I am utterly fascinated by maps. Any kind of map. Give me a map to study, and I will go into an autistic trance and lock in on it until my wife comes in and points out the pile of dishes in the sink and our children's cheeks sinking in from lack of food. So I was most pleased today to open the November issue of National Geographic and find a beer map! It was a world map showing the top beer-consuming nations per capita, with a special focus on Europe, natch. Top beer swillers in the world: Czech Republic, at 160.5 liters per person in 2005 (which I calculate is probably about what I drink every year). The next countries on the list were pretty predictable: Ireland (127.4), Germany (109.9), Austria (105.8), Belgium (98.6), and the United Kingdom (95.7). We Americans were well back in the pack at 11th (82.8). I was surprised to see Norway coming in at 25th – I learned during my visit to Karla that alcohol is ungodly expensive there (a single bottle of beer in a bar there will set you back $8-$10). Other countries I wouldn't have expected to see: Venezuela (10th) and Finland (13th).
Dammit, I hate getting beaten to a story, but I've had no time to blog lately (at least, not about beer – I've been busy with another project at work). So I tip my hat to Bobnoxious for digging up this important news.
It's beer-drinking time, people. Oktoberfest is upon us, as I noted in previous posts. Here are some Central Texas suggestions for enjoying the season. Sadly, there are a couple of activities this weekend that I'll have to miss, as I'm taking the kiddo camping.
Sat.-Sun., Oct. 21-22: North by Northwest Oktoberfest — We always enjoy this one. I don't think I've fully sung the praises of this brewpub nearly enough. Their food and beer both are excellent, and this event always has a nice strong bock (among other choices), tasty German food, polka bands, and activities for the kids. Any event that lets me drink beer while my kids have fun is a good thing. Which leads me to my don't-miss event of the year …
Nov. 3-12: Wurstfest in New Braunfels — Get your kid a $20 pass for unlimited rides on the tilt-a-whirl, ferris wheel, mini-roller coaster, etc., and let them go crazy while you enjoy dozens of bands, gallons of beer (including Paulaner and others), a huge beer hall, and tons of good food, including great German food but not limited to that — plenty of more traditional carnival food available as well. New Braunfels is a great little German town on I-35 in between San Antonio and Austin which is attractive for a number of reasons, and this very popular event is a major one.
I've heard Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg, a similar German town not far from New Braunfels, is also great, but I've never been. Anyone else have any suggestions? (I mean, aside from going to the real thing in Germany?)
EDIT: Dangit, I am dirt broke yet again! I was forced to miss the stuff last weekend because I took the kiddo camping, and now I might miss NXNW due to lack of cash. Grrr. Anyhoo, if any of my friends want to join me there around 3pm, gimme a call and I'll decide whether I can afford to go or not.
Last month I noted that everything by New Belgium was on sale at the Hancock Center HEB for $6.99 a sixer, about 50 cents off; well, they must have ordered too much or something, because now it's down to $5.99! Get it while it's cheap. Damn good beer.
Sort of continuing the theme of that previous post — but focusing more on the beer than the breasts — I sure love it when Oktoberfest rolls around. (I bet the word "breasts" gets me lots of Google hits.) We've sort of reached an era where seasonal brewing is fairly dead — any kind of beer is available any time of the year, with a few exceptions. Nonetheless, I stick to a fairly regimented seasonal drinking calendar just out of preference, and for good reason — certain styles of beer just taste better at the right time of year. Heavy stouts and "winter warmers" are just kind of blechy in the hot summer — especially here in the blast furnace that is a Texas August. I want something clean and crisp. But when it gets cold (or what passes for such down here), I need something that's going to sit in my belly like a lead weight and radiate a glowing alcoholic heat from within.
And when the leaves start to die, I start thinking of German beers. Copper-colored, malty things with names that can't be pronounced without hacking up some phlegm. Toward the end of summer, I start contemplating what lies ahead; after the first cool front comes through, my mouth starts watering in anticipation of them. Here's some of what I've been enjoying lately: Tonight at work, I've downed a Julius Echter Hefe-Weiss-Dunkel, a bit smooth for my Oktoberfest tastes, but still a well done beer. Didn't hit the bullseye, but got the next ring out. Followed that with dead aim: Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest, an amber märzen with everything that the Echter had, but with a nice load of malt dumped on top. Mmmm. It's like drinking a fall sunset.
My other discovery has been Shiner Dunkelweizen. I'm so glad I learned the difference between dark and light wheats. I've been staying away from dunkelweizens because I knew I didn't like light wheat beers, but I've learned they are very different animals, with the darks tasting much more like marzens and bocks. As with the other Shiner spinoff beers, this is better than either of their flagship beers, Bock and Blonde. I've been pining in previous posts over the fact that last year's Shiner 96 marzen was a limited edition release, but actually, the Dunkelweizen tastes very similar, so I'm not as sad now. I'll be drinking a lot more of this through the fall.
Coming soon: Wurstfest in New Braunfels, always a don't-miss on our calendar! Beer and sausage for the adults, rides for the kids, and polka for all. I look forward to this more than Christmas.