Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas in Oktoberfest

Last month, we rang in our fifth Christmas in October. That’s right, Christmas in October. This tradition, which admittedly hasn’t spread a whole lot further than our immediate families, began way back in the fall of 2005. Danger Kitten and I were living down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, working hard as public educators, and beginning to suspect that our relationship might outlast our two-year commitment to Teach For America...

Case in point: at the mall on a balmy September Saturday, I found an almost-too-good-to-be-true deal on a Kitchen Aid mixer and snatched it up faster than a Cajun on a crawfish. Nothing says I'm in this for the long haul like a counter-top mixer (with the exception, perhaps, of a mortgage). Danger Kitten had been intimating for some time how much she wanted, nay needed, a mixer, and this one was even the right color -- majestic yellow.

As the owner of an insatiable sweet tooth, I’ll be the first to admit that this purchase wasn’t entirely altruistic. As I stood in the store, gazing at the mixer, I imagined an unyielding parade of cookies, cakes, and other such delights marching down the counter and onto my plate. I knew right then that the sooner I gifted this little machine, the sooner I’d be sated!

Therefore, I immediately set to teasing my future bride with hints that her Christmas gift was already purchased, and that she was really, REALLY going to like it. After several weeks of this, she announced that she, too, had gone Christmas shopping, and that perhaps it would be best to exchange gifts early in order to end the suspense. I heartily agreed, and the holiday was born. We pulled out our decorations, loaded some holiday music on the iPod, and celebrated an impromptu Christmas, in the middle of October.

Celebrating our first Christmas in October, down on the bayou.

This year, Christmas in October happened to be scheduled exactly two weeks after the bottling of our Oktoberfest homebrew: Lavoratory Choctoberfest (which I first wrote about here). Given Danger Kitten's work schedule, and the fact that I was unemployed at that point, I had total autonomy over the planning and execution of the event. So it was decided that (a) we'd have a German themed celebration and (b) there would be lots of Oktoberfest. Here's a little taste of what we ate:

Appetizers: liverwurst from Moon In The Pond Farm in Sheffield, MA; rye bread (which I baked); cheddar cheese; and apple slices.

Dinner: chicken schnitzel; spaetzle (German egg noodles which I made with a little help from my stepfather); and brussel sprouts in browned butter.

Dessert: anisplatzen and pfeffernuse (German Christmas cookies); and pumpkin ice cream.

I planned the meal with an emphasis on advanced food prep, which meant I'd be free to enjoy my Oktoberfest in a state of unrushed bliss, rather than hustling about the kitchen like a mad man. The only cooking that needed to be done at supper time was the dredging and frying of the schnitzel, the boiling of the spaetzle, and the browning of the brussel sprouts. In the words of Charlie Papazian, I was able to relax, not worry, and have a homebrew!

My stepfather, Michael, happily stirring the spaetzle.

The blind tasting, which preceded dinner, included the following Oktoberfests:

And, of course, our very own Choctoberfest.

Our illustrious lineup, brought to you by Dario's unnamed cousin.

The panel of tasters included myself, Danger Kitten, my father-in-law and his girlfriend, and my mother (for the first three samples) and stepfather. Grandpa opted for his usual -- Beefeaters gin, neat, with one cube.

The beauty of this panel was its inexperience. No one knew much about head retention or IBUs; instead, the focus was on taste, appearance and overall impression. It was a lot of fun tasting and discussing each beer as we went. And because I masked the bottles early in the day, the only beer I knew for certain during the tasting was my own (#4).

The blind tasting, served up with liverwurst, apples, cheddar and rye

The main takeaway for me from the tasting was that no one was able to identify the home brew in the lineup by taste, although Michael did eventually notice the haze in sample #4. It is my hope that someday my home brew will stand out from the crowd for its singular excellence. But, at this point, I'm just glad it blended in with its commercial peers.

In fact, the Choctoberfest (named after Eric's chocolate lab, Wallace) ended up one of the highest rated among the bunch. The big winners in our unprofessional tasting were Blue Point, Weyerbacher, and the Choctoberfest. Some of the comments offered on our beer included: yeasty; great aroma; light amber, cloudy color; very drinkable (which is always good); sweetly balanced; and spicy flavor.

Fast forward to today (November 21), and it's been a month-and-a-half since bottling and three weeks since Christmas in October. Since I'm finally almost ready to publish this post, it seems like an opportune time for another tasting! Therefore, without further ado...

The sweet nectar of fall - Lavatory Choctoberfest!

Lavatory Choctoberfest (4.1% ABV)
Eric's Kitchen
West Haven, CT

Brew Date: August 29, 2009
Bottling Date: October 3, 2009
Tasting Date: November 21, 2009

Appearance: Copper in color. A creamy, hazy body. Thick head with fat bubbles.

Aroma: Bright, spicy, yeasty, malty.

Taste: Heifeweizenish? Yeasty with hints of clove. Spicy. A smooth, malty flavor. Mild bitterness. Tastes Oktoberfest!

Overall Impression: Hands down the best beer I've been party to. I was a bit more critical of the beer at the Christmas in Octoberfest tasting a few weeks ago than most of my guests (I've always been my own toughest critic); but in this brewer's opinion, the beer has really opened up since then. Very balanced. Great color. Great flavor. I'll be taking a six-pack to Thanksgiving next week, and I look forward to sharing it with the uncles! Should be fun.


1 comment:

Danger Kitten said...

I agree that this was the best homebrew of yours (or anyone's) that I've tasted. I don't know much about beer, so I'm really just going off of taste and appearance, but it was fresh and spicy in a balanced sort of way. Very professional!