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What’s an Oktoberfest?

September 18th, 2014

Oktoberfest is both a celebratory festival in Germany (and West Michigan!) and a style of beer. Let me tell you a bit about the history and characteristics of the beer style:

Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. In March, brewers would brew a high gravity beer to be kept in cold storage and served until beer could be brewed again in October. When the barrels were needed for storage of the newly brewed beer in the fall, the last of the Marzen had to be finished, and quickly! The festival of Oktoberfest became an excuse to finish off these March-made brews. Thus, these beers can either be called “Märzenbier” or “Oktoberfestbier”.

Traditionally, Märzenbier was full-bodied, rich, toasty, and dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content. Over time, the malt bill was lightened, and with the invention of refrigeration, storage was no longer an issue over the summer months. Thus the long aging period is no longer true for Oktoberfest beers. Today’s Oktoberfest beers are still malt-forward, but they are generally lighter brews, though each brewery (especially in America) often takes a little bit of liberty with the style.

What is a Shandy?

June 25th, 2014

More than Leinenkugels, shandies are beers mixed with another non-alcoholic beverage, such as a soft drink, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or fruit juice. Similar beer-based drinks are very popular in Europe, with the German Radler (a half and half mixture of Pilsner and sparkling lemon soda) being one that has made it to the Art of the Table shelves!

The shandy is gaining some new following in the USA with the appearance of the Traveler Beer Company. Traveler is a craft beer company out of Burlington, Vermont.  Alan Newman, the founder of Magic Hat Brewery who left the industry when he got bought out by the big guys, was approached by Jim Koch of Sam Adams who wanted Alan’s talent back in the world of craft brewing. Out of this came Alchemy and Science, the parent company of Traveler. Alchemy and Science seeks out holes in the craft beer world, and finds ways to fill those holes, whether they be geographic or style specific. Traveler Beer Company fills the hole of shandies in the craft beer world.

Traveler shandies mix a solid wheat beer with fresh fruit ingredients. Traveler shandies are not just for the summertime. The lemon and grapefruit shandies are year-round products. The strawberry shandy is the current summer seasonal, but look for the appearance of a pumpkin shandy in the fall!

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