What would Fall be without German beer? Let me tell you—someplace dark, strict, and terrible. Sure, the whole lack of hops thing coupled with Reinheitsgebot does create some problems, but without the larger benevolence that is the dream of Oktoberfest, we’d be relegated to some sort of creepy Amish nightmare world, shunning technology and recounting previous days of Rumspringa as the only recourse to staving off the vengeance of assaulting our fellow Amish and shaving off their beards. Oh wait, that already happened. My bad. Plus, all of us non-Amish still have to deal with the aches and pains of adult responsibility, technologically driven or no. But you know what separates us from the Amish, don’t you? That’s right, my friend. Beer. Sweet, delicious beer. Which brings me back to Germany. So thanks, Germany, from keeping us from ending up like the Amish. Or the Shakers. Or even (and more importantly) the Mormons. I wish I could lay claim to beer being the solution to all of our fundamentalist religious problems, but that might be going too far. But it would make a good start, wouldn’t it?
Weihenstephaner Festbier is our fifth beer from Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan in Freising, Germany. We already sampled the magic of Korbinian, Hefe Weissbier and Dr. Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. Festbier pours a clear gold with a brilliant white head that slowly reduces to a ring; the nose features bread crust and dough malt aromas coupled with a light hop bitterness dancing in the background. There is also an ephemeral candy sweetness in the nose that took me most of the beer to pin down. Flavors start soft and gentle on the palate; the carbonation is there, but more as a rounding characteristic. Malt flavors include bread and a slight graininess; the hop bitterness manifests in the middle, dropping off before the finish and reappearing as a palate sensation of lingering bitterness at the conclusion of the beer. There is a slight rise in sweetness in the middle right before the carbonation strips the flavor away, leaving a graininess and huskiness that melds with the bitterness of the finish. There is a touch more malt character than some of the other Weihenstephan beers, but it still has a delightful balance—the traditional hop character of a lager beer lurks behind the malt character, asserting itself as the beer starts to warm. But the overall character of the beer is clean and crisp—it says drink me on a brisk fall afternoon with the smell of dead leaves and change in the air, and I’ll remind you that the pleasure of seeing and experiencing the closing of the year connects you to the natural rhythms of the world. And while that may seem like a lot for a beer to do, maybe you need to get the hell out of the house and drink more beer outside by a fire with the crisp bite of fall in air to understand what the hell I’m talking about. Either that, or start planning now for your mid-life crisis so that the fireworks of your lost detachment can outshine the futility consuming your life. Here’s a better plan—get out there and live.
From the Weihenstephan website: “A full rich bodied, hoppy, seasonal lager. Especially brewed for the Festbier season. This beer truly represents the Bavarian way of celebrating. Deep gold color, great mouthfeel and lots of flavor. Prost!”