Thursday, September 20, 2007

Märzen invasion: No fest like O fest, Part 2

Tomorrow is a day when we wish we were in Munich. We’ve bent elbows at the Great British Beer Festival and had pints in the Liverpool pubs where John, Paul, George and Ringo tossed ’em back when they favored drainpipes, leather jackets and wowed the Cavern Club.

But Oktoberfest (runs Sept. 22-Oct. 7 this year) , the real deal, not the American interpretation, is something we’ve yet to experience. (It is, however, high on our international to-do list.)

With that being the case, we looked for a way to put a little Gemütlichkeit into our autumn equinox this year, not just the array of festbiers brewed in the Garden State in our stein. The result is “A Taste of Oktoberfest.” (Runtime: 8 min., 16 sec.; it's also on iTunes, check under podcasts and search for Beer-Stained Letter. Tech note: Frankly, iTunes is the best bet for image clarity, and with the iPod's ubiquitousness, tons of you Windows users have Apple's iTunes and its native QuickTime format. Hey, watch it on your iPhone, download it to your iPod; show it to a friend. Reach out and touch-screen someone.)

A barrel of thanks to Greg Zaccardi (left) at High Point Brewing, whose Oktoberfest beer was just named one of the top 10 Oktoberfest beers in North America by Draft magazine; and the charming Ernie Licht of Oley, Pa., whose really cool garment shop (Ernst Licht Embroidery and Imports) turns out lederhosen and dirndls so the waiters, waitresses, dancers, musicians – and yes even you – can have a fest-best look in the season’s traditional togs.

Also deserving mention are Ursula Weuste of the Deutscher Club in Clark, NJ, and Paul Ulrich of the Bayern Verein Newark, both of whom obliged us by allowing cameras at the Deutscher Club’s facility and the latter’s Oktoberfest event on Sept. 8; Pete and Marianne Ehmann and Rick Ernst, the Schuhplattlers with the Bayern Verein; and Bernie Bunger of Bernie’s Orchestra. By the way, Bernie, the strains of “Du du liegst mir im Herzen” remain stuck in our head.

And one more: Kevin MacLeod, whose music site we stumbled onto and made use of his “Four Beers Polka” to open the shots.

Said Kevin, after we sent him a link to the vid: “Wow. That was an incredibly appropriately titled piece of music!” Thanks again, Kevin, it had the right bounce to get things going.

Where to go for O-fest

If you’re looking for an Oktoberfest gig, consider these options:

Tun Tavern, Atlantic City, Saturday, Sept. 22nd
German buffet from noon to 6 p.m. on the Tun’s patio. The price is $24.95 for food and unlimited beer. (That’s almost 35 euros, based on recent exchange rates.) Brewer Tim Kelly took the trouble to brew the Tun’s Oktoberfest using a decoction mash, a process that really turns up the malt flavor and isn’t an easy task for a brewpub that normally would do an infusion mash. So, if you go, raise your glass to Tim’s effort; he was really thinking of you.

Triumph, New Hope, Pa., 2- 6 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 23rd
Schnitzel, sauerbraten, weißwurst to eat, festbier, kölsch, kellerbier and pilsner to drink. Triumph makes great beer, but their keller is killer.

Basil T’s, Toms River, 6:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 28th
Brewer Dave Hoffmann’s Oktoberfest beer gets paired with a main course of kassler rippchen, spatzel, potato pancakes and of course, red cabbage. Can you smell the smoked pork? Music by Erik and his Firehouse Polka Band. Price is $65, but includes appetizers, wurst sampler and dessert.

Ludwig’s Garten, Philadelphia, Saturday, Sept. 29th
Ludwig’s wedding to Therese started it all, and this way cool German eatery in Philly (check out the hop vine decorations over the tables) draws a huge crowd to Sansom Street. Begins at noon. Look for High Point to tap an oak barrel at the festival.

Long Valley Pub and Brewery, Sunday, noon-5 p.m., October 7th

Authentic German food to go with Long Valley’s great ales. And bear in mind, Long Valley – the scenic locale in Washington Township, Morris County, NJ, used to be called German Valley.

Oktoberfest at home this year?

Hey, don’t knack it, things could be wurst. Sorry, we couldn’t resist. Yes, New Jersey can be your bier Garden State and you can have a fest at home. If you grill it, they will come. Don’t forget to stock up on pretzels and beer: Flying Fish has again bottled (and kegged) its widely available Oktoberfish; High Point’s fest is draft only, but if you need a keg or have a growler, you’re probably in luck. (But hurry.) Climax Brewing in Roselle Park sees Dave Hoffmann offering an Oktoberfest that’s different than what he turns out for Basil’s. Dave bottles in the half-gallon size (that’s 1.8 Maß, and perfect for sharing), plus kegs. Check with the brewery on distribution.