- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It’s a royal wedding celebration. It’s a harvest show. It’s an amusement park. It’s a beer garden. It’s all of those. It’s Oktoberfest in Munich. And we can have it at home … with or without the crowds. Beer is king of Oktoberfest, particularly the special Oktoberfest beers — authentic Oktoberfest beers are available in the United States. The unique style of rich, full-bodied, malty sweet and orange-hued beer is exported by five of the six official German brewers and all pair well with the fall foods we love at this time of year. Before you wonder why we are discussing this now, Oktoberfest in Munich began Sept. 16 and runs through Oct. 3. So it’s not too soon to start serving. While the original Oktoberfest celebration was in October, September actually has better weather for an outdoor party. So the Germans, quite prudently, moved much of the celebration into September. Authentic Oktoberfest beer is certainly worth searching out, but we don’t have to drink it for our celebration at home. We can enjoy just about any type. In fact, everyday Munich beer, called “helles,” is a paler-colored, less hearty lager than Oktoberfest brew and is everywhere during the celebration. Many German and U.S. breweries create their own special fall harvest blends. So grab a one-liter — about a quart — glass or stein and start sipping. Munich’s Oktoberfest beers have their roots in Vienna, Austria, in a beer produced since 1841 by Anton Dreher. He made an amber-colored lager that was different from the dark ales common at the time, and his beer eventually became known as the Vienna style we see today. While Dreher was cooking up his beer in Vienna, his friend Gabriel Sedlmayr, who owned Spaten Brewery in Munich, developed a new style of beer for his customers. This evolved into the Oktoberfest brew. The Munich Oktoberfest celebration is steeped in history. For centuries, brewers in Bavaria and nearby areas would end their brewing season in March by making big, flavorful, slightly alcoholic beers known then and now as “marzen” beer. Brewing during the summer months was impossible because the hot weather was a natural breeding ground for beer-spoiling wild yeasts and bacteria. But as time went on, brewers realized they could make extra beer in March and store it in cold, icy caves in the Alps. The tapping of the last of these casks in September or October became a good excuse for a party. It also coincided with the many harvest festivals that took place in the fall. When Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (who later became King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen were wed on Oct. 12, 1810, all of Munich was invited to attend the festivities, which included a horse race on the fields in front of the city gates. In 1811, an agricultural show was added, and by 1818, a carousel and swings were set up. The few small beer stands grew in number over the years and in 1896 were replaced by beer tents and halls, sponsored by the breweries. Oktoberfest attracts more than 6 million people to the 104-acre space. Last year, visitors inhabited 100,000 seats at 14 different beer tents. They drank more than 6 million quarts of beer and ate 481 “units” of chicken, 179,889 pairs of pork sausages, 560,089 “units” of pork knuckles, and 95 oxen. These same people lost about 4,000 items, including 260 pairs of glasses, 200 mobile phones, a wedding ring and two crutches. Oktoberfest begins after the beer is delivered to all the serving tents by horse-drawn carts from each of the Munich breweries. At noon on Saturday, the mayor of Munich taps the first 200-liter keg and the festival begins. Only six Munich breweries — Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbrauhaus, Lowenbrau and Augustiner — are permitted by law to use the Oktoberfest name and to sell their beer at Oktoberfest. Not included are some nearby breweries, among them beer made by the great-great-great-grandson of King Ludwig I, Prince Luitpold von Bayern, who owns Konig Ludwig Schlossbrauerei Kaltenberg, about 30 miles west of Munich. Five of the six participating breweries sell their Oktoberfest beers in the United States, often beginning as early as in August. (Only Augustiner doesn’t.) Other German brewers sell beers labeled Oktober Fest or something similar, and U.S. companies call their beers Oktoberfest and brew excellent examples of Munich-style lager. Oktoberfest beers pair well with a variety of foods, according to Jeff Tomlinson, regional director of Star Brand Imports, importers of Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. “The Germans pair it most often with roasted chicken, pork and steak.” Vegetables also go with Oktoberfest beer, he said, particularly sweeter, firmer vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers and onions. Tomatoes do not pair well with Oktoberfest brews because the acidity cuts through the soft maltiness of the beer. The same is true of heavily spiced sauces. For a casual Oktoberfest party, Mr. Tomlinson recommends a light pasta or spaetzle with a mild white cheese or butter sauce as a starter. “The lighter, whiter cheese offers the taste and color profile of the famous German noodle, spaetzle, and the milder more balanced white sauce blends nicely with the roundness of the rich body of an Oktoberfest beer.” For the main course, Mr. Tomlinson suggests grilled or roasted chicken with a light basting of honey. “Chicken on a spit is the Big Mac of Oktoberfest and the mild flavor of the chicken with a crispy skin gives the beer an opportunity to display the malty, juicy, sweet profile of the Oktoberfest beer,” he says. A baked or roasted ham could be an alternative to chicken. The sweet and toasty taste of an Oktoberfest beer is the natural accompaniment to many of the heartier foods we begin eating in autumn. A sampling of some of these both German and domestic could be perfect for a celebration. Just remember to raise a glass to toast Ludwig and Therese. To learn more about Oktoberfest and see pictures, go to www.muenchen.de/Tourismus/Oktoberfest/7548/index.html. Oktoberfest potato salad Water Salt 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced ½ cup chopped onion ½ cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup vegetable oil ½ cup cider vinegar 2 tablespoons white sugar 2 tablespoons dried parsley Freshly ground black pepper Paprika and sliced hard-cooked egg for garnish, optional Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peeled and cut potatoes. Cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add onion. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, oil, vinegar, sugar, parsley, 2 teaspoons salt or to taste, and pepper to taste. Gently stir sauce with potatoes and onion. Let stand for 1 hour before serving to enhance flavors. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and hard-cooked egg, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Pretzels 1 teaspoon white sugar Water 11/4 teaspoons active dry yeast 4½ cups all-purpose flour, or more ½ teaspoon salt Oil for greasing bowl and baking sheet 1 egg white Kosher salt and sesame seeds Stir sugar into 1/4 cup warm (110-degree) water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine 1½ cups warm (110-degree) water, 4 cups flour and salt in large bowl. Pour yeast into mixture and stir. Add a bit more flour, if needed, so dough isn’t too sticky. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let stand in oven with light on and door closed or in another warm but not hot place about 45 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down. Roll into log. Mark off into 12 portions and cut. Roll each portion into ½-inch-thick rope. Shape each rope into pretzel form on greased baking sheets. In a small bowl, beat egg white with 1 teaspoon water and brush over pretzels. Sprinkle some pretzels with kosher salt and some with sesame seeds. Bake in preheated 450-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Turn out onto racks to cool. Makes about 12 pretzels. Roast honey-glazed chicken 1 (5-pound) roasting chicken Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 lemon, juice only 1 tablespoon honey Place chicken, breast side up, in metal roasting pan with lid. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Cover with lid and roast in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and turn over, so that breast side is down. Cover, return to oven and roast for another 30 minutes. Stir together lemon juice and honey. Remove chicken from oven and turn oven up to 425 degrees. Turn chicken over again so that breast side is up. Spoon honey mixture over to make a glaze. Return to oven and roast until chicken is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 3 to 4 servings. Gregg Glaser is editor of Yankee Brew News.



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