Prost! Slainte! Saluti! Cheers!!
However you choose to raise your glass, there’s nothing quite like the opportunity the month of October provides to sit back, gather with friends, and celebrate the onset of fall. It helps, of course, that a whole lot of these celebrations center around a nice mug of malted, hoppy brew. Because in case you didn’t realize it…It’s Octoberfest season, y’all!!
I was lucky enough to spend a day with my parents at one of my favorite places – The Frontier Culture Museum right here in Staunton, VA. Annually, the museum holds an Octoberfest within the grounds of it’s living history museum with a variety of programs, live demonstrations, authentic German songs and games for the kiddos. But who am I kidding, I went for the music, food, and psst… the BEER.
Our nation is steeped – brewed if you will – in cultures brought to us from countries all over the world. While there may be critics who might say versions of Octoberfest like this one are Americanized and inferior, they’re done in the spirit of fun, and more importantly in a sense of tradition that attempts to honor our predecessors.
So folks, enjoy a few pics of my fastest ever blog post – fast primarily because I didn’t have the time to learn as much as I’d like about beer-making – but also fast because I’d like any readers out there to learn from me and get out there and see what’s going on this fall while you still can.
And with that… off we went to the FCM’s German farm where they were doing an old-timey, authentic 17th century demonstration of beer making.
Here’s my 5 minute run down.
Step one: The barley is roasted to bring out the flavor. The table displayed a few variations of caramelization options for the grain….
Step two: Simmer the toasted barely in a kettle for a while… several hours? (Idk.. what’d she say? Where’s mom?)
Step three: add hops to the simmering brew. Hops – a flower – not only give beer some of it’s characteristic flavor, but also provide a bit of oil to the brew that acts as a preservative. (Who knew?!)
Step 4: add yeast and cask! For how long? Uhhh… sorry. Missed it.
Pretty sure I’ve missed a WHOLE lot of detail in these steps… But in my defense, my parents are now in their 70’s and had wondered off… or perhaps I had wondered off?? Whatever…. we were separated. I dunno.. I had a few beers before we got to the demonstration so details are hazy. Blame the beer garden!
Regardless, I was amazed by the process. The complexities of timing, cooking temperatures, learning the flavors of the grain, enhancing those flavors with flowers, and figuring out the carbonation process inside a wooden barrel. So cool….
And my “did you know” moment came when we were given a brief history of why beer making is so synonymous with fall: apparently brew makers “of yore” were prohibited from brewing during the summer months to conserve fire wood, so when those chilly temps rolled in – out came the barley and hops!
Stable Craft Brewery – Frontier Lager
Speaking of brew masters – the honored guest during the museum’s Octoberfest was a local Virginia brewery called Stable Craft Brewery. They served lager inspired by 18th century German beermaking methods and it was fantastic! And for any of you home brewers, they shared the recipe too! (Sorry for it’s crumpled appearance, though. The poor paper had a rough day being stuffed in my purse and dragged around all day!)
The Sauerkraut Band
Before I sign off, I feel that I have to give a giant shout out to this amazing band of folks who made up a good portion of the entertainment in the beer garden. With a name like The Sauerkraut Band, you might guess you’re in for a bit more fun that just your regular rendition of Roll Out the Barrel. These folks – and I think there were like 300 of them – were wonderful. Blasting those horns, quenching their parched throats with a cold stein, and just overall killing it in leiderhosen.
So cheers to them!!