A Few Thoughts on Oktoberfest

We’re all aware that different times of the year can evoke different emotions in people. Take me. I love winter. Love winter. The cold breeze, the feeling of death that constantly hangs in the air. It’s just such an inspiring time of year. I also love the 4th of July. Mostly because everyone shoots off fireworks in celebration of my birthday on the 6th. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Well, that could also be the mid-summer Texas heat. Whatever.

But there’s one time of year that sits above all others. It’s got everything: the chill of winter mixed with the warmth of beer, the yummyness of sausage mixed with the smells of autumn.

I’m talking about Oktoberfest. Or, since we live in South Texas, Wurstfest. The air is just beginning to cool. The wind zips into your nostrils, carrying with it the smells of carnival foods. And people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds get together to wear really, really silly outfits and hats.

For the uninitiated, Wurstfest is a two-week-long ‘salute to sausage.’

No, no. Not like that. We live in a highly German-settled area of Texas, see, and ‘wurst’ in German means ‘sausage.’ Therefore, ‘Wurstfest’ = ‘Sausagefest.’ That’s right. Sausagefest. To purveyors of cured pork products mixed with spices sealed in intestine, this is Mecca. Now that I write that, I realize that the metaphor is in extremely poor taste, but it works, damnit, so I’m leaving it.

There’s sausage stuck through a stick with a bun on the bottom to soak up all the juicy fat that drips down the side as you bite into it. There’s sausage and saurkraut so saur that your lips will pucker just at the smell of it. There’s bratwurst, knockwurst, weisswurst, and bockwurst. There’s every kind of wurst you can imagine.

And then there’s the beer. Oh the beer. There’s nothing in the world that goes with sausage better than an ice-cold, whistle-wetting beer. And we all know what kind of beer is the best for a mid-November celebration of meats: Oktoberfest.

November? Yes. Once again, we’re down here in South Texas. Things are still a little bit warm in October, even into November if I’m being honest, so if we celebrated Oktoberfest actually in October, we’d have a lot of dehydrated, sausage-drunk and beer-full men, women, and children passing out all over the New Braunfels waterworks. And nobody wants that. So we hold it in November. So sue us.

“Reed,” you’re saying to yourself, “get to the point. I’ve got shit to do today and all you’re doing is making me want beer and sausage.”

This is my point: if we don’t celebrate Oktoberfest until November, why the hell are we starting to sell Oktoberfest beer in fucking July?

I was perusing the beer aisle of HEB the other day, and lo and behold, what do I see: Alamo Beer’s Oktoberfest, 8 cases of the stuff, already out on display.

Now, when I first laid eyes on this, my heart skipped a beat. “Is it time?” I thought. “It can’t be!” I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. But then I realized the date.

Sure enough, it wasn’t even July 31 yet. It was still July and Alamo had already decided to start distributing their Oktoberfest beer. I was appalled, shocked, and a little bit disgusted. How dare they trick me into thinking that it was actually almost Oktoberfest. How. Dare. They.

And you know what? They’re not the only offenders. Sure enough, in a few weeks time, we can expect to start seeing all sorts of Oktoberfest Lagers gracing our local grocery store’s shelves. Sam Adams, Karbach, Shiner, they’ll all be cranking out their Oktoberfest and feeding into the Okto-braganza that’s been taking over the US in recent years.

My plea to you, beer makers? Please, for the love of all things good and delicious, just wait another damn month. 

I know you’re just trying to cash in on the latest craze. I know you’re just looking for a way to charge a little bit more for your beer and have people buy it. I know you’re just as excited as I am. But please, please just wait until September.

Oktoberfest is supposed to be a special time, one that calls for a special beer. A beer that’s in a class all its own. A beer that takes an amber red color, a rich, spiced flavor, and mixes it with a dry finish to create something that can only mean one thing: winter is coming. When you make and distribute your Oktoberfest in the middle of July, you’re ruining the best part of fall. It’s still 100 degrees outside. It’s not time for Oktoberfest yet. It’s nowhere near time.

We’re not constrained by the same factors they were in the olden days. You can make literally any style of beer you want in any time of the year. You don’t have to start and finish at a specific time just because the ambient temperature tells you to.

So just wait. Wait until that first breeze from the north forces open your brewery doors, whips some spelt into the air, and tenderly caresses your beard. Wait until you start seeing weird guys dressed up in chicken hats and lederhosen jaunting around town. Just let it happen.

Only then will all be right in the universe. Only then will I be happy. Only then will I drink your Oktoberfest.

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