The thermometer flirts with 100 degrees. Responsible South Texans struggle with the water vs. dead lawn debate. And the beer drinker’s thoughts turn to … Oktoberfest?
In a move borrowed from the retailers who bring us Christmas, craft brewers are rolling out their Oktoberfest beers this month. Samuel Adams O-fest 12 packs are on the shelf, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Hoptoberfest is coming in, and Saint Arnold Brewing Co. in Houston tapped the first of their malty version of Oktoberfest in the tasting room this week.
And in what many will view as a happy return, the good folks at Spoetzl Brewing Co. are bringing back Shiner Oktoberfest as a regular seasonal. If you didn’t know Shiner ever had an Oktoberfest, also known as a märzen, then you missed out on Shiner 96, a beer from six years ago commemorating the 96th anniversary of the Spoetzl brewery in the little town of Shiner. This isn’t the first time Shiner has turned a celebration brew into a regular. Popular demand brought back the schwarzbier anniversary offering from several years ago as Shiner Bohemian Black Lager.
The Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, Germany marks 200 years this fall. Historically, it featured beer traditionally brewed in March before the advent of refrigeration, to last through the warm months until it was chilly enough for the cold fermentation of lagers to begin again. Even before the first official Oktoberfest, it was traditional to drink whatever was left of the March lager before firing up the brew kettles for the fall season.
In general, Oktoberfest beers have a malty sweetness, higher alcohol content than most German lagers, and a slightly dry finish with mild hop bitterness. Prosit!
It only took 100 years, but the United States has regained the diversity it lost with the advent of Prohibition. In 1910, there were nearly 1,500 breweries and most fell like dominoes when the government and misled voters decided criminal enterprises should provide a thirsty nation with alcoholic beverages instead of legitimate, tax-paying breweries.
The Brewers Association reported this week that the number of U.S. breweries as of June has surpassed that 1910 mark with 1,625 breweries. That’s 100 more than this time last year.
“Entrepreneurs across the land are creating jobs by opening new microbreweries and brewpubs, and we are also seeing many homebrewing hobbyist going pro by starting what have been referred to as nanobreweries,” said Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza. “Super tiny microbreweries or brewpubs that make beer for a very localized network of taverns and stores are starting to become a trend, primarily in the states that allow self-distribution as a means of getting beer to market.”
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current and is author of the book Beer Across Texas: A Guide to the Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State. He can be reached at [email protected].