Sunday, September 30, 2007

Michael Jackson, Na Zdraví!

I'm not going to make it out to a pub this evening to drink a toast to the great Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, so I'll just have recognize him here.

For those who don't know, MJ passed away last month, and his many fans have set this day aside as a day of remembrance.

In the Czech Republic, we say, Na Zdraví. That's NAHZ-drah-vee to you Mr. Jackson.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oktoberfest & the Dirndl

Oktoberfest just would not be Oktoberfest without the ladies and their dirndls. Long ago, the dirndl was the customary dress of the working class, but by the late 19th century, dirndls had become fashionable in Bavaria and Austria. Today, dirndls are hardly everyday dress for women, but it is quite common for women to wear them not only to Oktoberfest, but for special occasions of all sorts. (A woman wearing a dirndl has been likened to a Scotsman wearing a kilt.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Oktoberfest Barmaids

Oktoberfest simply would not be Oktoberfest without the dirndl clad barmaids. And I must say that these women are absolutely amazing. These women probably serve 1000s of the 1-liter sized beers every day during the course of the festival, and they are able to do it with a smiling face and pleasant attitude.

Could I carry all these glasses in one shot? Methinks not.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ludwig & Therese: Oktoberfest Royalty

Oktoberfest, of course, traces it origins to the public nuptial celebrations of the Bavarian Prince Ludwig and his bride Therese. They were wed on 12 October, 1810; and the festival that followed lasted 5 days, climaxing in a horserace, which proved to be so exciting that another festival and horserace was scheduled for the following year. (It wasn’t until 1896 that brewers became an integral part of the Oktoberfest celebration.)

But who were these people? Ludwig and Therese. Well, I can’t say how they felt about beer, but Ludwig was certainly what could be called a lover of beauty, be it in art, architecture or women. During his reign as King of Bavaria (1825-1848) he commissioned many new buildings for Munich, many of which are considered to be the most beautiful in Munich today. He was also the patron of the artist Josef Stieler. One of their more ambitious projects was the “The Gallery of Beauty,” which is comprised of portraits of Bavarian women whose beauty Ludwig considered worthy of memorializing. Ludwig is also well known for his many amorous love affairs, frequently with women in the highest reaches of Bavarian society. Personally, I’m struck by how much he reminds me of Hugh Hefner.

Without digging into the German history section of the library, I can’t report too much about Therese. Though I can guess that she was an unhappy woman. I doubt she shared her husband’s joie de vivre attitude, and she appears to me (in her portrait) to be a stern woman. I don’t think it would be much of a jump to conclude that theirs was a passionless marriage, the result of political expediency. Which, for me, makes if all the more ironic that the site of Oktoberfest, the Theresienwiese, is named in her honor. I’m pretty sure Ludwig would love the modern Oktoberfest, but I somehow think that Therese would disapprove.

A note: Ludwig should not be confused with his more famous grandson, Ludwig II, the truly eccentric king who nearly bankrupted his family by building private castles all over Bavaria and sponsoring the work of composer Richard Wagner.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Oktoberfest 2007: Let the Beer Drinking Begin

The world's original Oktoberfest takes place in the Bavarian city of Munich. Technically, the tradition dates back to the very public wedding celebration held to celebrate the marriage of the Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. Not necessarily by design, but by happenstance, annual celebrations evolved over the years into what we now know as Oktoberfest.

The first Oktoberfest that we would recognize dates to 1896, the year in which the famed beer palaces were added to the celebration. There are 13 local breweries in Munich, and all of them host a "palace" featuring their best brews.

Friday, September 21, 2007


The Moosehead story starts back in 1867, in the town of Turtle Dove, Nova Scotia, when a housewife by the name of Susannah Oland decided she would try her hand at home-brewing in an effort to entertain some family and friends. Her first brew was a dark ale and proved to be very popular with nearly all who had an opportunity to drink it. John Oland, the husband, encouraged his wife's efforts, and soon after the couple began selling Susannah's beer commercially.

Their first real brewery was opened in 1869 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Shortly there after, however, John Oland tragically died, leaving Susannah Oland to manage the brewery by herself; her eventual success would make her one of the most successful businesswomen of the 19th century.

During WWI, the Halifax brewery, which was located near a military munitions depot, was destroyed beyond repair when there was an accident at the depot, which killed 2000 and destroyed everything in the area.

In 1917, the present Moosehead brewery in St. John, New Brunswick opened. And today, the brewery is still owned and operated by the Oland family (the 6th generation), making it one of the most successful independent breweries in North America.

To read my complete review of Moosehead Lager at Helium, click HERE>>>

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Blatz from the Past

Valentin Blatz was the son of a prominent brewer in Germany, who, as a young man, decided to make his own way in the world in America. He arrived in 1848, and by 1851, he had settled in Milwaukee, WI and had married the widow of a Milwaukee brewer. The Blatz brewing empire was about to begin.

By all accounts, Blatz was an innovative and successful brewer, becoming one of America's first nationally known brands. We can only guess, but it's likely that Blatz was one of America's better beers in the 19th century.

Blatz was able to survive Prohibition, but it was clearly not the same brewery and simply could not compete in 1950s America. Blatz went out of business in 1959, and its assets, including its name, were purchased by the Pabst Brewing Company.

Today, Blatz is owned by Pabst, but brewed under contract by Miller.

Which makes one think, . . . if the Milwaukee Brewers baseball stadium, which is called Miller Park, was constructed 100 years earlier, would it have been called Blatz Park?