“Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.”
This quote is often attributed as being “an old Chinese proverb,” but another reference I found gets slightly more specific, citing its appearance in a story by W.W. Jacobs published in Harpers in 1902. Unfortunately, Jacobs himself attributes it to the ever popular “Anonymous.”
In any case, when I started getting really interested in craft beer about ten years ago, I wished that one day people would send me free beer.
To “the Chinese” or W.W. Jacobs, or whoever offered this cautionary advice, I say: “Thank you, I was careful.” And today I received a review bottle of Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest, a traditionally-styled Marzen/Octoberfest lager. This style evolved from the Viennese and Bavarian practice of brewing a slightly stronger-than-usual beer at the end of the winter brewing season in March when warmer months were on the horizon and fermentation temperatures would be hard to achieve. The beer matured through the summer and would be consumed in celebration during the Octoberfest at the end of September. Thus the Octoberfest beer style is a custom that emerged from practical necessity but today has become ritualized into a symbolic welcoming of autumn.
Creating cultural customs like this takes time. Back when I first started appreciating the full spectrum of beers, I was so accustomed to industrial light lager that all my beer drinking reference points revolved around one fizzy and metallic taste.
Drinking Octoberfest beers is a relatively new custom for me. So the first sip of Dogtoberfest did not viscerally send me back to rural central Pennsylvania where I grew up learning to associate the fall with a smell of decomposing leaves, a bracing breeze, the return of college students to town, and the pungent aroma of cigars from my uncle who would visit on home-football-game weekends. The beer didn’t send me back to those associations because I wasn’t drinking this kind of beer yet back then.
But, after ten years of practice, I am beginning to acquire new cultural reference points and associations with better beer. I feel the subtle imprint of this newer seasonal beer custom on my subconscious. The first sip prompted a sense of familiarity. Today’s weather probably helped: chilly and gray with a late thunderstorm. The combination awakened me to the still-distant fall which doesn’t officially kick off until the Autumnal equinox on September 23. Not coincidentally, Munich’s Octoberfest begins the same day.
As to this particular example of the style. Dogtoberfest is dominated by sweet, doughy malts, accented with caramel and honey but with a middle mouthfeel that is crisp and snappy like an apple. I’m going to the store now to see if I can find some more.