NOTE FROM CHARLESTON FOOD WRITER:
(I have known Michael Cooper and his wife for about 9 years, they both became clients at the hair salon I own on King Street back in 2006. Now after many years they have become great friends and I always look forward to seeing them and catching up, sharing life stories and laughing together! One of the things I wanted to do with my blog was to have guest writers and let them share some of things they are interested in. I thought it would be a fun way to get other people who love food as much as I do an opportunity to share some cool stuff they come across or are in to! I think group collaborations are the best! So enjoy…Michael always makes me laugh, and I trust his opinion greatly when it comes to food and beer! Also he is an incredible and passionate attorney-so if you are ever in need of legal services, look him up)!
Michael Cooper and His Oktoberfest Beer Recommendations:
I would like to thank Candy for letting me write this article for Charleston Food Writer. I am not a brewer, I am not a blogger, and I am not a writer. I’m just a Charlestonian who really likes beer, and an attorney by trade. This article was originally supposed to be about summer beers, but here I am in mid-October, finally sitting down to write it. But that means that instead of trying to bullshit about those slightly-watery, easy to drink, summer brews that we all grow tired of by August, I get to write about the coppery, substantial-yet-drinkable goodness that gives our heart a little jolt the first time we see it on the shelves in early September – the Oktoberfest. So, I want to begin by introducing you to what is an Oktoberfest-style beer and then tell you a little about some of my favorite micro-brew versions.
Hands down, one of my favorite types of beer is the Oktoberfest, also known as Mӓrzenbier. The Oktoberfest beer is called a Mӓrzen because it was first brewed in Germany during the month of March, fermented in a chilled environment during the hot summer months and then finally ready to be consumed in the fall. The only beers that are actually allowed to be called “Oktoberfestbier” under German trademark law are those brewed within the city limits of Munich by a brewer belonging to the Club of Munich Brewers. A true Mӓrzen must conform to the German Purity Law of 1516, known as Reinheitsgebot, which limits the ingredients of the beer to water, barley, and hops. Today, yeast is added to help fermentation. This is what distinguishes the Mӓrzen from those “ice cold from bottom of the cooler” beers of summer and why it stands alone as the official beer of Fall – the Mӓrzen has no additional flavors. It is pure. And it is good. A true Oktoberfest or Oktoberfest-style beer is full of flavor and has nothing to hide.
So here it is – a brief list of my favorite Oktoberfest-style beers. This list is by no means a comprehensive or even a true sampling of everything that’s out there, but I hope it will give you a few places to start and possibly lead you to find your fall beer of choice.
Mӓrzenbier, Westbrook Brewing Co., Mt. Pleasant, SC
The team over at Westbrook knows how to brew some damn good beer. And they nail the Mӓrzen. Appropriately called the “Mӓrzenbier”, they know the history, and they definitely know what they’re doing. They use German ingredients, including Bavarian lager yeast, German noble hops, and Munich and Caramunich malts. The Westbrook Mӓrzenbier has plenty of flavor and plenty of pop. Westbrook has a darker, maltier flavor than some other versions. Open up a bottle and put on Jeopardy, because this beer has some intelligence.
Oktoberfest, COAST Brewing Co., Charleston, SC
Of all the Oktoberfests I’ve tried, this one has the most flavor while still holding onto its drinkability. It’s moderately sweet, malty, and overall a great medium-bodied version of the Mӓrzen-style lager. It’s not the MVP of the game, but it’s definitely a key player on the championship team. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser at your next fall gathering.
Mecktoberfest, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Charlotte, NC
I learned the history of the Mӓrzen and the German Purity Laws on my first trip to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery a few years ago; so I think it’s only appropriate to include their take on the Oktoberfest on my list. It also happens to be one of my favorite beers. It wasn’t the first Oktoberfest-style beer I’d ever had, but it was definitely the first to catch my attention. All of OMB’s beers are brewed under the German Purity Laws. For the Mecktoberfest, they even use a yeast strain from the oldest brewery in the world. The result is an authentic-tasting, smooth amber. It’s a beer that’s full of flavor but also one you could drink all day. Because of the brewery’s dedication to freshness, OMB beer is only distributed in the Charlotte/Piedmont region. So sadly, you won’t be able to find it here in Charleston. However, if you’re in the Charlotte area this fall, I would highly suggest stopping by their brewery and biergarten for a tour and a fresh Mecktoberfest.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest, The Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY
This beer is on the other side of the Oktoberfest spectrum from the Westbrook Marzenbier and is a much lighter take on the tradition. What it lacks in color and thickness, it makes up for with flavor and drinkability. Brewed in traditional Bavarian style, this beer is surprisingly crisp and refreshing. If you’re getting burned out on your standard American lager, this beer would make a great addition to your tailgate.
Where to Buy/Try:
Like I said before, you’ll only be able to find OMB Mecktoberfest in the Charlotte/Piedmont area. Green’s Beverage Warehouse just outside of Charlotte is where I usually buy mine. You can find all of the others at Charleston Beer Exchange downtown on Exchange St. Westbrook is pretty much on tap everywhere these days. Brooklyn is sold in most grocery stores. I’d also recommend a trip to the tasting rooms at COAST Brewing Co. and Westbrook Brewing Co. While these beers weren’t brewed in Germany, they definitely capture the spirit of Oktoberfest. I hope you enjoy.