last night I attended an event at the Archer Road Beer Stop and Hop Hideout specialist off licenses in Sheffield. Dave at Archer Road and Jules at Hop Hideout were co-hosting a tasting event with three German Oktoberfest Marzens and two American German style Oktoberfest beers.
The event started at Archer Road Beer Stop at 20.00. Jules explained to the guests that she had wanted the Archer Road Beer Stop to be involved as it was Sheffield's longest established specialist real ale off license - that said, Dave himself was not sure if it opened in 1981 or 1982. Either way, it was a co-hosted event between one of Sheffield's new off licenses and its first.
I was joined by Spence, who I met at the Three Valleys and SIBA beer festivals, Skippy, or Mike as he is actually known, Laura who is involved with Sheffield CAMRA and a couple who I think knew Jules. Dave had cleaned up the back room behind the shop (to the extent that it echoed!) and had 6 chairs around a somewhat rickety plasterers table with a beer stein, water biscuits and beer mats on it. Soon we were tasting our first beer.
Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen was the weakest of the German beers at 5.8%. Dave told us some of the history of the brewery, which originally was two rival brewing families. When one brewery was bombed during the second world war the other let them brew on their plant a couple of days a week until in 1974 they became Hacker-Pshcorr. This was a traditional Oktoberfest Marzen style since it was a chestnut brown in colour. It was slightly sweet and malty with a hint of orange in the mix, a caramel and burnt sugar aftertaste and was incredibly easy to drink.
Next up was one from Munich's oldest brewery Spaten. Their Oktoberfestbeir is 5.9% but much paler in colour. It was suggested that they had changed the colour due to the populariyu of pale lager like beers to meet custoer demand. This had much more of a lager style taste, and was once again very easy drinking. Whilst we did so Dave provided details about the Oktoberfest itself. Apparrently, 75% of those attending are Bavarians,with Americans, Australians and the British in 4th. Despite many of our misconceptions about levels of drunken revellery, on average guests only drink 1 litre of ale. Dave also explained about the tapping ceremony performed by the Mayor and showed us a web cam shot of the festival.
Our final German beer was the one which was receiving the most points on rating sites, that being the Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier at 6.0%. This was lighter still and much less malty, very much a lighter tasting strong lager than the original Marzen that we tried. Not everyone appreciated this beer, some feeling it lacked the distinction of the traditional recipe, but Laura really appreciated it - as the youngest person there, it was interesting to see which beers she preferred.
We walked down to Hop Hideout next to find Will waiting for us and to sit down with glasses and more water biscuits, and a beer contained full of water, to have Jules talk us through the two beers there. The first was the Brooklyn Oktoberfest, brewed in the US but with wholly German ingredients. The malts, Bavarian Heirloom, Munich and Pilsner, were apparently malted especially for the brewery in Bamberg in Germany, and the hops used were Hallertauer Perle and Hallertauer Mittelfrueh. The beer was more rounded than I expected, and not overly carbonated. It was 5.5% so the weakest so far but held its own well against the Germans beers.
Our final tipple was the Flying Dog Dogtoberfest. This was brewed to 5.6% and featured artwork inspired by Hunter S Thompson who apparently lived near the brewery when it started up. The malts used were Light Munich, Munich 90 Munich 100 and Vienna. This was Laura's favourite beer of the 5 and was once again a good beer compared to those brewed in Germany, but I thought the spiciness described on the label detracted from its authenticity, and it was somehow, despite using all German ingredients, noticeably American!
After the event finished we all had a further drink, myself a bottle of the Cantillon Gueze, and Jules, whose birthday it was, drank an amazing sour beer which I think was from Brooklyn. Or maybe Buxton! Whilst we drank Jules showed us original 1950's Pathe news footage of the Oktoberfests, which was amusing and fascinating at the same time.
The event was well run and very informative, and it was great to meet up with fellow drinkers to share the drinking and tasting experience. Well don to both Dave and Jules for their hard work and research and for delivering an excellent, joint-run Oktoberfest Social.