This month’s edition of The Session tackles a topic that, even though it’s now September (how is it already September?), seems a bit early: Oktoberfest! Our host is Alistair Reece of Fuggled, and he says:
“Oktoberfest, in September?!” I hear you exclaim, but as I am sure you know, Oktoberfest begins every year in the middle of September, this year on the 16th, and finishes in the eponymous month. So what better way to start the month it all begins in Bavaria than to hunt down a load of beers labelled as ‘Oktoberfest’ or ‘Festbier’, or in some cases both, and have a little mix and match tasting session?
Feel free to dress up for your tasting, dirndls, lederhosen, that Australian backpacker outfit you keep in the back of your wardrobe for special occasions. Hire yourself an oompah band, play the birdy song, and generally get into the spirit of celebrating for the 117th time the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Whip out the grill and buy all the bratwurst you can find, proper bratwurst that is, from Germany. Shout “O’zapft is!” at the top of your lungs…you get the idea.
I love the Oktoberfest and Märzen style of beers, they are among my favorite lagers, and I love the Oktoberfest season which evokes the harvest, cooler weather, hearty foods, and celebration. But I have to confess, this early in the month, the closest I’ve come to a Märzen is Deschutes Brewery’s fall seasonal, Hopzeit Autumn IPA.
Taste: Big punch of bitterness up front, woody and minty and herbal. Following that is a grassy-grainy malt body that’s warm and toasty, very much in the Oktoberfest style. A touch sweet at the back, drier than caramel — Munich. Hops have a minty-fruity character going on that’s hard for me to quantify — these newer German varieties I’m simply unfamiliar with. Sweet blossoms? As it warms a spicy-bready character becomes evident, not unlike a rye or pumpernickel bread. 
I just haven’t had Oktoberfest at top of mind yet—I’m still reeling over the fact that’s it’s September already—but I did notice that there are a few on the shelves. So, my mission over the next few weeks is to seek out the Oktoberfestbiers on the shelves and start shifting into autumn mode.