Sehr Gut Beers!
Running this year from 21 September to 6 October, the event conjures up images of clinking steins of beer, raucous singing, noisy oompah bands, plates of sausages and waiters carrying trays of half-litre glasses a dozen at a time, held high at shoulder level.
Here in the UK you can get an authentic experience of Oktoberfest all year round at the Bierschenke Beer Halls in London. One is the Liverpool Street Beer Hall in Blomfield Street, EC2M, near London Wall, and the other the Tower Hill Bierkeller, 9 Crutched Friars (EC3N) behind Fenchurch Street station.
Evidence of brewing in Bavaria goes back to 1040 AD. There are over 1,000 breweries in Germany, producing more than 5,000 brands. About half of them are in Bavaria, clustered around Munich, and the former Benedictine Abbey Weihenstephan, established in 725 AD, is claimed to have the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world.
MEETING THE RULES
Munich’s celebrated knees-up has strict beer entry criteria. Breweries must be within the city limits and uphold the 500-year-old ‘Reinheitsgebot’ beer purity law, meaning that their beers must contain only water, barley, hops and yeast to be officially sold as beer. Only six breweries make the grade: Augustina, Hacker-Pschorr, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Spartenbrau, Staatliches Hofbrau-Munchen.
Surprisingly, here in the UK, German beers seem to be very under-represented on our supermarket shelves, despite the fact that German beer-brewing is renowned for outstanding beers with character and quality.
Most have a Weissbier (made from wheat) but for a greater choice of the ‘blonde’ beers – essentially lager-type – you will have to seek out some specialist website importers like beerhawk.co.uk or onlinecashandcarry.co.uk.
Of the ‘Munich Six’, Lowenbrau is the most likely to be found but look carefully at the package because there are different strengths.
Lowenbrau Oktoberfest, at a healthy 6.1 per cent abv, is golden fresh and fruity and moderately bitter. It is still brewed in the traditional Bavarian manner in the heart of Munich and has been served at every Oktoberfest since 1810. From beerhawk.co.uk £2.79 per 500 ml bottle. Also listed is Lowenbrau Original at 5.2 per cent £1.99 for 330 ml bottle.
German supermarket Lidl stocks a bargain box of 12 Lowenbrau 440ml cans for £9 but at only 3.5 per cent, and a bit sweeter than the stronger versions. A bonus deal when I looked last month was two cases for £12.
OR HOW ABOUT…
Outside the Munich Six, try Warsteiner Premium Verum, 4.8 per cent, £2.25 for a 660ml bottle, at Morrison’s or Warsteiner Dunkel traditional German character beer, 4.8 per cent, £1.95 for a 660ml bottle at Sainsbury’s.
If you are not familiar with wheat beer, buy one or two bottles first to taste before committing to more. It is often cloudy and sharp and if you are not expecting it, can be a bit of a shock. Check the label carefully. Anything including ‘weiss’ or ‘weissbier’ is likely to be ‘wheat beer’ which is a bit of a misnomer as there will also be barley in the grain mix, sometimes as much as 50 per cent. It is not to my taste but some do like it.
Enjoy the oompah-pah!