Beer drinkers have a lot to thank Germany for. For a start they came up with the Reinheitsgebot, also known as the German Beer Purity Law, back in 1516, which defined what beer is (water, barley, yeast and hops). To this day, breweries either follow it to the letter or decide to throw it out the window. And while Germany is synonymous with lagers, it has given us a huge number of beer styles. From the light Kölsch to the darker Schwarzbier and Rauchbier, and the popular Weißbiers and Hefeweizens (wheat beers), you can run a gambit of flavours from fruit to smoke to sour.
While most craft brewers err on the side of complex and hoppy ales, more than a few local Wellington breweries have tried their hand at German beers, including Black Dog’s recent light, sour Berliner Weisse. The most well known would be Tuatara, with both Helles and Hefe in their regular range.
Finally, this year Wellington is getting that pinnacle of German beer culture: Oktoberfest! But organiser Mike Sander emphasises that, while the beer will be central, the focus will be on German and, in particular, Bavarian culture too.
“The bands will be dressing up in lederhosen, the women will be wearing their dirndl dresses, and all the food you’d expect at such an event – schweinebraten (roast pork), würst (sausages), knödel (potato or bread dumplings) and sauerkraut – will be available.”
The bands are the key part here. This Oktoberfest will be serenaded by the best ten brass bands from around New Zealand. Oom-pah! I recently lamented the lack of oom-pah music at the Greater Wellington Brewday. There was some there, but not all day long. While The Warehouse’s bargain bins are full of cheap CD compilations of ‘best drinking songs’ featuring songs like ‘The Gambler’, there is nothing that goes better with beer than a brass band and Bavarian music.
On the Friday of Oktoberfest, the ten bands will each play a set hoping to get to the next day, because on the Saturday the best six will be judged and a winner crowned. And the crowd will factor in that judging. Daytime on the Saturday will be a family-friendly event too, with traditional German games and dancing, so if you find that you miss out on beer festivals because you don’t have the babysitter hours then this could be for you.
The inaugural Oktoberfest: The Bavarian Showdown will be held in a Munich-style marquee on the Odlins Plaza near Te Papa on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 October.
September Beer Recommendation
Speaking of festivals, as I write this the annual Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) Winter Ale Festival has just been and gone (along with a bunch of earthquakes!). The festival moved from the waterfront to Victoria University’s Hunter Lounge, which allowed more ticket sales and a huge range of fantastic beers. Many of the brews on offer were one-offs, some were experiments and there were a few old favourites thrown in for good measure.
If you aren’t a member of SOBA then I strongly recommend that you join. At the very least you’ll get discounts at craft beer bars all over town, but more than that you get to become part of New Zealand’s craft beer community.[/info]