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A Traditional Oktoberfest

In preparation for our first annual Oktoberfest on Saturday, 9/21, we sat down with Burke Dignam, our resident Lab Manager, to dive into the traditional recipe we chose for this year’s inaugural event beer.

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Tell us a little about your German background.

I don’t actually have any German ancestors HA!, however I do have strong ties to Germany. My wife is German and we have been together for over 15 years. I lived in Germany for 8 years, primarily in Duesseldorf and Munich, working as an apprentice brewer and professional brewer. Before moving back to America, I graduated as a Braumeister from Doemens, a Brewmaster school just outside of Munich. There I had a few opportunities to visit the Oktoberfest tents.

What is a Wiesnbier? How does it differ from the more widespread Märzen?

A Wiesnbier is the beer served at Oktoberfest in Munich. A Maerzen is a traditional Festbier that is served at various festivals in Germany throughout the year.

Due to the lack of refrigeration in earlier times, a Bavarian Ordinance was set into place that said you could only brew between September 29th and April 23rd. Beer brewed in March (Maerz) was brewed slightly stronger than usual to last until the early Autumn months. Because of this, the Oktoberfestbier used to be a Maerzen. However, today the breweries serving at the infamous Munich Oktoberfest brew a paler, more bitter (for German standards) beer they call Wiesnbier… because the area in Munich where this is being served is called the Wiesn.    

Personally, I think a Wiesnbier is more drinkable for an event like Oktoberfest, particularly when you’re drinking 6-7 Maß over a 10 hour period.

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Is there anything unique in regards to the recipe or process behind our Wiesenbier?

We’ve tried to keep the recipe simple; I think that’s part of the beauty of German beer (and cuisine). We used primarily German Pilsner Malt with a little bit of Munich and Wiener malt to add depth. Spalter hops were used to give a classic noble hop character. Finally, we gave the beer extended lagering time in traditional horizontal lagering tanks to smooth out the flavor.

Why does brewing this style of beer make sense now for Trillium?

Being a brewery founded in community experiences, what better way is there to bring people together than an event like Oktoberfest? I also think we have a diverse team with an array of knowledge and experience that we want to share with our community.

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How does serving from a gravity cask, like the ones we’ll be pouring from at Oktoberfest, effect the beer and/or drinking experience?

Serving from cask is a more traditional method of serving beer that has become more of a history lesson. The oldest brewery in Munich, Augustiner (1328), is the only brewery serving their beer at the Wiesn from traditional casks. This takes a lot of hard work to execute as these casks are filled and moved around all by hand.

There is actually very little flavor impact since the casks are typically pitched (coated with resin), so there is no direct contact with wood. That being said, hearing the barrels roll along the floor and seeing the faucets driven into the cask creates a nostalgic, community atmosphere and brings everyone closer to the beer. This is an experience we’d like to share with everyone… if we don’t mess it up!!

To learn more about our 2019 Oktoberfest, which is taking place in Fort Point, Canton, and in front of the soon-to-open Trillium Fenway, click here.

Earlier Event: September 17
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