Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration in Bavaria in 1810. Two centuries later in 2009, Great Lakes Brewing Company brewmaster Mark Hunger tied the knot and poured his brewery’s Oktoberfest lager at his own autumn wedding reception.
“Picking the beer for the wedding was a no-brainer. From what I can remember, it was a hit,” he says with a laugh. “We went through a keg.”
Even though this summer hasn’t been like any other before due to the pandemic, it is still sad to see this season go. However, as the days change from sunshine to the darkening of leaves, there are some things to get excited about! No, we are not talking about pumpkin spice lattes (even though they are a popular guilty pleasure)–we’re talking about Märzen beers. The dark brown color and rich, malty flavor brings about a notion of nostalgia that no other style of beer can induce. There is just something special about sitting outside on a chilly day next to a campfire with a Märzen in hand. This may sound crazy, but fellow Midwesterners prefer that coziness of fall to a lazy day on the beach–it speaks to the Midwestern soul.
Luckily, breweries across the Midwest have begun releasing a slew of their own incredible takes on this German classic. Some of these beers are widely distributed and some of them are more locally found. If you see any of these magnificent elixirs at your local bottle shop, pick them up before they are gone. So get your folding chair, grab a brat, get the campfire going and enjoy a delicious Märzen.
It’s tempting to bemoan the fact that the industry remains in a lengthy pandemic-induced pivot. However, it’s time to start focusing on what is instead of what isn’t happening. For this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), beer drinkers will have a chance to purchase a GABF Passport that gives them access to a host of good deals (an idea similar to Chicago and Illinois Craft Beer Weeks held in previous years). One can purchase the $20 GABF Passport and start enjoying brewery deals October 1 through October 18. As well, the passport gives beer drinkers an opportunity to attend (view) the star-studded Virtual GABF Festival (October 16-17) (which includes the awards ceremony).
It’s Oktoberfest time! For beer lovers in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, this season is pretty much made for them — the Queen City throws the second largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, and the world’s largest chicken dance.
Sadly, COVID-19 will put a major damper on how Oktoberfest social events are handled this year. However, one of the great things about the season is the glut of Oktoberfest, Märzenbier and Festbier releases. (Check out this primer on what exactly it is we’re drinking when we have an Oktoberfest beer.) While it’s great enjoying these styles at a Cincinnati Oktoberfest celebration with an oompah band playing in the background, they’re also plenty enjoyable to relax with on a patio or porch as the summer heat wanes into crisp autumn evenings.
Perfectly balancing spice and sweetness, Thundertaker, the first release in the 2020-21 Deep Wood Series from Revolution Brewing in Chicago, IL sets the bar high for what’s to come.
As someone who was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oktoberfest is not just a type of beer or a festival in Germany; it’s a state of mind. With the cancellation of many Oktoberfest events, people have to be creative in their celebration. Personally, give me a day where I can justifiably drink beer and eat sausage all day and I’ll be a happy camper.
If you’re currently in the mindset that it’s too early for pumpkin beer but too late for summer-only releases, then we’re on the same page. This often means it’s Oktoberfest season, the best season of all! Oktoberfest styles (usually in the form of a Festbier and Märzen) are popping up at the majority of breweries across the city and suburbs, and while it feels slightly earlier than normal (what day is it anyway?), I’m not upset about the early arrival.
A multi-faceted demonstration of craft-beer community support will manifest at Downer Grove’s Orange & Brew Bottle Shop and Tap Room on September 19 (noon – 9 pm). The tap takeover will not only feature a dozen “Black is Beautiful” project beers — some of which have previously only been available in the taproom where they were brewed, but also benefit the Wood Family Pitch In project, which assists oft-ignored inner-city school districts by offering mentoring to kids as they transition from middle school to high school.
Move over Pumpkin Spice Latte, it’s Pumpkin Spice Hard Seltzer time. Granted: PSHS doesn’t have the same ring to it as PSL.
Braxton Brewing Co. announced the launch of VIVE Hard Seltzer Pumpkin Spice in August, becoming the first hard seltzer brand to create a pumpkin spice flavor. The Covington, KY brewery will begin distributing six-packs of the pumpkin spice hard seltzer in September 2020.
Buckle up! Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) has some exciting new hardware, and they have already released it through the stratosphere. A year-long favorite that will not disappoint has arrived to wet your whistle during these waning summer weeks, deep into winter. I am talking about Hazecraft IPA, available now everywhere GLBC distributes.
When Roaring Table Brewery won the 2020 USA Today Readers’ Choice “Best New Brewery” award, it didn’t come because the brewery engaged heavily in a marketing strategies, nor did it come from chasing trends or a producing a series of sexy releases. Beth May and Lane Fearing, married couple and founders of Roaring Table Brewing, created a brewery that at its heart and soul is a neighborhood tavern or pub that just happens to serve some of the best beer in town.
“Beer is more than just a drink; it’s an experience,” said Lane, who serves as Roaring Table head brewer.
It’s been a tumultuous couple of days for Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing Company as the brewery announced the indefinite closure of its destination beer hall on November 2. In a statement, Surly said:
It’s certainly well-known that there’s been an explosion of breweries and distilleries offering alternative beverages such as hard seltzers, ready-to-drink cocktails, hard sodas, and malt-based fruited drinks the past few years—and COVID19 has helped boost that category. Craft breweries have not been shy in cashing in on that trend, and finding their patrons to be quite receptive to their efforts. Two examples of how diverse that trend has evolved comes from Chicago’s Burnt City Brewing and Casa Humilde, two of the four breweries that make up the city’s unique District Brew Yards. They now offer their patrons a hard soda and a michelada-inspired beverage.
Noon Whistle Brewing Co. has become one of Chicagoland’s go-to breweries for IPAs, especially hazies. The brewery, located in suburban Lombard, Illinois, does IPAs so well that even Planters – a massive global brand – wanted to collaborate with them to create a peanut IPA. However, Noon Whistle is most known for its Gummy Series, a set of hazy, super juicy Northeast IPAs.
Adventure comes in different forms during the current state of the world, and achieving an outdoor reprieve has become all the more essential for the soul. For Minnesotans, Wisconsinites or those up for a road trip, the North Shore of Lake Superior provides an ideal location for fresh air and safe, socially distanced adventure. Located at the base of the North Shore in Duluth, Minnesota, Bent Paddle Brewing Co. (BPBC) supplies great beer to pair with an upcoming trek up the North Shore – maybe none more fitting than the brewery’s Venture Pils.
Seasonal beers are bittersweet. While they often use fresh, quality ingredients and are perfect for the time of year, it also means you only get to drink them for a limited time. Whiner Beer, a brewery on Chicago’s Southside, specializes in barrel-aged beer inspired by Belgium and French practices and has a few seasonal beers their patrons look forward to throughout the year.
Rifting off their permanent Saison LeTub, Bleu Tub is a barrel-aged Saison brewed with blueberries and is only available for half the year. With a dusty purple-ish hue and foamy head, the beer gives off scents of citrus, florals and it perks the nose up. With a smell that is clean, refreshing and inviting, Bleu Tub provides the perfect balance of comfort and excitement.
Recommending the television show What We Do in the Shadows has become a regular part of my conversations with people. Developed from the film of the same name, WWDITS is one of the best new comedy series to debut in recent years. Throwing the sophomore slump cliché out the window, the second and most recent season is absolutely hilarious, and earned an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nomination. They’ve somehow created a hilarious vampire television show that does not lean on shticks or gimmicks, and have developed characters who, despite killing humans, are sympathized with and cheered on.
Collaboration beers are nothing new to the industry and when Revolution Brewing and Hop Butcher for the World teamed up it wasn’t even their first time working together. The most recent collaboration series features three beers with three distinct styles. The series features Maintains and Shapes, a hopped Lager, Base, a West Coast Pale Ale, and Superstructure, a Hazy IPA.
In the comics and movies, evil villains spend both day and night obsessing with how to topple our lives and destroy the good guys. However, after a long day of plotting and scheming, these villains still need a beer to help unwind. As you would imagine, many of them prefer brooding Stouts in one form or another: The darker side draws them in and makes them feel warm.
For many years, being a craft beer drinker often meant maintaining happy ignorance about how many calories you’ve consumed after a few pints at the brewery or while at home, relaxing at the end of the day. The only truly low-calorie beers were slapped with the names of macro brands – Michelob Ultra, Miller 64, Bud Select 55 – and tasted just the way one would expect. Over the past year or so, demand for lower-calorie brews has increased and the craft beer industry is listening. Now, there are plenty of low-cal offerings from some of the biggest names in the business including Dogfish Head, Deschutes, Lakefront Brewery, New Belgium and Ballast Point. Even among these myriad options, Bell’s Brewery’s Light Hearted Ale (a Lo-Cal IPA) stands out.