Oktoberfest 2011

Oktoberfest 2011

Homebrewing is obviously a passion of mine, but so is college football.  Two years ago, I decided to have those hobbies coincide, and to make an Oktoberfest.  These beers, also called Marzens, are a traditional festival beers of southern Germany.  Prior to refrigeration, brewers would not brew in the summer time due to increased risk of infection.  However, many of the major festivals, most notably , start in September, right when the brewers just started up again.  They would not have enough beer for the party, and a party without beer was a hanging offense in Germany!  To counter this, the brewers would brew up stronger batches of beer in March (Marzen in German).  These beers would then be put in caves to summer over in the nice, cool, consistent temperatures, then rolled out just in time for the festivals.  The higher strength helped preserve them, and the 6 months of cold lagering (storage in German) helped smooth them out.  The tradition of March beers was found all over Europe, with the British and the having versions.  They basically were stronger in alcohol for better storage, and likely were to use up the grain and hops from the fall harvest before they went bad.  These would then be consumed over the late spring and summer months, to bridge the gap until they could brew again.  This is just the of it, and the most famous.

With my first batch, I brewed the beer in March.  Using the ambient temps of my cellar in winter (mid 50′s) I just did the primary fermentation at ambient temps, then racked it, and let it sit in the NE corner of my basement, where it is typically 5F cooler then ambient, all summer.  It of course did get hotter, but I did not have refrigeration.  In August, I kegged it, and enjoyed it through the fall months.

This past year, I decided to explore Lager yeasts more (especially since my basement temps in January and February are perfect for lagers) and brewed two beers to get the yeast culture built up, a dunkel and a pilsner.  After the pilsner was done, I had a large yeast cake on its 2nd generation, and used this active culture for this beer.

6.00 lb       Vienna Malt (3.0 SRM)                     Grain        54.55 %
4.00 lb       Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                     Grain        36.36 %
0.50 lb       Melanoiden Malt (20.0 SRM)                Grain        4.55 %
0.30 lb       Caramunich III (55.0 SRM)                 Grain        2.73 %
0.20 lb       Caraamber (30.0 SRM)                      Grain        1.82 %
0.33 oz       Magnum [15.00 %]  (60 min)                Hops         14.5 IBU
1.00 oz       Mt. Hood [4.60 %]  (30 min)               Hops         10.3 IBU
0.50 tsp      wyeast yeast nutrient (Boil 15.0 min)     Misc
1.00 items    Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min)          Misc
1 Pkgs        Southern German Lager (White Labs #WLP838)Yeast-Lager

OG:  1.056,  FG: 1.012  ABV 6%

This was mashed via single infusion at 154F for 60 minutes, then batch sparged.  The beer was in primary at 54F for 3 weeks, then I took the whole thing up to my closet and let it set for 36 hours at 65F for a diacetyl rest.  This was then racked over into a carboy, and at the time it was 1.016.  This was then placed in my chest freezer that I have converted to hold/serve my beer at 45F until early August, when I racked it into a keg, and put it under pressure, keeping it at 45F for 4 more weeks.  This keg was tapped on September 1st…during the first college football game of the year (a terrible shellacking of UNLV by Wisconsin, but at least it broke the drought).

Tasting:  Pours a nice amber color, pretty clear.  The nose is caramelly malty, some dried fruit in the back, but no hops that I can make out.  The first thing you taste is a malty sweetness, with a nice hit of spice, I think from the hops.  I also taste a roasty note, which I don’t think belongs, and tastes similiar to the dunkel I made, likely from the Munich malt.  I don’t get much ester, or sulfur.  Pretty clean, it finishes with a nice balancing bitterness.

Critique: a malt foward beer, with a nice bitterness at the end makes it very quaffable.  This is one of my favorite styles to drink, and I enjoy the anticipation building up to it.  That being said, this is the second beer where the Munich malt failed to do its job.  It is not malty enough, and there is a marked roasted note to it.   I will not use this Munich malt again.  It was from Canadian Malting, and it was the only Munich malt my LHBS carried at the time.   From now on, I will stick with German companies for my Munich malt.  Other then that, I am very happy with this beer, and will probably stick with this recipe going forward.  I may try decoction in the future, to try to boast the maltiness, but first, I just want to try replacing the Munich malt.

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