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Hophead: September Isn't Too Early For Oktoberfest

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Eins, zwei, drei, g'suffa! (One, two, three, drink up!)--Bavarian toast

The beginning of Oktoberfest 2009 in Munich is still more than a week away, but the celebrations are already cranking up locally. Just as you can already find Halloween costumes and decorations at some stores, German and German-inspired Oktoberfest beers are already making their ways to stores and bars.

Which is as it should be.

Tonight at The Old Monk, Dennis Wehrmann and Gavin Secchi of Franconia will tap a keg of the McKinney brewer's Oktoberfest. That's fun enough, but what makes the event special is that it's no mere stainless steel keg. Rather, the beer is in a 200-year-old wooden cask and the tapping will actually require a mallet and wooden tap handle.

Other Oktoberfest celebrations around town include Tuesday's Oktoberfest Beer Dinner at Humperdinks (2208 W. Northwest Highway), the Gingerman's day-long 18th annual Oktoberfest October 3, and, of course, Hophead fave Bavarian Grill, which celebrates October 19.

With that in mind, a sampling of Franconia's 2009 Oktoberfest seemed in order--even if it were from a run-of-the-mill steel keg at the Gingerman.

Though it is an American beer, Franconia's Oktoberfest falls pretty squarely into the traditional Bavarian amber lager, malty, creamy Oktoberfest style. That style is descended from Maerzen lagers, which were brewed in March (Maerzen) and saved until fall; such beer was served at the first Oktoberfest, a public celebration of the Bavarian Crown Prince's October 17, 1810 wedding.

True to form, Frankonia's Franconia's 2009 version's very creamy mouth feel proved the most noticeable quality of the beer. It's a coppery reddish-gold with a very creamy--if small and quickly dissipating--head. Slightly toasty malts dominate the nose and taste, and the finish proves somewhat sweet, but not overly so. It's a good example of a style that I'm not especially fond of, sorry to say.

A sample of Hofbrau's Oktoberfestbier proved intriguing enough that I decided to follow up the Frankonia Franconia with a pint. Very light gold-orange (think amber) in color, it's a very different example of the style.

As with the Franconia, malts dominated the nose, but the flavor unleashed much more bitterness, with some citric hoppy notes--though without the same level of sweetness. Were it not for the name, I'd never have guessed it was an Oktoberfest beer. Maybe that's why I preferred it.

Several Oktoberfest beers haven't made their way to the area yet but will be available in bars and stores in coming weeks, including Ayinger, which the Gingerman bartender highly recommended. I'll try more, of course, even if I'm looking forward more to Christmas beers. Of course, considering how the season seems to come earlier every year, hopefully I won't have to wait too long.

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