12 October 2009

Goldenest Oktober

It's that time of year again, when the mighty merchandising machines of Noreast and Heineken -- distributors of Erdinger and Paulaner respectively -- flood the quality beer outlets with acres of blue and white chequered material, adorned with their competing brands. Yes: Oktoberfest in Dublin.

The Porterhouse were first out of the traps, launching their festival on Tuesday last. Alt is back for a second year and seems bigger and maltier than before. Perhaps not 100% true to style but you'll have to wait a while for my gives-a-crap face. The imports are always great fun year-to-year, and this time round we've got Einbecker's sweet and warming Ur-Bock Dunkel, crisp dry Früh and a wheat beer I didn't know: Unertl. It's one of the darker weissbiers, though not a dunkel. More than anything else I was reminded of Schneider, though it's not quite as spicy and rounded, going instead for a lighter and crisper sort of wheat character. A nice refresher and leagues ahead of your typical yellow weiss we get in these parts.

The bottled selection of course includes some classic Munich Oktoberfestbier, as well as some interesting oddities from further afield. My eye was particularly caught by three from Münster's organic brewery Pinkus Müller, not only because it's Barry's local, but also because the Original Münster Alt he sent me earlier this year was really good in an odd sort of way. Just my kind of beer. In the oddness stakes, both Pinkus Müller Pils and Weiss stood up very well. They're both pale examples of their genre, with the pils a gorgeous limpid gold and the weiss an opaque light orange-yellow. Here's the thing: the pils tastes like weiss while the weiss tastes like pils. That is to say, Pinkus Pils has a very soft carbonation and fruity esters in with the more typical north-German pils bitterness. Pinkus Weiss, conversely, is almost esterless, being light and quaffable like a tasty but easy-going lager.

Pinkus Special is also in the line-up. This is another pale one with just a little bit of haze to it. You get some fascinating grassy herby flavours, and a light touch of bubblegum (pre-chewed bubblegum, as someone around the table charmingly put it). It's certainly an interesting beer and I reckon I'll revisit it before this weekend, when the festival wraps up for another year.

Thanks, as always, go to the Porterhouse team for their hospitality.

My second Octoberfest event of last week was up at Deveney's off licence in Dundrum, where the monthly beer tasting session was moved to the top end of the month. Good to see, since it's been clashing with the Irish Craft Brewer meeting in the Bull & Castle this past while. There were most of the usual suspects on offer, but also a couple of things I wasn't familiar with. Take Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest Märzen for instance. At first glance, perhaps, nothing unusual there. Sure every schoolboy knows Oktoberfestbier is a Märzen. But only broadly. Hacker-Pschorr's actual Oktoberfestbier can be seen in Ron's blog, here: a bright golden yellow. Actual Märzen tends to be more of a reddish gold shade, which is what this is. It's really rather flat and though relatively light of body, there's a certain syrupy greasiness to the texture that I don't much care for. The taste is predominantly sweet and bready, as one would expect, and it sails close to being cloying. But I think it just stays on the good side, with a nibble from the hops and a warm comforting finish. And with a swingtop bottle? Well, all is forgiven from this home brewer.

I was slightly late getting to Deveney's on the tasting evening and everyone else was a couple of beers ahead of me. Ruth had cued up Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse as last on the roster, so I got to hear everyone else's opinions on it before getting to it myself. It wasn't going down well with the crowd, which was disappointing because I was expecting big things from the new beer out of what's probably my favourite German brewery. "Too much pepper" was the cry. I was intrigued.

It appears to be squarely pitched at the American market, with its USDA Organic badge featuring prominently, and the inclusion of Cascade with the Hallertauer in the hops listing. Oh, and the highly unGerman, almost microscopic, inclusion of the word "ale" on the neck label. It pours a pale hazy amber, giving off quintessential wiessbier yeast fruits with a definite spice behind it. This yeast-hops combination has me thinking of the collaborative Hopfen-Weisse straight away. But it's a lot more drinkable than that badboy, at a mere 6.2% ABV. Cloves are in the ascendant, giving it a spice that I wouldn't describe as peppery per se, but would describe as really tasty. The finish is short, but the body is light and soft enough for another sip straight away. I like this a lot. And I'm very heartened to see an old stalwart like Schneider pushing the boundaries of tradition further in the interests of opening up new markets and, more importantly, new flavours. That's my kind of globalisation.

October, eh? It's great to be spending my time whizzing round Dublin on my bike drinking free beer; but it's probably just as well it's only one month a year.


  1. Nice analysis of the Pinkus Müller beers. I do like them for their fresh drinkability. The Special was the first Punkus beer I tried a couple of years ago, before I moved to Münster. I was told it was an unfiltered Pils, and I really liked its slightly fruity take on a lagerbier.

    I'll be looking out for the Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse next time I go beer shopping!

  2. Who said Märzen has to be amber in colour? The beers sold at the Oktoberfest are Märzens, just the Helles version.

  3. I am, for no particular reason, counting Helles Märzen (e.g. Oktoberfestbier) and non-Helles Märzen (Märzen) as two separate styles. Does amber-coloured non-Helles Märzen have a qualifier of its own?

  4. I'm intrigued by the Schneider. This is what German breweries need to do a bit more of -- slight but interesting variations on old favourites, without going 'extreme'. I love German wheat beer but always wish it was just a bit more bitter, and a bit more hoppy, and this might be just the job.