We are beyond thrilled to feature photography by Chris Gibisch at The Dram Shop! In addition to his talents behind the lens, Chris is also an accomplished climber and hang glider, which servers as inspiration for his photography! Come check out his work this Friday, October 2nd!
Sunday, September 20th,
We’re featuring six different Oktoberfest Beers on tap with Flights available.
Le Petit is serving German Style Pretzels (paired with mustards!)
Covered Wagon will be parked out front serving German Sausages and Kraut from 4:30-8:30pm.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, a primer on the history of Oktoberfest and it’s beer, and more importantly, the answer to the most burning question in our minds: Why the heck is Oktoberfest in September???
So back in the stone ages when I was just a young duffer, I took a year to travel around europe with a good pal of mine. We saw a lot of europe on that trip and were only shot at with a rifle once which was good because luck can only take you so far. Anyway, we were cruising around in the fall and had Oktoberfest marked down as something that we definitely wanted to see and drink. We wound our way through the alps of Austria and rolled into Munich on october 15th. We were somewhat surprised when we did not see the expected jubilant frolicking, dancing, and celebrating of Oktoberfest. Upon asking a friendly shop owner where we could find Oktoberfest, we were told that we were in the exact right location, but that it had ended two weeks ago. As it turned out, Oktoberfest runs from Sept 19th through the first Sunday of October (and this schedule varies slightly from year to year). Although we were sorely disappointed in our crack research and scheduling team, we luckily were able to find a fine establishment in which to drown our sorrows. So note to self: If you want to go to Oktoberfest in Munich, it’s better to schedule it for the end of September instead of mid-October.
Now that you’ve suffered through my sob story, here’s a bit of factual information on the subject:
What has become Oktoberfest was first celebrated from October 12th through the 17th in Munich Germany in 1810. The Cause Celeb was the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Terese. Being a friendly couple they invited all of Munich to their little shindig, and a rather good time was had by all. To put an exclamation point on the event, they held horse races on the 17th. The next fall, when everybody started to get really thirsty again, they decided to hold another celebration surrounding the horse races, and Oktoberfest was born.
Throughout the 19th century the festival took on a more carnivalesque character with the addition of a large parade, bowling alleys, swings, and of course, tree climbing. These activities were mainly fueled by delicious and nutritious beer, although occasionally somebody would stop to eat some cured meat product or a strudel.
Sadly, there have been years when Oktoberfest has not been celebrated due to pesky little wars and once in 1853 for a cholera epidemic which killed 3,000 residents of Munich. This has occurred 24 times in the 215 year run that Oktoberfest has been on. We can only assume that on these years the residents of munich found other ways to drink beer.
Speaking of beer drinking, they are somewhat rigid about it in Germany. For instance, there are only six breweries who are permitted to serve beer at Oktoberfest. These breweries must conform to ‘Reinheitsgebot’, or the German Purity Laws for brewing beer which demand that the only the four basic ingredients be used: Hops, Malted Barley, Yeast, and of course water. They also must be located within the city limits of Munich. Here are the six:
For various reasons, we have access to only one of these beers for our Oktoberfest on Sunday. We’ll have the Hofbräu Oktoberfest beer on tap as well as other German, domestic, and local Oktoberfest beers!
Ever wonder what that sideways keg and crazy tangle of beer tubes is that you see at the front of The Dram Shop every weekend? Well, you’ve come to the right place! What we’ve got here is a bonafide explainer on what is called Cask Beer.
Cask-Conditioned beer, which is unfiltered and unpasteurized, is served from a traditional cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide (CO2) pressure. What is a cask you ask? A cask is simply a term for a container that has been used dating back to Babylon in 424 BC, where there is reference to ‘casks of wine’. During the Iron Age, Northern European Celts developed wooden casks held together by a band of metal. This basic design is still used today, although most casks of beer are now stainless steel.
By the 17th Century, bottled beer was commonplace, although expensive. The bottles were mostly consumed by elites who eschewed the common pubs for their rowdy publicans and tumultuous environment. For commoners however, it was off to the pub for a bit of the pint, and the beer that was drunk came right off of a cask. As beer styles became lighter and lower in alcohol, it became more of a challenge to keep them preserved in a cask. Louis Pasteur’s sterilization coupled with more modern refrigeration methods certainly helped in warmer climates, but in many cooler parts of the north, traditional cask beer remained largely unchanged.
Okay, let’s back up for a minute and go over some of the things that make cask beer unique. A cask is quite a bit different from a keg. First off, there is no downtube ensuring every last drop is used. Casks are designed to capture yeast and other large particles in the bottom as the beer is poured off. Kegged beer is filtered, fined, or centrifuged, making this action superfluous. Secondly, kegs use ‘head pressure’ provided by CO2 being pushed onto the beer to force it out of the faucet.
Cask beer is served one of two ways. If the cask is on a counter or bar top, a spigot is used to simply let gravity fill the glass. If the cask is stored below, a ‘beer engine’ is used to suction the beer up and into a waiting glass. In this instance, casks would traditionally be kept in a cellar, remaining at 55 degrees, the traditional temperature that cask beer is served at. At The Dram Shop, we keep our casks in our cask case at the front of the shop, which is chilled down to our lovely 55 degrees.
So that mostly covers the hardware part. Next, let’s talk about the beer itself. By the 1970s, the majority of draught beer was artificially carbonated, pasteurized, and filtered. That means that the beer is brewed and fermented normally. Then, when the beer is ready, it is heated to 161 degrees, run through a filter that removes all of the large particle proteins and sugars, and force carbonated with CO2 to augment any shortcomings. You end up with a clean beer that has an extended shelf life before turning sour. In order to make cask beer, you would capture beer in a cask after primary fermentation. At this point additional yeast and sugar or some kind of sweetener are added for a secondary fermentation inside the cask. Finings are added to assist in the dropping out of the yeast as well. Often times brewers add adjuncts at this point, such as hops, fruit, or other flavor enhancing ingredients. All of these additions stay in the cask, making for a cloudy appearance and often times a bigger mouth feel and more complex flavor profile.
In 1973, The ‘Campaign For Real Ale’(CAMRA) was started and a movement back towards the roots of cask beer had begun in earnest. The qualifying definition is: “beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentations in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.”
We love serving cask-conditioned beer at the shop and tap a new cask every Friday afternoon! The casks are from local brewers at Big Sky Brewing Co. and KettleHouse Brewing Co. We get to help come up with some crazy recipes that are fun to drink!
This Friday, we will be tapping a ‘Cherry-Chocolate Moose Drool’ that ought to be pretty delicious! Come see us this weekend and we’ll have fun trying some cask-conditioned beer together!