Is Oktoberfest Over?

by Bob Sparrow

Damas & Herr Sparrow

Officially, yes! But you may not have missed it. To be clear, Oktoberfest is over in Germany, not due to the time difference, but rather the tradition of the world’s largest Volkfest, which is held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, from mid-September to the first weekend in October; so it’s mostly a ‘Septemberfest’. We Americans, believing that Oktoberfests should be in October, have prolong the beer drinking and chicken dancing until our brains are numb enough to face Halloween.

In a blog last Christmas season I mentioned the world’s oldest brewery, Wiehenstephan, also in Bavaria, Germany, which started brewing in 1040 (I think of it every tax season), but today I’m not interested in the oldest beer, I’m interested in the BEST German beer. So I Googled ‘Best German Beer’ and what do you know, Weihenstephan Hefe came up. Note to seniors – you CAN be the oldest and still be the best!

Surprisingly Germany ranks 4th in the list of countries with the best beer. Here is the ranking of the Top 5 (according to my Google search), with which I take exception:

  1. Denmark   4. Germany     3. United Kingdom     2. United States     1. Belgium

The blind beer tasting lineup

Belgium did not surprise me as the country with the best beer, however the U.S. as #2 was a shocker, as well as the absence of Japan and Mexico among the leaders. The ranking made me wonder if the judges may have had too much to drink by the time they were selecting the Top 5. On a side note, Ireland disappointedly was ranked #13 – they may not be the best, but I’m guessing they rank near the top of the most beer consumed.

Unsatisfied with the results I found, I decided to run my own, unscientific, tests using some of the local neighborhood reprobates as judges. I just had them blindly taste beers from the Top 5 countries, plus I snuck in one from Japan and one from Mexico.  Country and beers were as follows: Belgium-Stella Artois, Denmark-Carlsberg,,Japan-Sapporo, United Kingdom-Boddingtons, Germany-Wiehenstephan, Mexico-Modelo, United States-Landshark.

Fins to the left

I wanted to first see if our judges, such as they are, could put the beer with the right country, plus I wanted to know their favorite.  Of the 10 judges, five got 5 of the 7 beers matched to the correct countries, and the overall favorite: (drumroll) Landshark!

My beer research continued to find that there is no nationally produced beer that ranks amongst the leader in America. Bud Lite is America’s best selling beer, not best tasting, that title is harder to find as the best tasting American beers come from small craft brewers all over the county. So what states have the best craft beer you ask? Here’s the Top 5 states:

                         5. Massachusetts   4. Michigan    3. California   2. Colorado   1. Oregon

Oregon actually has a craft beer trail called ‘Beer 101 Trail’, not because it’s for beginners, but rather it follows Highway 101 up the Oregon coast; sounds like a road trip to me!

Pliny the Elder and the Younger

My search for the best tasting (someone had to do it!), actually helped me understand why America is considered by the world as a country with great beer – it just comes in small quantities from those small craft breweries. Judged by beer enthusiasts, as the best in all of the U.S. this year was a beer from Comstock, Michigan called Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, an IPA with a 7% alcohol by volume.  Running a close 2nd was a beer from the Russian River Brewing Company in northern California, called Pliny the Elder, a double IPA beer with an 8% alcohol content.  Pliny the Younger, with a 10.8% alcohol content, is rumored to be a contender in years to come.

So you may have missed Oktoberfest, but now that you know beer from borscht, you are ready for Novemberfest, which should help numb you for the coming Holidaze.


Steins on the Rhein – Rollin’ On The River

by Bob Sparrow

viking     Next Tuesday I will be on the road again, this time to Amsterdam for a Viking River Cruise down the Rhein River to Basal, Switzerland.   Just like prior to leaving for Africa earlier this year, I’m noting here some pre-trip  anxiety .  Prior to Africa I was concerned about everything from getting malaria (we didn’t see a bug the whole time) to being murdered (our guide killed us, in a humorous way), so all my fears were eventually allayed.  But now on the eve of our river cruise, several events have given me pause.

Two couple friends of ours have taken river cruises this year in Europe, the river flooded one couple out and changed their itinerary, and a river lock damaged the aft of the other couple’s boat and they had to stay ashore for three days.  That’s 2-for-2, so it would seem that we could be in for a few surprises.  Here are three of my concerns:

My wife thinks she knows German (she took two years in high school) and I fear that she is going to misspeakriver cruise and get us in the middle of  a Neo-Nazi head-shaving ceremony.

While we thought that October would be a great time to go to Germany to enjoy Oktoberfest, we’ve come to find out that it is mostly in September and will be over two days before we get there, so I fear we’ll get to see the Hungoverfest.

And finally, there is free wine and beer on board for the entire 8 days we’re on the cruise, so someone will probably fall overboard . . . just hope it isn’t me . . . again.

man overStay tuned for the reality of The Rhein River Cruise – or at least reality as I see it, which may be a bubble off plum.

We’re looking to grow our ‘followers’ list, so please help us by ‘subscribing’ in the white box at the top right side of this page.  You then must go to your email and ‘confirm’ your subscription. Then a new blog will come directly to your email address each Monday.    It’s easy and free!  Thank you!!