Oktoberfest Beer Showcase | Victory Brewing Company Festbier
Fall is steeped in tradition. It brings the change of another season, a reminder of the passage of time. The flannel shirts come out and the apples are ripe for picking. Along with that, the beer you’ll find on shelves at your local stores will replace the light, refreshingly tart and citrus flavors of the summer with the malty and more full-bodied offerings that are also a reminder of the changing of the calendar.
This includes the range of Oktoberfest/Märzen lagers breweries from around the world release with the coordination of the leaves changing colors. One in particular that has been around for decades here in the States is Victory Brewing Company’s Festbier. As their first beer they ever brewed, Festbier continues to be a staple in Victory’s portfolio and a yearly beer worth celebrating.
What is Festbier?
Victory Festbier is a classic Märzen beer. What is a Märzen, you ask? It translates to “March” because these beers were traditionally brewed in the month of March. The significance of March was this used to be the end of the brew season before summer arrived, as before refrigeration was a commonplace luxury, lagering beer wasn’t possible in the warmer, summer months.
That is also why these beers have rich, malty flavors. In order to preserve their flavor and make sure they held up after months of sitting, a more aggressive malt-forward recipe was needed.
These beers then were prime for consumption as fall approached. This is why since the early 1800s, this style became the focal point of the festivities known as Oktoberfest, which is held annually in September. While present-day Oktoberfest celebrations turn to lighter offerings than the original beers served at the early years of the celebrations, Victory continues to pay homage to those original Märzen beers with Festbier.
As Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing co-founder, says, “it is a great representation of Oktoberfest lagers we can recall from our past, as the Munich versions served at the festival have moved lighter in color and body.“
Luckily, you won’t need to monitor the calendar that closely to track the release of this Victory Brewing seasonal. As fall approaches each year, they make sure to have plenty of Festbier for everyone to enjoy!
The History of Victory Festbier
To tell the whole story of Victory Festbier, you have to go back to the origins of Victory Brewing Company as a whole. That is because Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, the co-founders of Victory Brewing Company and lifelong friends, began their journey of brewing beer with a focus on German-style brews.
During their journey and crossover into turning beer brewing from an obsessive hobby to actual career, they each took various paths that helped shape what Victory was and has become today. Barchet went from financial analyst to brewing apprentice under the guidance of a German-trained professional brewer.
Barchet went on to study brewing at the Technical University of Munich at Weihenstephan, just northwest of Munich, while Covaleski’s curiosity of German-style beers led him to enroll in Doemens Academy, a brewing school on the west outskirts of Munich.
Once back stateside with their new-found knowledge of German brewing, together they decided to open their own brewery. This is where Festbier was first conceptualized.
While some breweries might start their first brew day with an IPA, Covaleski and Barchet decided to make Festbier their very first beer they brewed at Victory back in 1995. The reason for this? “Victory’s vision was to combine German tradition with American ingenuity in a way that could bring styles that were relevant in Germany to the states. Festbier came to be because our co-founders and brewers really loved to brew it. They felt that there was a place for this beer for US consumers to appreciate and enjoy,” Kelly Irvine, Associate Brand Manager at Victory Brewing, explains.
As Festbier funnels into the glass, a foamy head starts to build. Eventually, this crescendos until it floats on top of the clear, amber-colored beer in the glass. Right away, a smell of malty sweetness fills the air.
Victory Brewing also knows the most important part of a great Märzen is the malt. This is why they source Vienna and Munich malts straight from Germany to use in the grain bill of Festbier. This is what helps give the beer its dark amber color as well as provides a strong backbone of flavor.
The body of Victory Festbier is pretty robust and full. As it is consumed, there are strong flavors of caramel as well as rustic bread, similar to pumpernickel. There is a light earthiness to the beer as well that has a resemblance of tea. With those blend of flavors, Victory Fesbier goes great with all those favorite fall dishes.
“it is really a superbly food friendly brew,” Covaleski adds.
The hops used in Festbier, Hallertau and Tettnang, are both classic German noble hops. These both help let the flavors of the malt shine without becoming too sweet. Along with that, they accentuate its bready and herbal flavors.
Along with the use of tradition ingredients, Victory also uses classic techniques while brewing Festbier. Specifically, they use a mashing technique called decoction. With this, they take a portion of the mash and boil it before adding it back into the main mash. By doing this process twice, they are able to get even bigger flavors out of the malt.
Today, Victory’s lineup continues to include many classic German-style lagers. This includes everything from Festbier and Mad King’s Weiss to their beloved Prima Pils. When you think about it, making these styles showcases the skillset of a brewer.
As Irvine puts it, “Prima was our way to show the country that ‘delicate and refined’ doesn’t have to be a pandering euphemism for ‘bland and simple’.”
Victory Brewing also has an expansive lineup of beers for all consumers to enjoy. They are constantly creating new recipes and keeping up with what their consumers want.
“We love our newer innovation like Easy Ringer IPA, Cloud Walker Hazy Juicy IPA and Sour Monkey, though it’s nice to provide a drinker with options,” Irvine notes.
Overall, when you stop at any of their locations, you’ll notice a wide range of styles to choose among. The great thread that ties them all together though is craftsmanship Covalski and Barchet put into each brew they make.
As Irvine states, “Bill & Ron’s German based brewing & training influences how we create but doesn’t dictate it.”
Get Festive with Victory Festbier
Throughout the years, Victory has continued to brew Festbier with quality ingredients and the same precision they first brewed it with. The only thing that has changed is the label, which helps “celebrate German’s festive traditions of gatherings to celebrate camaraderie around ‘The Boot’,” Irvine explains.
So no matter how small gatherings are this fall, or if they are done virtually, grab a Victory Festbier and give a toast to that camaraderie!