Beer Recommendation: Hofbräu Oktoberfeſt

The Hofbräuhaus at Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S.A.

In München ſteht ein Hofbräuhaus:

Yes, there is a Hofbräuhaus in Munich – the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl about which the song was written.  But more importantly, there is the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München.  Literally, the Stately Yard-brewhouse in Munich.  Only in this case, it’s also partly State owned.  And what do they do there?  Why, what else do Bavarians do all day besides yodel and play big curvy horns?  Make beer, of course!

Hofbräu (hoff-broy) is the lowest-common-denomiator beer in Bavaria and northern Austria.  But it’s also the cheapest.  Even so, it kicks the crap out of any American Amber, pseudo-Pilsner, or pale ale I’ve had.  Hofbräu is a very old, well-respected, and long-established brewery that’s part owned by Freiſtaat Bayern – that is, the Free State of Bavaria.  This is a form of subsidy, not unlike the farm, auto, airline, and bank subsidies that have been popular in the U.S. at various times.  Only this one has lasted for almost 500 years (unlike the American bank bailout which some say didn’t even last a day).

Hofbräu is one of the lucky four breweries to have tents at the official Oktoberfeſt in Munich.  For this, they brew their take on an Oktoberfeſt Märzenbier.  History tells us that the original Märzenbiere were darker than the common lagers normally enjoyed during the winter months due to the extra long fermentation and aging time.  Märzenbier was the last beer made in spring (Märzen means “March”) before it got too warm to make beer.  This beer needed to be stronger than normal in order to survive the long summer months and finally be enjoyed around September.

Since the invention of refrigeration, brewers are no longer restricted as to what times of year they can brew.  Hofbräu, accordingly, adjusted their beer to keep the flavor profile and hop recipe of a traditional Märzen, but to have a lower alcohol content, lighter color, and more balanced hop flavor.

Hofbräu Oktoberfeſt pours pale golden from the bottle, building a medium macrofoam head that dissipates quickly, leaving almost no lacing.  The beer is heavily carbonated, almost like soda.  Perhaps that’s just the version sold in America – I’ve heard that it’s less bubbly in Europe.  The aroma is of clean, crisp hallertau hops and pale Vienna malt.

The first sip is of bitter hops and maybe a bit of unripe fruit.  The mid-taste is more hop bitterness and a little of that nice pale malt.  The finish is clean and crisp with the hops still asserting themselves and the malt fading.  The aftertaste is of pale crystal malt.

I highly recommend this beer not because it’s the best Oktoberfeſtbier there is but because it’s good beer at a good price (for an import), low in alcohol, and very drinkable.  In fact, if you weren’t careful, a 6-pack would slip away imperceptibly in the space of a late summer evening.  Proſt!


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