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Prost to Autumn!

During this time last year, I spent my first days of Fall in Europe at the ultimate autumn brewfest —Oktoberfest— in Munich, Germany. It was, in as few words as I can sum it up, simply AMAZING. Sadly, as much as I want to go back again, (and as jealous as I am of a friend who is headed there!), I’ll have to settle for autumn beers stateside this year. Luckily, I have a whole bunch of great brew and events to choose from … and I’ll still be able to throw on my Dirndl, wrangle up a few of my favorite friends, hoist my souvenir Hofbräu stein up in the air and welcome autumn with a great big “PROST!” (That’s “cheers” for all you non-German speaking folk.)

Oktoberfest-style beers are brewed by both the big guys in the beer business as well as the smaller craft breweries this time of year. In summer we’re looking for refreshing, crisp, thirst-quenching brews, but in fall, we naturally turn to heartier, darker brews that lend more character and depth to their flavors. Brews that go with chili and stews, sausages and potatoes, football games, bonfires, and sweaters; making these Oktoberfest-style beers a perfect beverage to transition us from summer into the cooler temperatures of autumn and then eventually into winter (and the unofficial start of stout-season!)

What is an Oktoberfest-style beer? I won’t bore you with a re-write of prior articles I’ve written that include my own experience at Oktoberfest (November 2018) and also about Märzen beer (March 2019) —both of which you can find in the online Brew Time archives over at www.tablehopping.com, and highly encourage you to check out for more details!— but the vast majority of beers that are marketed as “Oktoberfest” beers are Märzen-style beers. These Oktoberfest beers range from pale German Helles lagers through to dark German lagers or Dunkel beers. What we find here in the states is not exactly what they serve at THE Oktoberfest in Munich, but there are similarities including the types of malts and hops used to brew said beer; and of course, with all the experimentation that happens in America, there’s no doubt that each brewery will fine-tune their particular Märzen-style brew to be unique in and of itself. Truthfully, the only way to get a 100% traditional Oktoberfest beer is to travel to Munich during the two-week festival and try the beer for yourself!

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a great place to start if you’re looking to try out an Oktoberfest-style beer. Every year, Sierra Nevada’s marketed “Oktoberfest” is a little bit different because they partner with a different German beer company to produce a collaboration beer. While the beer is always in the German style, the different recipes create something new and unique year-to-year. For 2019, Sierra Nevada partnered with Bitburger Braugruppe, a macro-brewery out of the Rheinland of Germany. At 6% ABV, this Märzen is traditionally amber in color, malty, and has a touch of sweetness to the overall flavor. Pilsner and Munich malts along with Bitburger Siegelhopfen, Magnum, and Loral hops are used. It’s an easy drinking, yet solid Märzen, and it’s easy to obtain too! Because it’s mass-produced, you can find this both on tap all over Syracuse (The Blue Tusk, Alto Cinco, Trappers, etc.,) and also in all of your local supermarkets and convenience stores. And, for all you beer-nerds out there, just because you can find it in all 50 states, don’t pass up this brew if you have the opportunity to try it, as you will not be disappointed.

In the Syracuse area, we are also privy to the German-style Biergarten Wolff’s which always has a great selection of German beers on tap. Lagers, Märzens, & Dunkels (Oh, My!) from German breweries Spaten, Hofbräu, and Paulaner to name a few. In addition, they always have rotating drafts of seasonal brews, local beers and ciders and several bottled choices as well. It’s also a great place to catch a soccer game (the other football) if you’re into that.

For those of you interested in Oktoberfest without the option to travel overseas, there are always several festivals in and around the CNY area to take part in during the months of September and October.

The German American Society of CNY is hosting their 59th Annual Syracuse Bavarian Oktoberfest on Friday October 4th (3pm to 9:30pm) through Saturday October 5th (11am to 10pm) at Lewis Park in Minoa. At this time-honored celebration, you are able to partake in a little bit of Bavarian celebration with traditional German food, beer, and music. With free parking and free admission, bring the whole family! They will be having a Stein hoisting contest, vendors, and even a children’s area with face painting. Dressing in traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls is encouraged!

On Friday, October 4th from 6-9pm, the 5th Annual European Beer Tour takes place at the Syracuse Ukrainian National Home. Tickets are $30-$45/ticket and can be purchased online or at the door. Yo

r ticket includes your admission, a sample of each featured beer, and a souvenir sampling glass for you to take home at the end of the night. Hot pretzels and other pub food is available for purchase. The brews available to sample will be vast and will include several countries throughout Europe – traditional Pilsners to dark stouts and so much more in between.

Syracuse’s Inner Harbor Hoptober Fest 2019 is on Saturday, October 5th from noon to 11pm and will feature seasonal fall beers and craft beers courtesy of TJ Sheehan Distributers. $5 is the admission price. A wide-selection of food vendors and food trucks will be available on-site as well, along with plenty of live music and entertainment. You’ll also have the opportunity to check out the new Iron Pier Apartments in the same area. A portion of the proceeds from the day’s events will benefit On My Team 16, which is an organization “dedicated to enriching the lives and experiences of pediatric oncology patients, families and caregivers through athletics.” (Beer for a great cause? Sign me up!)

Buried Acorn in Syracuse is also hosting a weekly event on Thursdays – “Stein Night, All Day” – where you bring your own stein from home and they’ll fill it (up to 1 Liter!) with their Heartwork Kellerbier for 8 bucks! (Thirsty Thursday really DID just get better.) This brew was made in collaboration with Woodland Farm Brewery out of Marcy, NY and features an unfiltered lager with Vienna and Munich malts, subtle hops, and has a bright orange hue.

In addition, there are several Oktoberfest and Autumn celebrations throughout the early part of October from the Buffalo area, throughout several CNY villages, up to the Adirondacks and down the Hudson Valley into NYC.

Hope to see you all out and about this fall season! PROST!!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!