As I’ve previously stated, I love the spookiness of Halloween. I love the horror movies and the pumpkins, but there is one thing I forgot to mention in my Halloween Town intro, and that something … is beer. A couple weeks ago, Jake and I were among the lucky ducks who attended the Total Wine Fall Seasonal Beer Tour, and we learned way more than just how to drink.
I’ve known about Germany’s Oktoberfest for years, because my Uncle Barney used to attend whenever he could. He told stories about beers mugs the size of American beer guts, and since he spoke German, he used to come back with friends who promised to save a seat for him the following year. At Total Wine, I learned a bit more. I learned the German Oktoberfest plays host to six million people every year. It’s been going on since 1810, and it goes on for sixteen days! That’s a lot of beer! The beer is served in one-liter mugs, and beer maids must be able to carry 10 of these at a time! ACK!
Speaking of beer … how do you taste it? No, you don’t use a beer bong. It’s a process, okay, much like drinking wine. In fact, it’s exactly like tasting wine. First, look at the appearance. Is it orange or red? Is it hazy or clear? What do you see? Next, smell it. Does it smell sweet? How about earthy? Or is it skunked? Check it out! Stick your nose right in there! Now, take a sip. Is it hoppy? Does it have a floral palate? Or is the alcohol burning your throat? Finally, mouth feel. Is it creamy? Light? A long or short finish?
See, there’s a ton of stuff that goes into this! That is, unless you drink some crap beer, like Bud Lite. If you’re drinking Bud Lite, stop it. It’s time to try something new. So here are some suggestions from the Total Wine beer tasting:
1. Spaten Original Oktoberfest, Germany
Spaten is the oldest brewery in Germany, and this was my favorite authentic Oktoberfest at the tasting. It’s got an alcohol contest of about 5.8 % (most American beers are at about 4.3). It was copper in color, floral in aroma, and perfumy on the palate. The mouth feel was light and refreshing with a clean finish. It’s considered a “textbook Oktoberfest,” and it’s easy to drink … possibly in large quantities. Buy it. Today. Lots of it.
2. Abita Brewing Company Fall Fest, Louisiana
This is a domestic interpretation of the German Oktoberfest beer. Abita is down in Louisiana, and I know them best for their Purple Haze brew (made with real raspberries). They’re donation-heavy, meaning that whenever there’s a problem in the gulf (aka Katrina or the oil spill), they create a special brew, the proceeds of which go to the survivors. This Fall Fest didn’t have much going on. It was earthy and bitter with a light mouthfeel. It would be an easy starter beer for the fall season, especially if this is your first foray outside the Bud Lite territory.
3. Avery’s Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest, Colorado
This monster of a beer has an alcohol content of about 10% (if you haven’t been paying attention, that’s a lot). It has an EPIC aroma—bitter and sweet with an edge of Worcestershire sauce. It’s bitter and creamy on the palate and has an everlasting finish. If you want to spend a couple hours drinking a single beer, this is the way to go.
4. Odell Brewing Company’s Woodcut #4, Colorado
A single bottle of this costs about twenty bucks, so if that seems excessive, stop reading … because this beer stole the dang show (and yes, we bought some). This guy was aged in oak, and it features a champagne cork. It is an extreme beer, at 11% alcohol. Just like wine, this is capable of aging for several years, and it’ll only get better. The aroma was herbal, with a touch of dill and heavy cedar notes. If there had been a way to drink the aroma, I would have. On the palate, it felt like a Cabernet—velvety vanilla, heavy oak, and a round finish. This is one of the best beers I’ve ever tasted, maybe because I love wine, and this beer drank like a wine. As I said, it’s over twenty bucks a bottle, but the bottles are big. Not big enough, though, considering I could drink the Woodcut #4 all night long.
All of these yummy beers are available at Total Wine. I’m telling you, Halloween time means October beer. It may be hot outside, but I swear, drinking Oktoberfest makes me believe it really is autumn somewhere.