Munich recently began the world’s largest beer festival, namely Oktoberfest, which is ironically held in September. The festival traditionally runs for the 15 days prior to the first Sunday in October, ending on that day, but the schedule has been modified to extend the period to always include German Unity Day (October 3). This year the festival began on September 22 and runs until Oct. 7. Munich only allows beers produced within the city limits to be served at the festival, which has led many other towns in the area to set up smaller versions of the festival to accommodate their local breweries. From what I have gathered by talking to German expatriates and people who spent extended periods of time in Germany, these smaller festivals are actually the best to visit for authentic beer and food, as the large Munich festival now caters to the large number of tourists.
The beer most frequently associated with this festival is the Oktoberfest or Marzen style. The traditional brewing season in Germany is from St. Michael’s day, Sept. 29, to St. George’s day, April 23, at which point brewing would be stopped to decrease the chances of fires spreading from the brewery in the warmer weather. This meant that beer intended for consumption during the summer months had to be stored, or lagered, which was usually done in ice houses to slow the spoilage of the beer. Oktoberfest is traditionally brewed near the end of the season in March and was designed to be stored until the end of the summer, with the last of the stock being consumed during the festival. The style dates back to at least 1840, when Gabriel Sedlmayr adapted the Vienna style to allow for the longer storage period. Generally, the Oktoberfest version of this style is slightly stronger and served during special occasions, while the Marzen is an everyday beer, but this is a blurry distinction at best and certainly does not hold true in American versions.
The beer this week is from Dundee Brewing Co., which is based in Rochester, N.Y. Dundee is actually one of the older microbreweries in the U.S., having been founded in 1994, but is currently owned by North American Breweries, which also holds Genesee Brewing Co. and Magic Hat, among others. Dundee originally became known for the Honey Brown Lager, but this week I am reviewing Dundee’s fall seasonal Oktoberfest.
The beer poured a clear, golden brown. The head formed as a half finger of light tan head, which dissipated quickly, leaving behind little or no lacing. The aroma was actually very sweet, with a bit of nuttiness and a forward orange character. The taste was fairly sweet up front but had a moderately bitter finish. Overall, this beer was fairly clean and balanced, although I thought the level of sweetness a bit much for an Oktoberfest.
This beer was pretty good, although I felt it was a little bit too sweet. It’s worth a try if you are looking for something different, but to be perfectly honest, I think that Sam Adams Oktoberfest is a better beer and a better example of the style, at least when it’s fresh. Still, it’s not a bad beer, so don’t be afraid to try it.