Autumn is finally here, and with that, so much to look forward to! The promise of a leaf covered city in all shades of orange and yellow, beers brewed with fresh hops, or pumpkins perhaps, or just the normal plethora of fest beers. In this news, we’re looking at the abundance of beer festivals sweeping the world this time of the year, fest beers and non-fest beers…what is the difference(?) and rare Belgian lambics are coming to a town near you!
America’s best beers unveiled
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), or, the unparalleled worldwide event that is ‘the Olympics of the American beer scene’, has drawn to a bittersweet close for 2018, as legendary Charlie Papazian handed out his very last medals to winners before his official retirement will take place in January 2019. After 40 years of service to the creative beer scene, the founder and former president of the Brewers Association (BA) appeared to lap up every bit of his last festival presentation duties.
306 medals were awarded to 102 differing beer style categories and, as well as providing punters and an ever observant indie-beer-scene indications of what’s hot and what’s not, the GABA also revealed that twelve western American states out of the 49 states entered were the recipients of 54% of the medal tally with a chunk of the medals going to California (72).
California and Illinois cleaned up on the newly added BA style category of ‘Juicy or Hazy’ beers (surprisingly none of the six New England states made the cut) and out of 8,500 beers spanning 2,404 breweries, only one state, Mississippi, did not enter any beers into the competition.
We learn a lot from the craft-beer movement in the states, but my oh my, if there is one lesson we should all cherish as we kick into Germany festival mode, it’s this: bring your own festival snacks cleverly disguised in the form of cool, chunky, artsy, jewellery to be munched on between one liter beer jugs!
(Oktober)festival season continues
Speaking of festivals, Oktoberfest kicked off last weekend and it’s official; in 2018 one Maß (one liter) of beer auf der Theresienwiese will cost on average 11,24€. That is 41 cents more than in 2017, and, get this, that means that it would now be possible to purchase an entire case of that very same Oktoberfest beer from a drink market for less than a mere Maß auf der Wies’n! And the lines are generally much shorter in your local drink markt!
Which begs the question, doesn’t it – Where would you rather be drinking your beer? Sitting in an oversized tent with singing, joyous people, or sitting in your apartment watching Netflix? The choice can now be yours and all for the bargain basement price of 11,24€. Don’t forget – if you opt to spend your Euros at the Wies’n, you’ll generally also get an extra portion of foam on a very questionable one liter pour from a hurried and often less than friendly waitstaff, at no extra charge (some people even tip for the privilege!)
In the UK though, more and more people are opting to attend Oktoberfest, with this year marking the second annual UK Oktoberfest to take place in London, the first of which generated crowds bigger than 30,000 people.
Organised by Germany’s very own Erdinger, (because, don’t we all think of Festbier and Oktoberfest when we think of Erdinger Weißbier?), this year crowds of up to 5,000 people-strong are expected to attend the UK Oktoberfest per day throughout the entire month.
The construction of a huge Bavarian beer hall at London’s Olympic Park in Stratford will be populated by bars and live music with so-called ‘famous’ Oktoberfest bands scheduled to be flown in from Munich every day.
Owner of Erdinger, Werner Brombach, said: “We want to celebrate Bavarian enjoyment of life with the people and our friends of London and enjoy a fresh Erdinger Weissbier together”.
Although Erdinger, who boast an impressive selection of eleven beers on their German homepage, don’t actually have a lager, or ‘Fest’ beer in their German portfolio, the foreign market of consumers can enjoy their export only Erdinger ‘Oktoberfest’, which, they describe as offering ‘a synergistic combination of two classic German styles, Oktoberfest and wheat beer; a surprising alliance that works very well together’.
Well, that’s certainly a synergistic marketing effect for sure! One that works very well outside of Germany, where the foreign consumer doesn’t know their Weisswurst from their Leberwurst (they are both kind of white and grey), but for the German market, such a flagrant application of an incorrectly labelled beer would surely not escape the neighbourhood ‘beer’ watchdog!
What on earth next? Will Warsteiner start exporting their own version of an Oktoberfest Beer, adorned with the well-known, cosy feel Bavarian blue and white flag motif on the label? Oh wait! Too late…
Hop harvest done and dusted
The German hop harvest is all wrapped up for the year and although reports on yields for the season are somewhat varied, it seems that issues arising were less attributable to the dryness of the summer than to the intense, radiating heat. In the hop growing region of Gävernitz, about 100 kms from the Czech border, due to sophisticated irrigation systems, farmers were able to supply the plants with enough liquid but due to high temperatures, the acids in the hop cones responsible for producing compounds needed for bittering were reduced.
The implications of this unseasonably warm summer are as yet unknown, however it is likely that hop farmers who were able to irrigate their crops during the harvest stand a much better chance of reaping the fruits of their hard labours.
Zwanze Day — Hooray!
This Saturday 29th, lovers of the lambic will unite across the world in 73 locations to participate in the consumption of the annual limited-edition release from renowned Belgian lambic brewery, Cantillon for Zwanze Day.
In Germany, since 2014 Prenzlauer Berg’s Berlin based iconic Belgian beer bar, Café Herman, has hosted the event, and now since 2017 Stuttgart revellers can also join the sour party with a second location for Germany, Mon Petit Café.
Since 2008, Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy has used his ever changing Zwanze series to bring lambic enthusiasts from around the world together. Yes, it’s ever changing. Every year we are greeted with an entirely new drop, and every year it’s a delightful and unexpected surprise. Last year, for example, we enjoyed a lambic matured for two years and blended with Oolong, a semi-fermented blue-green tea.
Let’s see what revelation this years Zwanze brings!
That’s all for now folks. Don’t slip on those falling leaves, keep your eyes open for pumpkin beers available from now and don’t forget to indulge in a Festbier, a wheat-Oktoberfest beer or a Belgian limited lambic or two this festy season!
Photo Credit: Brewers Association