Throw your own OK­TO­BER­FEST!

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O’zapft is! Sum­mer’s wind­ing down and that means one of the year’s big­gest par­ties is on its way! Ok­to­ber­fest fea­tures some of the finest as­pects of Bavar­ian tra­di­tions, metic­u­lously crafted beer, tra­di­tional hearty food, and, most im­por­tantly, cel­e­brat­ing with friends and fam­ily. For those of us in North Amer­ica though, a trip to Mu­nich is a lit­tle far, so The In­sider has teamed up with Craft Beer & Brew­ing Mag­a­zine® to help you plan your own Ok­to­ber­fest cel­e­bra­tion at home!

Throw Your Own Ok­to­ber­fest Party

Satur­day, Septem­ber 19 marks the of­fi­cial start of Mu­nich’s 2015 Ok­to­ber­fest. Tak­ing place over the course of two weeks, the world-fa­mous party ends on Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 4, and last year drew more than six mil­lion visi­tors from around the globe. While it’s best known as a beer-fu­eled cel­e­bra­tion of Bavar­ian cul­ture, the orig­i­nal Ok­to­ber­fest was ac­tu­ally a glo­ri­fied wed­ding re­cep­tion.

On Oc­to­ber 12, 1810, the fu­ture king of Bavaria, Crown Prince Lud­wig, was mar­ried to Therese of Saxe-Hild­burghausen. Some­what un­usu­ally for royal wed­dings, a large public fes­ti­val was held in a meadow near the gates of the city of Mu­nich. Ev­ery­one had such a great time that they de­cided to make it an an­nual thing, and, this be­ing Bavaria, it wasn’t long be­fore beer over­shad­owed the pre­miere event’s nup­tial na­ture. To­day’s Ok­to­ber­fest takes place in the very same meadow, called the There­sien­wiese, which means “Therese’s meadow.” In the lo­cal di­alect, both the meadow and the fes­ti­val it­self are known as the Wies’n.

The Real Ok­to­ber­fest Beer

The beer that Amer­i­cans most as­so­ciate with Ok­to­ber­fest cel­e­bra­tions is, nat­u­rally, Ok­to­ber­fest beer. But, as any beer nerd who has made the pil­grim­age to Mu­nich in late Septem­ber will tell you, the beer served at the fes­ti­val is a blonde lager, not the am­ber Ok­to­ber­fest beer we all know and love. It is more like a hefty Helles or a mild Mai­bock than the his­toric Märzen­bier. It’s spe­cially brewed just for the cel­e­bra­tion and is called, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, Fes­t­bier.

Fes­t­bier can be some­what hard to come by out­side Mu­nich, as it’s sel­dom pack­aged for ex­port. But if you can’t find a good com­mer­cial ex­am­ple, you can al­ways brew one your­self any time of year. This recipe for Echtes Fes­t­bier is based on Helles I Know; a Mu­nich Helles fea­tured in the Fall 2014 is­sue of Craft Beer & Brew­ing Mag­a­zine®. Care­fully brewed and lov­ingly lagered for six or more weeks, all it needs to round it out is an oom-pah band and your finest Leder­ho­sen or Dirndl. If you start now, you can pos­si­bly have your Ok­to­ber­fest party with your real Ok­to­ber­fest beer at the end of Oc­to­ber.

If that seems too late, never fear. . . .

Mock­to­ber­fest to the Res­cue

As we men­tion above, what we think of as Ok­to­ber­fest beer in the United States is, strictly speak­ing, a Märzen­bier, or “March beer.” Märzen­bier was his­tor­i­cally brewed in March, lagered all sum­mer long, and served to thirsty revel­ers at the Mu­nich Ok­to­ber­fest. And while Märzen is no longer the star of the There­sien­wiese’s beer tents, the style’s blend of fleet­ing sweet­ness, toasty malt fla­vor, and a supremely quaf­fa­ble dry fin­ish re­mains un­sur­passed.

The win­dow for brew­ing an au­then­tic Märzen may have come and gone, but you can still serve a great knock-off at your Ok­to­ber­fest party—and your guests might not even know the dif­fer­ence! It’s time to fake it till you make it with Mock­to­ber­fest, an Ok­to­ber­fest beer in ev­ery sense but yeast and process. You may not have eight or more weeks to brew a le­git­i­mate lager, but you can crank out an er­satz ale in a month or so.

Malt and Hops

Malts should con­sist mostly of vary­ing amounts of Pil­sner, Mu­nich, and Vi­enna, with op­tional small amounts of crys­tal malt to round out the fla­vor and sup­ply a lit­tle up­front sweet­ness. Hops are tra­di­tion­ally noble Ger­man va­ri­eties, such as Haller­tauer Mit­tel­früh, but Mt. Hood and Lib­erty are good do­mes­tic sub­sti­tutes. Avoid U.S.-grown Haller­tau hops though, which aren’t even close, de­spite the name.


The key is to use a clean ale strain and to fer­ment on the low end of the rec­om­mended tem­per­a­ture range. Good yeast op­tions in­clude:

• Amer­i­can wheat (Wyeast 1010) • Chico (Wyeast 1056, White Labs

WLP001, Safale US-05) • CL-50 “Denny’s Fa­vorite” (Wyeast 1450) • Not­ting­ham ale (White Labs WLP039,

Danstar Not­ting­ham)


Okay, so Mock­to­ber­fest isn’t tech­ni­cally a lager in the strict mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal sense. But the Ger­man word lagern, mean­ing “to store,” still very much ap­plies. If you have time, cold con­di­tion your Mock­to­ber­fest ale for two weeks or more. Those who keg can lager their beer in the keg as it car­bon­ates, but those who bot­tle need to in­clude at least two weeks at room tem­per­a­ture to en­sure proper car­bon­a­tion.

Brew­ing Sched­ule

Although Mu­nich’s Ok­to­ber­fest starts in late Septem­ber and ends the first week­end in Oc­to­ber, Amer­i­cans don’t usu­ally think about Ok­to­ber­fest un­til Mu­nich’s fes­ti­val is wind­ing down. So let’s as­sume you’re plan­ning your Ok­to­ber­fest party for the week­end of Oc­to­ber 3–4, 2015. The chart be­low has two sched­ules to get you there.

The re­laxed-pace sched­ule is the most lager-like and re­quires six weeks. You can use just about any yeast you like, even true lager strains if you’re care­ful. The sec­ond sched­ule can be com­pleted in just four weeks and is for those re­ally in a rush. You’ll need to stick to fast-act­ing ale yeasts to get the job done in time, but bet­ter to brew a good ale than a poor lager.

The sched­ules are ar­ranged so that you need to take care of brew­ing chores only on the week­end, and at the re­laxed pace, you’ll even have La­bor Day week­end off to reac­quaint your­self with your fam­ily.

Ok­to­ber­fest is about spend­ing time with friends in a spirit of shared Gemütlichkeit. If the beer is good and plen­ti­ful, no­body will care that you faked it with an ale.

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