Monday, July 7, 2008

Oktober sky

If you’re a fan of Oktoberfest beers … we’ll let’s just say, if you aren’t then you’re missing one of the best beers on Earth.

That’s worth repeating: If you aren’t then you’re missing one of the best beers on Earth. But anyway, the best news for the lazy, hazy days of July is that the Oktober sky is in sight, the Märzens are coming; they're being brewed this month.

And in the Garden State, the go-to Oktoberfest beers come from the brewers with strong connections to Germany: High Point and Climax.

In Butler, the logo on the exterior brickwork may give a nod to the 220-foot obelisk in Montague Township at New Jersey’s highest elevation (1,803 feet), but just off the brewhouse, the thick, Blackletter text, “Ramstein,” above the bottling line says Germany. So does the beer: Malts, hops and yeast from Bavaria. (FYI: High Point's beer brand itself is a nod to the U.S. Ramstein airbase and is symbolic of German-American cultural unity).

Owner Greg Zaccardi says High Point’s brewing of their annual Oktoberfest (alas, it’s available draft only, but well worth the trek to find) commences next week. Release date is Sept. 1, with an annual barrel tapping/open house set for the second Saturday in September.

Greg learned to brew in southern Germany; his wife is German, and as you could imagine, he frequently travels there (in fact, he just got back from a June trip).

Zip across Route 78 to Roselle Park, where Climax Brewing has its Oktoberfest already in the lagering tank. Brewer/owner Dave Hoffmann says he got an early start this year (the beer's available draft and in half-gallon containers) and is targeting it for the beginning of August. He plans another batch on the heels of the initial release.

Dave is of direct German extract. Chat with his dad, Kurt, and you’ll enjoy a rich, German accent, unspoiled by years of living in the U.S.

Oktoberfest is Sept. 20-Oct. 5. So why rave about beers that are a month away from your stein, while we're still in the farming saison? Because these two Oktoberfest beers go fast. Best to keep 'em on the radar.

Check out the results from this year’s North American Brewers’ Association competition. The Tun Tavern won a silver medal for brewer Tim Kelly’s Belgian brown ale and a bronze for Tun Dark, a dunkel-like interpretation lagered for a month and a half, with a hint of hop bitterness and maltiness that's not too sweet. Congrats, Tim.

We’ve been getting into the hops horticulture lately, and here we go again, this time with our own Centennial hops. We found the first well-defined cones on one bine on Sunday, and noticed on Monday more cones were taking shape.

Like The Beatles sang, it won't be long. Yeah, it won't be long.

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