TASTE | Beer + Brewing
O’zapft is! (It’s Tapped)
by Steve Lonsway
Oktoberfest beers are one of the most recognizable seasonal brews. Seeing them on the shelves is an early indication of the fall season nearing. These beers are perfect for the cooling weather as they tend to have a little more alcohol by volume (a.b.v.). The color range is vast, like the setting sun through colored leaves this time of year. They can be golden to reddish brown, depending on the person crafting it.
The flavor profiles of Oktoberfests tend to be a bit sweeter due to the malts utilized. Often toasted malt, caramel, and bread-like characteristics are present. Hops play a decreased role for this style. Bitterness, aroma, and hop flavor are designed to be quite subtle to allow the malts to shine through. A cold fermenting lager yeast brings it all together, but one must have patience – the lager yeast ferments at cooler temperatures, therefore takes longer. When the time comes, the Brewmaster will cool the tanks down even further and allow the beer to maturate over time. Typically, lager styles such as Oktoberfests take more than twice the tank time of a typical ale.
The history of Oktoberfest is fascinating! It is all believed to have started on October 12th, 1810 in Munich, Germany. The town residents of Munich were invited to nearby fields to participate in the celebration of the marriage between Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxa-Hildburghausen. The fields were named Theresienwiese, which translated to “Theresa’s Meadow” in honor of the bride and retains the name today.
To honor this special occasion, the celebration has become an annual affair. In 1950, a new tradition was instituted to start the festival off; a twelve-gun salute at noon then the all-important tapping of the first keg is done by the Mayor of Munich. When that happens, “O’zapft is” is bellowed out, which in Bavarian dialect means “It’s tapped.”
Oktoberfest has been manipulated over time and now runs a 16-day course from late September and ends the first Sunday in October. It is attended by in excess of 6.4 million worldwide visitors who, on average, consume 1.1 liters of beer while there. As customs dictate, only Munich brewed beers are available. Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten are the brewers of the beer you can expect to enjoy at Oktoberfest.
Beer is not the only attraction at the celebration. You’ll also find a wide variety of music, festival rides, games, and food.
With Munich’s Oktoberfest celebration setting the example, many across the globe have joined the fun. Some of the higher attended festivities throughout the world occur in Ontario, Toronto, Brazil, and Montreal. In the U.S., you have Cincinnati and Denver leading the charge. Not to be outdone, Wisconsin throws a few Oktoberfest parties of their own. Find them in La Cross, Milwaukee, New Glarus, and of course, Appleton.
Prost! (Cheers in German)
Beer Dispensing 101
by Steve Lonsway
Beer delivery is essential! As cool as it would be to have your favorite libation brought fresh from your local brewery to your doorstep, it is currently illegal in the state of Wisconsin. So, let’s focus on how your beer is delivered to your glass from the keg or tank.
Several contributing factors will determine how best this task can be achieved. For this article we will focus on the basics of draught (draft) beer systems, rather than the science behind it all.
One of the most important factors will be the distance from the keg to the faucet. This important data point needs to include any elevation changes along the way. At Stone Arch Brewpub, the beer comes from a cooler which is located above the bar. Gravity aids the beer’s trip downwards to the faucet. It is the exact opposite in many local bars. In these scenarios, the beers come from a basement cooler and thus the need to counter the effect of gravity.
Another key ingredient to tap beer success is temperature. Beer systems are designed to maintain the cold temperature of the beer from the source to the faucet. They are not designed to take a warm beer and make it cold. Although these types of systems do exist, they go against every belief a brew master has and won’t be considered a viable option.
Volumes of carbon dioxide in the beer is very important. Not only do you need to make sure the beer is fed adequate pressure to maintain the intended carbonation, but the beer system requires its own pressures. If this sounds like a balancing act, that is exactly what it is! Beer system installers require intense training and diligent attention to details.
To summarize, start off with a cold room for your beer to reside and then apply enough pressure to your keg or tank to maintain the desired carbonation level as well as propelling the beer though the lines to the faucet. Make sure that the beer lines are kept cold all the way from source to faucet. Once this is achieved, it is paramount to keep the entire system cleaned and maintained. Bam!! Cold tap beer exactly how your brewer intended!
Let’s break down the different beer systems one might encounter:
CASK CONDITIONED – The brew master transfers the beer into a cask at precise times during the fermentation process, allowing the beer to naturally carbonate. The beer is drawn from the keg with gravity to the glass or pulled through the lines by a beer engine.
KEG DRAW – Think college parties and red solo cups.
DIRECT DRAW – The faucets and lines are mounted directly into the cooler wall or ceiling. Think tap trailer and kegerators.
SHORT DRAW – Where the beer travels under 25 feet from the cooler. Often this is a forced air system where the cold air from the cooler is forced through an insulated tube that the beer lines travel through. When that air hits the faucet tower, it has a separate return duct to travel back to the cooler.
LONG DRAW – This sends beer through lines that are tightly wrapped around glycol lines. The “bundle” is wrapped with a moisture barrier and insulated. The glycol is chilled and pumped through the appropriate lines allowing for complete surface contact.
Hazy Summer Days
by Steve Lonsway
Give any Brewmaster malt, hops, water and yeast and they will create magic. Some follow the paths of traditional styles and brew them their whole career constantly tweaking the recipes along the way until they achieve what they think is perfection. Others will dabble in all styles, focusing more on the processes of brewing. Then there are the brewers who work diligently on perfecting the profiles of the ingredients. And, of course, you have the brewing guys and gals who are always looking to create the perfect brew to their own liking and sometimes it becomes trendsetting. Often, this is not the original intent, just the result.
For years, Pale Ales dominated the craft market so the consumer’s desire for hop-heavy flavors was obvious. Hop growers got ahead on this trend and started working day and night to create hybrid varieties to please the thirsty hop head masses. Then along comes John Kimmich of The Alchemist in Stowe, Vermont. He brewed a beer called Heady Topper that took New England by storm. With very little marketing, this beer grew in popularity simply by word of mouth. Neighboring breweries caught on to this style and now it can be found throughout New England. Of course, it has not been contained there. Its popularity ravaged through the U.S. like wildfire, so much that the style became officially recognized by the Brewers Association in 2018. This style is known as New England Style IPA, Hazy Pale Ale or Juicy Pale Ale.
The attributes of this style are citrus, floral, and juicy flavors. Although a massive number of hops are dedicated to this style, it’s how, and more importantly when, the hops are added to the brewing process that set it apart. The beer emphasizes the hop aromas rather than the bitterness so that even the faint-of-hop hearts can enjoy it. The beer will appear quite hazy and carry a smooth mouthfeel due to the brewing techniques used and the adjustments of the water chemistry in the process. Also, well thought-out hop additions will really accent the profile to a point of perfection. Certain hops influence this style. Some of the most common varieties used in Juicy Pale Ales are Citra, Amarillo, Galaxy, Mosaic, and El Dorado which all lend citrus and floral aromas in spades.
Although not traditional, adding lactose, fruits and/or spices to a Juicy Pale Ale can increase the creaminess and mouthfeel immensely. This, too, is a current beer trend. These concoctions are named “Milkshake IPAs” and have been getting a lot of play at the retail level.
If you’re salivating, run to your local brewer or retailer and search out a few of these styles. With their continually growing popularity, they will not be hard to find. Your toughest decision is how many to purchase.
Here are Hazys that top my list:
HAZYrdous Pale Ale – Stone Arch Brewpub (not that I am biased), Appleton
Juicy McJuice Face – Appleton Beer Factory, Appleton
Hazy Little Thing – Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, NC & CA
King Sue (Imperial) – Toppling Goliath, Decorah, IA
Juice Cloud – Lion’s Tail Brewing, Neenah, WI