Know Your Craft column: Bitburger delivers fest flavor

Colin Hubbell
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Bitburger Festbier.

It may not be October yet but Oktoberfest season is almost upon us - the annual festivities going for 16 to 18 days from mid to late September to the first Sunday in October. And, although Bavaria’s beer-drenched celebration won’t be happening this year in Munich - roughly the 24th cancellation in 209 years - don’t let the hiatus get you down because there will still be some excellent German “festbier” classics, as well as tasty American interpretations available to all who are sufficiently thirsty.

Due to the American beer market’s mad dash for shelf space, this year’s fest-themed beers have been available since practically late July. But, seeing that an Oktoberfest beer is typically a medium-bodied, smooth, malty, amber-lager marzen, or in some cases a paler wiesn, there isn’t a bad time to have either cooled down in the refrigerator ready for cracking. And, whether you are looking for a nice Oktoberfest marzen in package or on draft, great options abound.

Solace for your marzen-motivated palate can be found at your better beer stores and bars with delightful standards from Spaten, Paulaner and many more German versions. Technically, only beer brewed to Reinheitsgebot (German beer purity law) standards within the city limits of Munich can be served at Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest, but that doesn’t stop plenty of other storied German breweries from producing their own Oktoberfest beer. Ayinger’s Oktoberfest for one is always an exquisite example of the marzen. And, stateside we have some outstanding iterations coming from Von Trapp Brewing, Great Lakes Brewing and a slew of others.

For a German-style Festbier that is malty, delicious, almost sessionable at 6.2% ABV and readily available, check out Bitburger Festbier. Coming from one of Germany’s biggest yet most respected breweries, this beer is all about the malt, consisting of pilsner, caramel and Munchner malts which contribute to the amber color and smooth body. With a deft balance of the aforementioned malts and Bitburger’s proprietary hop blend (Siegelhopfen), this beer has a subtly sweet, toasty-nutty malt backbone that finishes crisp and dry. Pair this beer with grilled sausage or a hot pretzel and you will not be disappointed.

Even if there won’t be a celebration this year in Munich - or the astounding number of other places usually celebrating around the globe - don’t be disheartened. Find yourself a mixed selection of “festbiers” and see which you like best. Or, grab a case of your favorite to share with close family or friends. Either way, a pour from one of these rich, toasty, smooth beers can whisk you away to Bavaria in spirit. And, as long as you make it to next fall, I would wager that the ultimate beer fest will be back.

This week’s recommendation: Bitburger Festbier, a smooth, malty German marzen with toasted nut and light fruity character. 6.2% ABV. Bitburg, Germany.

Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and the Hop and Goblet in South Utica, New York.