CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- You may have already had the chance to taste one of the many Oktoberfest-style beers already on tap in area pubs or in the grocer's beer cooler. The venerable malty festbier is the traditional choice for celebrating the fall season.
Munich's Oktoberfest celebration will be underway in a few weeks and about 7 million liters of festbier will be consumed inside the fairground's tents during the three-week run.
The American craft-beer drinker is offered many more options to drink during the fall season than the typical Bavarian, with some beers better reflecting the embodiment of the harvest. Many craft brewers are making fresh hopped beers using hop cones that, unlike in normal brewing practices, are used the same day they are picked, imparting fresh, aromatic and "green" sort of flavor to the beer. Normally hop cones are allowed to dry before they are used, to avoid the "green" character, which is so celebrated in "fresh hopped" or "wet hopped" beers.
Here is a quick guide to help you find that perfect beer for fall:
Oktoberfests (notable ones)
Samuel Adams Oktoberfest -- This beer changes slightly from year to year. My one and only taste of the 2011 vintage left me a bit disappointed. I drank it on draft in Alexandria, Va., and it came across with a buttery sort of flaw called diacetyl, indicating it was possibly brewed with haste.
Harpoon and Great Lakes Oktoberfests -- I view both of these brews in a good way. They both spin a bit of American craft brew hoppiness into the recipe.
Ayinger Oktoberfest -- Ironically, one the finest in Germany, but not allowed to be sold at the Munich Oktoberfest because they are located just outside of the city limits in Aying. This beer is good from the bottle, but I am told Pies & Pints, in Charleston, will be tapping a keg sometime this month. The beer is spectacular on draft.
Harvest or "wet hopped" beers
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest -- This beer is being brewed as I type this. Yakima Valley Centennial and Cascade hops are picked and used the same day. This is a harvest-brew classic, and should hit the shelves in early October.
Rogue Wet Hop Ale -- The hops used in this brew are scheduled to be picked and, therefore, used this week. This beer features Rogue's own hop varietal that is grown on its farm in Newport, Ore. I predict an early October availability.
Harpoon Docesna Czech Hop Harvest Ale -- This is an exciting beer to be released as part of Harpoon's 100 Barrel series. This beer features fresh hops grown in the famous Zatec Region of the Czech Republic. This beer is a bit darker than the other harvest beers listed and should be available any day now.
For more on the craft of beer, see Rich Ireland's Beers to You blog at thegazz.com.