October! Oktoberfest! Time for a party!
Karl Strauss was my first local beer, way back when I first moved to town, so I put in a call to the brewery’s PR manager, Melody Daversa (858-273-2739, karlstrauss.com). “We have our Karl Strauss Oktoberfest. It’s a beer that gets lagered, so it takes a little bit longer to make than an ale. Lagering means that it’s fermented at a cooler temperature, with a different kind of yeast. You get a very clean, crisp beer with not a lot of fruity flavors. More toasted and nutty....
“We start making it six to eight weeks before we release it. We have it on tap here at the restaurant: 16-ounce pints are $4 during happy hour [4:30–6 p.m.], and $5.95 at all other times. We sell at retail accounts like BevMo and Costco [suggested retail for six-pack, $8.99]. And places like the Kensington Grill and PB Bar & Grill have bought kegs from us to offer it on tap.”
On the food front, Karl Strauss restaurants (multiple San Diego locations) suggest pairing Oktoberfest with its Forest Mushroom Flatbread topped with smoked Gouda, various mushrooms, truffle oil, beer onions, roasted red peppers, basil and arugula ($9.95).
“Dr.” Bill Sysak, beverage supervisor at Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido (760-471-4999, stonebrew.com), explained that Oktoberfest beers are made in the style of a German Märzen — “an amber lager with a malty mouthfeel and a dry finish. The roasted malt character pairs perfectly with grilled, roasted, or smoked dishes. Things like the bratwurst, roast oxen, and smoked fish that are traditionally served in Munich during the Oktoberfest. Even though Stone Brewing Co. doesn’t make a Märzen-style beer, several of our fine ales — especially Stone Smoked Porter and Arrogant Bastard Ale — have similar roasted malt characteristics.” Prices at the Stone Company Stores in Escondido and South Park: Stone Smoked Porter, $4 for 22-ounce bottle, $9 for two-liter growler fill. Arrogant Bastard Ale, $4.25 for 22-ounce bottle, $10 for growler fill.
Jason Stockberger has been the brewmaster at Rock Bottom downtown (619-231-7000, rockbottom.com) for eight years now. “We make our beer here in-house,” he said, “and we just tapped our Rocktoberfest. It took me about five weeks to brew. It’s a Märzen lager, and it’s malty and sweet and toasty. The flavors come from the different types of roasted grains that I use, as well as the blend of hops and the different sorts of yeasts. I get all of them from all over the world.... We have it on tap: a half-liter is $5.50, and I have a monstrous one-liter mug for $11. I also have a 64-oz. growler for $14, and kegs to go for $140.”
Stockberger assured me that his Rocktoberfest “also complements the foods we’re rolling out for Oktoberfest. We have a platter with three kinds of sausage plus sauerkraut mashed potatoes [$15.95]. We have schnitzel [$13.95]. And we have a Rocktoberfest sampler combo: a pretzel with three different kinds of homemade mustard, a knackwurst corn dog, and corned beef Reuben rolls ($13.95).”
Over at Lost Abbey in Escondido (800-918-6816), Sage Osterfeld was getting ready for High Tide — the brewery’s wet-hopped IPA. “We go to Yakima, Washington on the day of the hop harvest there, harvest the hops, drive them down to California, and then spend three continuous days brewing with those fresh-picked hops. Because it’s wet-hopped, it’s much fruitier and bolder than a beer made with the pellet-sized stuff. It’s a natural balance to spicy sausage like kielbasa or Munich-style wieners. But it’s only available for a very limited time; it’ll be gone by mid-October. We’re distributed by Stone Brewing Co., so you can get our beers anywhere you get Stone beers, and you can buy from our tasting room in San Marcos: $6.99 for a 22-ounce bottle, five-gallon kegs for $80, half-barrels for $180.”
Finally, down at San Diego Brewing Co. in Mission Valley (619-284-2739, sandiegobrewing.com), Karen assured me that she would have at least one domestic Oktoberfest beer, “like a Sam Adams or a Karl Strauss,” and at least one imported, “maybe a Spaten Munich. Our house beers are ales, as opposed to lagers or pilsners. Domestics will start at $4.75 and go as high as $6.”