Thursday, September 10, 2009

Märzen chronicles

Among Jersey-made Oktoberfest beers (notably the ones coming out of the production breweries) the compass definitely points north. Flying Fish in Cherry Hill in South Jersey puts out a respectable, malty fall seasonal. But Oktoberfish is actually an altbier, with just the faintest hint of ale stylings.

For lagers – and Oktoberfests are just that – follow that compass: Ramstein's Munich Amber Lager (from High Point Brewing) and Hoffmann Lager Beer Oktoberfest (Climax Brewing), two brews that speak faithfully to the style.

In Butler, High Point will debut its 2009 rendition of Oktoberfest on Saturday (2-4 p.m.) with a ceremonial oak barrel tapping and a spread of complimentary German food. All of this precedes the brewery tours.

High Point nearly doubled production of its draft-only Oktoberfest this year (105 barrels for 2009), with virtually all of that snapped up by the brewery's accounts. That means your best bet for getting a growler filled is on Saturday during the brewery event.

(Beer geek note: The beer was produced from a decoction mash, all German malt and hops, and fermented with Kloster-Andechs lager yeast. Owner Greg Zaccardi says what will be sampled at the brewery on Saturday is an unfiltered version that dropped shiny and bright after eight weeks of lagering.)

Over in Roselle Park, Climax is working on their third tank of Oktoberfest, reflecting a growing popularity of brewer Dave Hoffmann's tribute to his German roots. "It's been flying out of here," says Dave's dad, Kurt. Those familiar with Hoffmann Oktoberfest know to look for it on draft and in half-gallon, growler-size jugs available at a number of packaged goods stores that feature craft beers.

Meanwhile, Climax has now entered the Virginia market, and Dave's gearing up for the release of the Oktoberfest he brews for Basil T's in Toms River, where he has a side gig. The brewpub's fall observance is set for Friday, Oct. 2, with a flight of beers served to complement a multi-course German dinner served by chef Steve Farley. Kurt Epps of the PubScout blog puts his razor wit to great use as host.