Oktoberfest at Hook Norton Brewery

Oktoberfest 570Oktoberfest is the traditional funfair held in Munich, Bavaria – Germany, confusingly the 16 day festival actually starts starts in the mid-September, simply because the nights are longer and slightly warmer.  Originally, the festival started as some serious wedding celebrations for Crown Prince Ludwig’s 1810 wedding to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, which gradually grew into the modern merry drinking fest.

Now the festival tankard has been taken up across the globe and we headed to The Hook Norton Brewery, Oxfordshire, for our taste of the Bavarian festivities. Two long tables packed with precisely 60 chaps and four female representatives lined the Brewery’s cobbled cellar floor.  The Brewery has been making beer since 1856 and as we ambled down Brewery Lane you could understand why Oktoberfest had been moved to September nights.  A band struck up, unfortunately not playing the classic Mario Lanza classic ‘Drink, Drink, Drink…let the toast start’.

Oktoberfest 565Each person is provided with two bottles of beer, a hot dog made using the beer from the brewery, and a couple of huge pretzels. Now to the important stuff… the beer!

The beers on offer were a game of two halves; the first two lagers were your typical Oktoberfest Märzen style, one being Spaten Oktoberfestbeir, the other being Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier. The Spaten was a bit lacking in the flavour department compared to the Hofbrau which was a great example of that type of beer; the Germans, are for me, the superior lager brewers on the continent with their years of tradition dating back to the country’s oldest brewery  in 1040 AD. I am particularly partial to a  Augustiner Bräu Lagerbier Hell.Oktoberfest 599

These typical Oktoberfest beers used to be solely brewed in March or Märzen, as before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. The beer was kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in colour with a medium to high alcohol content.
The other two beers were both Weissbier (wheat beer) made by the ever dependable Schneider Weisse. The first being the  Tap 1 Mein Blondes, which was the lighter of the two, Jess had this one, I managed to get a hearty quaff; it tasted pretty good, although I did get that “soapy” after taste that can come with some Weisse beers.
The second was marvellous Tap 5 Schneider & Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse, at 8.5%abv this was more of a sipper than the others; the first thing I noticed was the fantastic smell of hops and yeast, the taste was ‘bready’, citrus, with a great balance of hops. This has since become a firm favourite being in the more robust end of the Weisse beer spectrum, however if you fancy something on the lighter more Banana/toffee end I would recommend Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier a classic of the style which is also widely available in most supermarkets.
Get the Knack
If you’re interested in heading to Hook Norton Brewery for events – book early! We stuggled to wangle our two tickets.

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