest as massive beer tents given over to the blissful enjoyment of Maß upon Maß of Festbier, but to this day the outlines of the Theresienwiese on city maps recall the oval of the horse-racing track.

Here’s a stein to the horses, folks.

Related Tempest Articles

O’ zapft is! Oktoberfest 2016

Pinning Down Place

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden

Sources

Ursula Eymold (ed.), Bier.Macht.München: 500 Jahre Münchner Reinheitsgebot in Bayern, exhibition catalogue, Münchener Stadtmuseum, 2016.

Bier- und Oktoberfest Museum, Munich (visited 17 September 2016).img_0155

Astrid Assél and Christian Huber, München und das Bier: Auf großer Biertour durch 850 Jahre Braugeschichte (München: Volk Verlag, 2009).

Images

Peter Heß, “Das Pferderennen bey der Vermählungs Feyer Seiner Königlichen Hoheit des Kronprinzen von Bayern, veranstaltet am 17ten Octr 1810 auf der Theresens-Wiese bey München von der Cavallerie der National-Garde 34 Klaße. Ihren Königlichen Majestäten von Bayern Maximilian Joseph und Karoline in tiefster Ehrfurcht gewidmet von den Theilnehmern an den October-Festen,” kolorierter Konturenstich, 1810 (Münchner Stadtmuseum, G-IIIc/8).

Spaten beer tent and Münchener Stadtmuseum: F.D. Hofer.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Epicurean Unbound: Five Ways to Expand Your Tasting Horizons

The year is no longer so new, and all those well-intended resolutions have long since faded in the rearview mirror. But it’s never too late for resolutions concerning your beer tasting abilities, whether you’re new to this whole craft beer thing or a seasoned veteran. Fortunately for those of us who enjoy good food and drink, tasting is an aptitude that only gets better with practice.IMG_4687While we’re drinking up, here are a few more resolutions aimed at satisfying your inner sybarite: Drink more coffee from different parts of the world. Drink Scotch more often. Learn about the wonderful world of sherry, from the dry Manzanilla with its whiff of the sea to the inky Pedro Ximenez sweet like molasses and redolent of dates, figs, and raisins. Try different kinds of honey, and eat more chocolate. Take time to smell the flowers –– and all those spices, herbs, perfumes, nuts, grains, and fruit. What sets lemon zest apart from lime zest? Tangerines apart from Meyer lemons or blood oranges?

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Now that you’ve visited your local farmers’ market, now that you’ve bought a variety of nuts and procured vanilla beans and bags of whole spices, and now that you’ve cut some herbs and flowers from your garden, it’s time to have some fun honing your tasting skills.IMG_4156Targeted Tasting

Pick a beer style or two, and then read up on what characterizes the aromas and flavours of these beers. Now head over to your well-stocked spice cabinet and fridge to find some of the spices, fruits, syrups, coffees, nuts, herbs, balsamic vinegar, honey, baker’s chocolate, cocoa, honey, and the like associated with those beer styles. If it’s a spice, grind it up fresh with your mortar and pestle; if it’s a citrus fruit, zest it or juice it. Add the contents to ramekins, jars, vials, or whatever you have on hand. If you plan far enough ahead, you can even infuse vodka with herbs, spices, fruit, chili peppers –– jalapeno’s a good one –– or flowers like lavender. (Bonus: If you’re a homebrewer, these infusions can yield interesting results. Add to taste at bottling or kegging.)

IMG_1833Say you’ve chosen Belgian-style Witbier. Buy a few different kinds of Witbier, and maybe throw in a Hefeweizen for comparison’s sake. Grind up some cloves and some coriander, and maybe some cinnamon, too. Zest some lemon or perhaps some orange. You could even include chamomile tea, crushed lavender, or honey. Invite a few friends over and pass around your various concoctions so that everyone can get a sense of what they’re about to smell and taste. Crack open the beer, and then see if you can identify particular aromas when they’re mixed in with other aromas. Once you’re all well into enjoying your beer, you can send the containers around again to see who can identify which aromas, this time blind.

Blinded by My Love of …

The reputations of some beers precede them, whether they’re venerable classics or the hyped brands of the moment. Anyone who has been drinking craft beer long enough has encountered the ubiquitous lists of the world’s best beers. Pliny the Elder scores a perfect 100 on Beer Advocate, as does Kentucky Breakfast Stout. But are these beers “perfect”? The absolute “best” example of a style you’ll ever drink?IMG_5198 Preconceptions about labels, packaging, and price points have an immense impact on our perceptions, to the point that ratings can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

But when the influence of a label is removed…

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard friends swear that XYZ IPA is their absolute favourite IPA, or that ABC Imperial Stout is the best beer anywhere around, only to see their surprise when those assertions didn’t hold up in a blind tasting. At the same time, I’ve also been part of blind tastings where certain beers turn out to be worth every ounce of hype.

So try it at home. First, you’ll need to invest in enough uniform glassware that your friends can taste three to four beers side-by-side. Next, you’ll need to devise some way of identifying the glasses. I stick a small piece of masking tape on the bottom of each glass, and number them in series of 1 through 4. After that, one person needs to cover all the bottles with paper bags or (clean) socks and pour out the samples. Obviously, that person won’t be tasting that particular flight blind, but you can take turns. When all is said and done, you might find out that an occasionally overlooked but otherwise solid and reasonably priced beer is among your favourite of the lot.

Stump the Chump

If you’re a fan of the late, great Tom Magliozzi and his brother Ray, better known as “Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers” on NPR’s Car Talk, you know about “Stump the Chumps.” One way to introduce an extra element of intrigue into your tastings is to play the craft beer version of “Stump the Chump.”IMG_4694 All you need to do is ask each of your friends to find a beer that’s easily confused with another beer style –– or a style that you and your friends might not drink much of. We’ve already touched on the influence that labels can have, but without any initial cues beyond the colour of the beer, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to guess a style “blind.” Is it a porter or a stout? A Tripel or a Belgian golden strong ale? A British ESB or a strong ale? A Scotch ale? A Doppelbock? Bonus points if you can guess the brewery.

Note: Needless to say, some of your craft beer-drinking friends may not react too kindly when you punk them with BMC. I once had a friend praise the merits of what he thought was a delicate Kölsch. Not Kölsch, I said. Coors. He wasn’t amused. Lest I come across as some sort of all-knowing beer sage in this post, I hasten to add that I’ve been hung out to dry on more than a few occasions myself.

Style of the Week

It’s time to reward yourself for all that hard work tasting beer blind and trying to identify the differences between coriander and cardamom. And what better way is there to find out what kinds of porters you like than sharing several of them with friends?IMG_5171 The BJCP Style Guidelines aren’t the most thrilling read in the world, but if you dip in from time to time while drinking, say, a series of Bocks and Doppelbocks, or the entire gamut of IPAs, you’ll get a better sense of what the brewer was trying to achieve, and what flavour and aroma characteristics you might encounter. You’ll also start to get a feel for the often subtle and sometimes radical differences within a particular style. If you’re a homebrewer, this is an excellent way to find out what makes a style tick.

Test Time!

You’ll be surprised at how much you actually learn when studying for the entry-level online BJCP or Cicerone exams. These tests are far from impossible (you can do it!), and they give you an excuse to hit the books (and beers) a few nights a week. Who knows? You might find that you enjoy the judging side of drinking beer … and beer competitions around the country could always use more judges.

Remember, though, it’s all about enhancing your enjoyment of what’s in the glass. If you find that the “practice” element of beer appreciation is eclipsing your enjoyment, just grab a beer out of your fridge or cellar and kick back. Now that I have finished writing this, I’m going to do the same.IMG_4917

Related Tempest Articles

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

The Industry Series: Tasting Tips from Cornell Flavour Chemist, Gavin Sacks

Say No to Style Loyalty

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

Tasting Against the Craft Beer Grain

All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

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Say No to Style Loyalty in 2016

Ninety-nine styles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine styles of beer …

Your Saturday Six-Pack Series is back.IMG_9876

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Coke or Pepsi. Bud, Miller, or Coors. Many a craft beer aficionado has railed against brand loyalty, criticizing the consumption of advertising over what’s in the bottle. And rightly so.

But a specter haunts the craft beer world –– the specter of style loyalty. A chicken in every pot and an IPA in every fridge is one thing. Entire lineups of IPAs, though?

Hops: Not a bad thing.

Hops: Not a bad thing.

That’s something altogether different. Double IPAs! Triple IPAs! (Session IPAs!) Fruit-infused IPAs! Enjoy-by IPAs! And just plain old IPAs! Hopheads, rejoice. Ah, America. The land of choice.

Lost in the figurative and sometimes very literal buzz(feed): the craft beer mosaic is comprised of over a hundred styles of beer.

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Is your beer diet heavy on the hops? (I know – we all need our veggies.) Here’s a little throw-down for the next time you’re at your favourite bottle shop. Make it a point to try a style you’ve never had before –– lest they all disappear from shelves in the not-so-distant future, subsumed by a rising tide of IPA and a few other beer styles surfing shotgun.IMG_0899Go ahead, go for that cream ale! No one’s looking. While you’re at it, grab that Rodney Dangerfield of beers, the lowly brown ale. Like Mikey in the Life cereal commercials of yore, you might just like it.

By now you’re probably feeling an overwhelming urge to toss a few IPAs into your cart, and maybe a bourbon barrel-aged stout because, you know, it’s so damn cold out there. But resist and pick up a Pils instead.

Czech style

Czech style

Still a few more to go. Craft beer drinkers cannot live on barley alone. Variety is the spice of life, and wheat beers are the spice of the zymurgical arts – which is just another way of saying life. Take your pick: Belgian Wit, American wheat beer, and Weissbier, which itself comes in all sorts of different varieties.

Word on the street is that porters, too, are now underrated. We need to remedy that situation forthwith. As homebrew meister Jamil Zainasheff once quipped, “Who’s your Taddy?” If you don’t know, there’s another bottle for your cart.

So that’s five beer styles toward your Saturday six-pack. Venture out of your geographical comfort zone with that last beer. Japan is famous for its saké, so it’s no surprise to find beers containing that otherwise-disdained adjunct, rice. Like gin? Try Finland’s contribution to the wonderful world of beer styles, Sahti, the mash of which is filtered through a bed of juniper twigs. (Sorry to get your hopes up, gin lovers. Sahti tastes nothing like gin. All the more reason to try it.)

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That still leaves over a hundred different styles of beer. What are some of your favourite underrated beer styles?

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Related Tempest Articles:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Your Saturday Six-Pack, Vol.5): Saisons

Augurs of Spring: Wheat Beers Belgian, German, and American

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Images: F.D. Hofer

© 2016 A Tempest in a Tankard and F.D. Hofer. All Rights Reserved.

Craft Beer Gift Ideas for the Last-Minute Holiday Shopper

With the popularity of craft beer at an all-time high this holiday season, it’s no surprise that all manner of purveyors have stepped up to offer you an array of beer-related wares. Need yet another item to add to your wish list? Still wondering what to buy for the craft beer imbiber in your life? Tempest’s annual holiday wish list has you covered with more holiday gift ideas than you can shake a tankard at. No beer-scented soap, though. (Just the thing you need when you wake up with a holiday hangover: a shower with beer-scented soap.)Drinktanks-Beer-Growler-with-Keg-Cap-TealGrowler Keg!

In case you missed out on one of DrinkTank’s sleek stainless steel growlers last year, fear not! You’ll have a chance to drop an even bigger chunk of change this year on this tappable 64-oz. growler that combines durability with rugged good looks. Sixty-four ounces not enough? DrinkTank also makes the 128-oz Juggernaut –– the “world’s largest growler and personal keg.” That’s a whole gallon, folks. Great for road trips, and perfect for the homebrewer who wants to pull some beer off his or her kegging system to bring to friends in far-flung places.

Beer ’n Bikes at Beerloved

How about a leather growler carrier for that fixie-riding hipster friend in your life? For those of your cycling friends who don’t ride fixies but still want to look hip, have ’em try a Beers and Gears T-shirt on for size.Beerloved - LeatherGrowlerCarrier Advantage: none of the thousands of North American breweries will feel left out because you didn’t get your special someone a tee from their brewery.

Something a Little Different from Beer Is OK

If each craft beer is a snowflake, so, too, are Brian Welzbacher’s inimitable designs for barware and accessories. Get your hands on his ever-popular jagged steel bottle opener forged in the shape of Oklahoma (which just so happens to lend itself perfectly to bottle openers), or opt for something a little less intimidating like a set of laser-engraved maple wood earrings in the shape of hops. Brian’s wares range from fire-side enamel mugs to wall hangings made from reclaimed wood.BeerIsOK - HopEarRings Check out his Etsy site for gift possibilities that might tickle your fancy and support one of the growing number of folks working to promote craft beer in Oklahoma.

Useful Accessories in One Gift Box

Craft Beer Hound carries many of the usual suspects you’ll see on other beer-related sites, such as insulated growlers, totes, beer candles and soap, and the like. They also cater to those with a fetish for collecting, stocking everything from “cap collector boxes” to coasters. If coasters and bottle caps aren’t quite your thing, Craft Beer Hound assembles reasonably priced gift boxes that include everything from glassware and bottle openers, to fridge magnets (Good to the Last Hop) and totes, to T-shirts and the ubiquitous beer soap.

Literature on Tap

Daniel Okrent. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2011). Last Call is a page turner that touches upon an array of topics in American cultural and political history at the same time that it resists romanticizing the gangland violence of the era.Last Call (Amazon) In tracing the intricacies of how the demand for prohibition and the struggle for repeal brought together some unlikely constituencies, Okrent rescues one colourful figure after another from obscurity. With sustained force, he drives home the utter failure of Prohibition to stem the tide of alcohol flowing into and through the United States of the twenties and thirties. Ideal for any seasoned imbiber who wants to know more about what happened to his or her wine, beer, and spirits during the dark days of Prohibition.

Jeff Sparrow. Wild Brews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer’s Yeast. Foreword by Peter Bouckaert (2005). Brett beers, wild-fermented beers, mixed fermentation: sour and funky beers are all the rage now, but if you’re a homebrewer, how do you brew these notoriously temperamental ales? Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium and Rodenbach fame sets the stage for a panoramic view of the lambics, gueuzes, faros, oud bruins, and Flanders reds of Belgium. Skip the chapter on history and book a ticket, instead, on Sparrow’s journey through the contemporary landscape of Belgian beer. After you’ve got your bearings, Sparrow explains which yeast and bacteria strains produce which kinds of acids and esters at each stage of fermentation. He then covers techniques such as the turbid mash favoured by lambic producers, and introduces topics such as barrel-aging and blending. Perfect for the homebrewers on your list who want to plunge into the deep end.Beerloved - 33BottlesBeer

Stocking Stuffers

The 33 Bottles of Beer Tasting Journal from Beerloved makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the budding beer judge, brewer, or beer sommelier in your life. It’s made with recycled materials and soy-based inks, so you get some environmental karma out of the act of gift-giving as well. The notebook even has a flavour wheel to help you key in on a beer’s profile. You can’t go wrong for a mere fiver.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

More Tempest Gift Ideas and Seasonal Posts

Holiday Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer Enthusiast

Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer-Drinking Bookworm

Accoutrements and Provisions for the Classy Imbiber

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

The Fonduementals of Beer and Cider: Recipes to Warm Your Weekend

Dining Down the Holiday Stretch: Choucroute à la GueuzeDrinkTanks-Beer-Growler-128-Gloss-GreenImages

All images from the respective sites of merchants mentioned in this post.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Tempest at Two Years: Raising My Tankard to You

The Chistkindl markets tucked into Vienna’s squares large and small foretell snowflakes and frosty windowpanes. The fragrance of the town has become decidedly seasonal. Cinnamon and clove announcing mulled wine (Glühwein) mingle with the sweet brown sugar aromas of roasted and spiced almonds (gebrannte Mandeln) and the smoky-woodsy notes of roasted chestnuts (heisse Maroni).IMG_5260 The leaves on the trees have long since flown south, and the seasoned imbibers have left the beer garden for the warmth and Gemütlichkeit of the pub or Beisl, some of them warming themselves up with that granddaddy of malty seasonal beers, the Doppelbock.

Doppelbock. What better way to toast two enjoyable years writing A Tempest in a Tankard? A recent trip to Bamberg turned up an entirely appropriate candidate – and it’s not the smoked Eiche Doppelbock from Aecht Schlenkerla, though that would be a perfect beer for the occasion.IMG_5171 No, this one from Hertl Braumanufaktur in the Franconian region of Bavaria is a little something else: a Doppelbock brewed with peated malt and aged in whisky barrels. Innovation meets tradition.

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If you’re one to pay attention to these things, you’ll have noticed that my posting rate has tapered off in the past half year or so. As some Tempest readers know, I took a two-year position at the Wien Museum in Vienna (come and visit!) as an ACLS Public Humanities fellow. Needless to say, the whole process of getting myself here has translated into less time at the keyboard. And then there’s the sheer fact of being in Vienna –– never a dull moment with all those museums, the Vienna Woods nearby, and plenty of opportunity for food and drink in the city’s Beisl and Heuriger.IMG_4209 But I have neither laid down my pen nor hung up my tankard, and will continue to traverse Vienna, Europe, and beyond to bring you a unique perspective on beer and culture.

Before I go any further, allow me to raise my glass to all you readers old and new who have kept up with my posts and articles over the past few years.

A tip o’ the ole tankard to ya!

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I’m extremely grateful to you, my readership for making this all worthwhile. But it’s always nice to have a few more readers. So help spread the word about Tempest by encouraging your craft beer-drinking friends to subscribe to the blog for email updates as I post new material. (See the side-bar to the right.) And don’t forget to tell them to like Tempest on Facebook or follow Tempest on Twitter (@TempestTankard). I’ve also been known to post the occasional beer-related photo to Instagram (@tempesttankard), and have recently set up a Pinterest account. Follow along!

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In Case You Missed Them: Highlights from the Past Year

In the Cool Shade of the Beer Garden — In this, one of my favourite articles, I trace the historical roots of all those chestnut trees shading beer gardens in Germanic lands. Cited in The Atlantic to boot.IMG_4483

The MaltHead Manifesto — Malt heads of the world, unite!

Returning for Another Sip of Terroir — The crux: How can a well-crafted “Munich Helles” from Austin and a helles Bier from München express “unique” terroirs when they can taste virtually the same in the hands of skilled brewers in different countries?

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Backroad Craft Beer Tour — Long a travel destination for connoisseurs of fine wine, hop farms and fields of barley now sway in the lakeshore breeze alongside row upon row of grapes. (Incidentally, this was Tempest’s most-viewed article of the past year.)

Craft Beer at Time’s Precipice: Cellaring Tips — About a year and a half back, I wrote a short article with some thoughts on aging Belgian sour beers. I followed it up recently with some more systematic thoughts on what styles of beers to age, how to age them, and what to expect a few years down the road.

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer — You’ve probably heard of mulled wine, but how about mulled beer? Glühbier: the next big thing. ’Tis the season!IMG_5356

Down the Rabbit Hole: Doppelbock-Braised Rabbit — Like duck and venison, rabbit traditionally evokes the autumn hunt and harvest, but this subtly smoky rabbit suits just about any season from early fall to late spring.

Tasting Against the Craft Beer Grain — What do we taste when we drink a glass of beer or wine? Are we imbibing the liquid itself? Or is there more to it? Are we consuming an aura? Hype? Marketing? A contribution to my occasional series on the critique of canons of taste.

Serving Up a New Tradition at the Finger Lakes Cider House — Cider’s in. And places like the Finger Lakes Cider House are perfect for sampling a broad range of styles from a number of producers. Great locally produced food, too.

Striking Craft Beer Gold at Boulder Breweries (The Front Range Series) — Park lands and cycling trails, winter sports, a college town vibe, the Flatirons, three hundred days of sunshine a year, and, of course, world-class craft beer. What’s not to like about Boulder, Colorado? Read the whole series before you visit the Northern Front Range.

About a year ago I inaugurated the first of my “Saturday 6-Pack” series. I’m now six six-packs in. More to come. A sampling:

  • Brown Beers Get No Luvin’––A whole six-pack of them. You’ll be happy you gave these overlooked beers a shot.
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers––The original inspiration for this piece was a January 2015 article on Boston Beer Co.’s founder, Jim Koch (of Sam Adams fame).
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Saisons––Saisons with elderberry flowers, bold and tropically inflected saisons, and surprisingly drinkable saisons with parsley, rosemary, and thyme. And Saison DuPont. Mais bien sûr!

I also updated Tempest’s annotated index in case you have a snowy Sunday afternoon and want to read any of the nearly one-hundred articles I’ve posted to date.IMG_5265

And now for that Hertl Doppelbock. (Click here for tasting notes.)

Prost!

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All images by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.