Here's today's column, also available at The Star's Web site, here.
Pitcher This: Festival walks a stein line to honor beer
As far as I know, there is no one, internationally recognized day to celebrate beer.
Any of the 16-or-so days of Oktoberfest might make a good candidate. But why not celebrate them all?
The two-week-plus festival is a holdover from 1810, when Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen got hitched and threw a big party on Oct. 12, followed by a horse race on the 17th.
Their subjects had such a good time, they partied again the next year, and the next. By 1819, the town fathers figured they had a good thing on their hands. To make sure it kept happening every year, they took over the organizing, and except for during the occasional world war there's been a party ever since.
Beer entered the picture in 1818, according to the city of Munich, and quickly began competing with the horse race as the main attraction. This is Germany we're talking about, after all.
These days, things get going in late September, and wrap up on the first Sunday in October, so much of Oktoberfest often doesn't actually happen in October. Munich now bills Oktoberfest as the world's largest folk festival, with an estimated 6.5 million visitors in 2006, who drank about 1.8 million gallons of beer.
Meanwhile, cities around the globe have adopted Munich's spirit, throwing Oktoberfests of their own. There are big celebrations in Kitchener, Ontario; Blumenau, Brazil; and in Cincinnati. There are smaller Oktoberfests in towns everywhere, especially where there's a concentration of German-descended residents.
But not here.
Despite the long presence of Fort McClellan, which brought to town many soldiers who'd served in Germany, and perhaps brought brides back with them, we don't have a fall festival to celebrate Bavarian-style.
Sure, you could drive to Huntsville for the Army-sponsored Oktoberfest at Redstone Arsenal, and with that city's most famous resident, German-born rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, lending an air of authenticity, it might be worth it. But their festival this year was held Sept. 13-16. Or you could head to Cullman, founded in 1873 as a colony for German immigrants. The party there begins Sunday and runs through Oct. 7. But this column hesitates to endorse any Oktoberfest in a dry county.
Besides, it would just be nice to enjoy a bright autumn day under a tent, say somewhere on McClellan, with a tall glass of weizenbier in one hand and a bratwurst in the other.
Until that day comes, you might celebrate Oktoberfest at home with one of these admittedly American brews, both available here:
Michelob Marzen — Anheuser-Busch has developed this version of a beer traditionally brewed for Oktoberfest. The style is a sweetly malted lager with a medium body.
Blue Moon Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale — Coors is cashing in on the popularity of its blue-labeled interpretation of a Belgian witbier by introducing a rotation of seasonals, including this autumn version flavored with pumpkin.