When I tried last year’s brew of Luftballon, it seemed just a little light for the style, but this year’s release is smack on target. It’s smooth and malty-sweet, lightly bready and toasty, with drying hoppy notes and a mild bitterness, mouth-filling yet somehow also light and not cloying. Just the ticket, both for Oktoberfest and more generally for an autumn afternoon or evening...
*Or at least it does for the non-Americans out there – most American breweries that brew Oktoberfestbiers stick to a variation on the amber-brown Märzen style, whereas the Bavarians almost all switched about half a century ago from Märzens to golden Festbiers.
To explain further, Märzen was more or less a stronger version of what we now know as Vienna lager – the amber beers that succeeded Dunkel lagers as the mainstream drinker’s choice. Meanwhile, Festbier is basically a strong version of Munich Helles, the golden beer that in turn displaced Vienna amber in the Bavarian public’s affections.
And yes, I know that if the Munich Oktoberfest had been running this year it would be over by now...
**The six Munich Oktoberfestbiers are all fine brews and eminently quaffable, but having a choice is nice – and there’s always something a bit uncomfortable about a cartel. (The Big Six Munich brewers are the only ones legally allowed to use the term ‘Oktoberfestbier’ and sell it at the Wiesn. In my opinion, if that isn’t a cartel then I don’t know what is!)
Still, hopefully next year Munich will get that more choice too, as upstart Giesinger Bräu has reportedly broken through at last and got permission to become the seventh member of the Oktoberfestbier gang, alongside Paulaner & Hacker-Pschorr (both owned by Schörghuber), Spatenbräu & Löwenbräu (both now AB-Inbev) & the two independents Augustiner & Hofbräu-München.
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