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Eric Mihan Eric Mihan
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The Wrath of Grapes - The wrath of Oktober

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Break out your lederhosen, kids; it's time for Oktoberfest. Yes, now. In September. Look it up. Ja, Bavaria's annual folk festival (the largest in the world; nothing in the U.S. even comes close to the 7 million-strong crowd that will converge this year on Munich) celebrates its 201st birthday this year, and it comes as world interest in beer is reaching fever pitch.

For the uninitiated, the year 1810 saw the marriage of Bavaria's Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and to celebrate, the royals held public horse races on the 43-acre field where the festival still takes place. The following year an agricultural element was added to the festival, though in typical Bavarian style, the focus of the event gradually shifted to the food 'n fun aspect that we identify with the fest today.

1896 saw the conversion of the beer booths to full-fledged beer halls, complete with large communal tables and local music. The halls are run by Munich's breweries, and each has a certain unique flair that ranges from uber-traditional to youthful and trendy. Much effort is made to keep the good times just that: good. After all, when Oktoberfest beers are typically at least 2 percent higher in alcohol than average and they are served only in 1 liter steins (called Krugs) ... you can imagine that more than your fair share of rowdy Saupreusse (clueless tourists) end up on the beer-covered ground. But thankfully, the festival boasts a large medical staff (and lots of urinals) for those that imbibe too heavily.

Can't get to Munich? Thankfully, central Maine offers lots of good knock-offs that are a bit easier to fit into your schedule, the largest and most popular being the annual fest in Southwest Harbor in early October.

Five things I think and drink:

1) Good beer always tastes better when shared with friends.

2) Even mediocre beer tastes better when shared ... but why do that to yourself, or your friends?

3) Want a wonderful, inexpensive alternative to Sauv Blanc? A white from the Gascony region of France, made with grapes they distill into Cognac, is a sure-fire winner!

4) John Walker Blue just ain't worth the money. Unless you bought it ... in which case, I'll be right over.

5) "Off-vintages" can be some the sweetest deals around. If a good producer made it, you can typically be assured of at least getting your money's worth.

Last modified on Thursday, 01 December 2011 10:09


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