The German festival of Oktoberfest has been celebrated since 1810 in Munich. The sixteen-day festival begins in September and continues until the first Sunday in October—festivities are underway now, and will continue until Oct. 4th this year. The style of beer made for this festival is is called “Oktoberfest” or “Märzen.” This originally was a beer brewed in March, and allowed to condition through the summer months. It is a style that is distinguished by the Munich and Vienna malts; giving it a lighly toasted and mildly caramel character. The hop aroma and flavor is subtle; it is the malty character that one enjoys about Oktoberfest lagers.
Now is the time of year for enjoying Oktoberfest beers! For the home opener of the Kansas City Chiefs, I purchased a sampling of six different Oktoberfest beers at my favorite local beer store, Gomers in Lee’s Summit—to share with friends. To make the tasting even more interesting, I selected two types of cheese. When pairing beers with food, there are two ways to go: complementary vs. contrasting combinations. Referring to the Brewers’ Association pairing guideline, I found Wisconsin jalapeno-cheddar cheese curds—as a contrasting match. The mild hot-spice of the peppers works well with the malty sweetness of Oktoberfest. As a complementary choice, I found a smoked Romano cheese. This mild cheese with a nice hickory rind also enhances the flavor of Oktoberfest beers.
The six Oktoberfests that we sampled included: Leinenkugel’s (Wisconsin), Sam Adams (Boston), Left Hand (Colorado), Boulevard Bob’s ’47 (Kansas City), Dundee’s, and Schlafly’s (St. Louis). We enjoyed tasting these beers throughout the game (made the loss to the Oakland Raiders a little more palatable). Six of us sampled the beers and cheese—in effect, we each had only one beer a piece, but savoring the pairings was part of our game plan. We each commented on our favorites; my favorite two beers were Left Hand’s Oktoberfest and Bob’s ’47. Boulevard’s seasonal is really a Vienna-style lager (made with more Vienna malt)—but this style is almost indistinguishable from a Märzen. My preference for cheese was the jalapeno-cheddar. This contrasting style is similar to pairing BBQ with Oktoberfest—spiciness mated with maltiness. Keep that in mind for the upcoming American Royal BBQ Contest—pairing Oktoberfest beers with slow-cooked meets would be a righteous Midwestern culmination of Oktoberfest!