Oktoberfestbier 2014!

Oktoberfest 2014

Monger and resident Germanophile Katrina dresses up for Oktoberfest!

This past Saturday, September 20th, marked the start of Munich’s most famous festival – Oktoberfest! Sixteen days celebrating Bavarian culture, agriculture, and, of course, BEER.

I’m a bit sad to say that I’ve never really celebrated Oktoberfest. Sure, I’ve had beer in October, and been to October parties, and there was that one kid I knew vaguely in college who flew to Munich for Oktoberfest, but I never really paid much attention to Oktoberfestbier itself.

Traditional Oktoberfestbier is brewed in the Märzen style – named for the month of March. In the days before refrigeration it was nearly impossible for Alpine brewers to make beer in the summer, because of the various airborne microbes that proliferate in the heat. As a result, beer had to be brewed between the months of October and March, and the last batches brewed, which had higher alcohol and malt content to improve preservation, were put into cold-storage in cellars and mountain caves to stretch through the summer.

These beers actually improved and matured while being cellared, conveniently reaching a new peak in October when the hops had mellowed and the malt had become more pronounced. The resulting full-bodied, deep amber beers, with around 5-6% alcohol by volume, were something of a specialty, and when the last of the casks were brought out those folks hanging around had the unlucky task of drinking what was left to make room for the new hop harvest!

That said, there wasn’t actually any beer at the very first Oktoberfest (like many medieval festivals it originally celebrated local agricultural might and a royal wedding), but the timing ensured that didn’t last long. Oktoberfestbier itself also changed. Over the years new developments in brewing technology, and fashions of the times, led to the invention of lighter-bodied (and paler colored) Märzen beers, brewed in the style of “Vienna Lager,” and cellaring went from a necessity to a novelty, with industrialization cutting the typical cellaring time from six months to just over six weeks.

These days only beers brewed in Munich can be officially served at Oktoberfest, but breweries around the world produce their own delicious Bavarian Märzen and Oktoberfest style brews for those of us not flying out for the occasion.


My three Oktoberfestbiers so far this year — Weihenstephaner, Ayinger, and Brocktoberfest

So far this year I’ve had two classics – the lighter-bodied Weihenstephaner Oktoberfestbier, which is brewed in the world’s oldest brewery, as well as the perhaps more traditional and much maltier Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen. Weihenstephaner’s light body makes it perfect for this hot-and-then-cold September weather, while Ayinger’s sweet, full-bodied malt would pair wonderfully with seasonal German food. I also grabbed one of our local options, Idle Hands Brocktoberfest, which is almost halfway between the two German beers, smooth but with a much lighter-bodied maltiness and crisp finish.

I’m looking forward to tasting through our other options over the next 12 days! We’ve got Octoberfest lagers from Berkshire Brewing Co. and Left Hand Brewing Co., as well as Jack’s Abby’s Copper Legend and a new, hop-forward Hop Harvest Oktoberfest from Long Trail Brewing Company, just to name a few.

Even though Oktoberfest is largely about beer, no celebration is complete without classic German fare. In addition to our usual rotating selection of fresh pork sausages in the cheese case, I’m excited to grab some of Julie’s Beer Sausage, Weisswurst and Bratwurst, which will be making appearances both in our freezer case over the next few weeks and at our Oktoberfest-themed Barbecue on Saturday October 4th.



The official Oktoberfest schedule of events (in case you make it to Munich this year)

The German Beer Institute‘s overview of Oktoberfestbier styles and origins

BeerAdvocate’s overview of the Märzen/Oktoberfest style


Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also the blog manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

Honeys for Rosh Hashanah

Three different honeys to celebrate Rosh Hashanah

I always look forward to celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a lovely time of year when the weather is just cooling off, fall produce is coming into season and my craving for my grandmother’s brisket is at its highest!

A traditional aspect of Rosh Hashana is enjoying fresh apple slices with honey. The sweetness of this treat represents our hopes for a sweet new year. Since becoming the honey buyer almost 7 years ago, I have taken this tradition a step further by bringing home a selection of my favorite single varietal honeys each year. This year I decided to focus on a selection composed of very distinct honeys with geographic, visual and textural diversity. If the hopes for my new year are proportional to how lovely these honeys are, then my year is looking bright!

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Pascal Pibaleau Rosé

Pascal Pibaleau Rosé

Close to the town of Tours in the heart of the Loire Valley, Domaine Pibaleau sits nestled between two of the region’s historic Châteaux: Azay-le-Rideau and Langeais. The 12 hectare Domaine Pibaleau has been family owned and operated since 1886. Here Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Grolleau are grown on organically farmed sandy-clay soil near the banks of the river L’Indre. Domaine Pibaleau has organic certification, and they work according to biodynamic principles.

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Roman Wood-Fired Oven

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In my everlasting quest to make the perfect pizza, it’s always been about the dough.  I’ve made hundreds of pies, each time striving for the balance of good structure, depth of flavor, and workability.  The outcomes have ranged from revelatory to disastrous, but I’m assured—save a few singed eyebrows and flour-coated jeans—that no one has been harmed by the experimentation.  From cracker-thin, high-gluten crusts with a gratifying crunch to pillowy, pliable pies that rise and fall with the heat, the permutations of just a few simple ingredients are seemingly endless.

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Daphnis and Chloe Herbs: Bay Leaf, Oregano Taygetus, Thyme Blossoms, Greek Mountain Tea

Daphnis and Chloe Herbs:
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When I first became the spice buyer at Formaggio Kitchen I was so excited to delve deeper into the incredible, international world of spices. However, the more I traveled, learned and sampled, the more I realized that the spice industry is primarily made up of large producers more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of their product. It became a personal mission of mine to find small scale producers that match the quality-driven philosophy we hold so dear at Formaggio Kitchen. While it was difficult at first, I soon found equally passionate folks dedicated to producing spices of the highest quality. Slowly but surely our selection has transformed, with each little package of herb or spice now representing a regional culinary history and, more often than not, the unique and inspiring story of a passionate producer.

One such story is that of Daphnis and Chloe. Aptly named after a second century Greek love story, this small company introduces customers to Greece’s culinary history through their rare and unique varieties of indigenous herbs and spices. The Greek Archipelago provides natural isolation, allowing for different, ancient varieties of herbs and spices to develop unique characteristics particular to one island alone. Evangelia, the founder of Daphnis and Chloe, first captured my attention with some of the most remarkable oregano that I have ever tried. She found them by combing through the many different isles, working with foragers and organic cultivators to source the most extraordinary varieties.

Evangelia tells the store of Daphnis and Chloe best herself:

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Vinho Verde: Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza

Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza

Even though it’s designated as a “Vinho Verde”, the Dom Diogo Padeiro from Quinta da Raza is not green or even white – it’s pink!

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Dizzy feasts on buttercups

Dizzy feasts on buttercups

A cow named Dizzy munches on buttercups, a goat named Isabelle ruminates under the shade of an old oak tree; in Vermont, the rolling green pastures are shadowed only by the cheeses that its distinct flora promotes.

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