I went out for a walk right after dinner on Halloween evening in the hope of stretching my legs prior to barricading two humans and three cats safely inside our house in preparation for the kids coming out to panhandle for sweets.
Because: Why wait for Christmas to indulge one’s inner Grinch?
Avoiding the children was easy, but their adults were more of a challenge. In mid-stroll, rounding the corner by the shotgun house masquerading as an end-times church, I bumped into my neighbor Bill.
He was decked out in Bavarian-standard Lederhosen, all straps, buttons, studs and fake leather, right down to the feather in a green Alpine hat and a Karo brand cigarette dangling from his lips.
“Gooden Tack,” Bill said. “I’d offer you a refreshing Warsteiner Festbier, but I didn’t want to risk drinking in public, so I’m just carrying the empty can around so I don’t look stupid.”
“Um, no worries there,” I replied. “But you’re late as hell. Oktoberfest ended a month ago.”
“I know that. I’m going to a Halloween party just as soon as I pick up some carry-out Schupfnudeln.”
He nudged me conspiratorially and whispered, “To be honest it’s linguine from the Spaghetti Shop, but sprinkle some Knorr goulash starter on top and we’ll be fine.”
Sighing loudly, I pulled out my badge.
Bill gasped. His Karo hit the sidewalk, and he clumsily slid the empty can into his pocket.
“It doesn’t work that way,” I said, wagging my finger as ominously as a bum shoulder allowed. “You’re only allowed to wear your Bavarian costume once each year. It’s the law.
“Now, if it were a Swiss or Thuringian ensemble, you’d be in compliance, and no one would know the difference, anyway.”
“I never knew you were a beer cop, Rog. You’re not taking me downtown, are you?”
“No. Just consider this a wake-up call. And there’s one more thing.”
“Stop talking about the ‘toasted notes’ in a Warsteiner Festbier. It’s really embarrassing.”
But seriously: Is it just me, or did every vape shop, pet groomer, insurance agent and oil change emporium in metropolitan Louisville conspire to stage Oktoberfest celebrations in 2022?
I’ll grant you that it wasn’t altogether surprising to see the suburbanites shimmying nervously atop the picnic tables under a rental tent in the parking lot of the Office Depot, hoisting their plastic liter glasses and mauling a motley selection of microwaved bratwurst, but what really surprised me this year was the sheer ubiquity of costumery.
At some point in the recent past, Oktoberfest somehow pole-vaulted into second place behind Halloween as the favored choice for adult dress-up parties.
I suppose the outfits are sourced online, as I’ve yet to see Dirndls at Bass Pro Shop, although the possibilities for decorating them with fishing lures are admittedly intriguing.
The cynic forever holding court in my belfry laments the American propensity to adore Walt Disney, who made it cool to mistake appearances for reality. What’s more, Munich in Bavaria is no more representative of Germany as a whole than Dallas, Texas is of the United States of America.
We miss so much by imagining Bavarian beer norms to be the only ones. To me, all of Germany is fascinating, each day of the year, whether viewed from the Baltic coastline or the Black Forest. Beer and brats are only starting points for further explorations aimed at placing Oktoberfest into historical and cultural contexts.
As you can tell, I’m a book reader, and as such an object of deep and abiding suspicion here in the States. There’ll be no apologies on this count.
However, as an effort at compromising, I’ll readily concede that celebrating German culture even without a deeper understanding of it can be plenty of harmless fun, whether accompanied by a classic liter Mass filled with Märzen, or a simple cup of tap water.
And yet it’s always a bonus when the sauerkraut is tender and savory rather than crunchy like those noodles that used to come with the La Choy Chow Mein.
Either way, whether Oktoberfest or Halloween, and voluntarily keeping my preferred Otto von Bismarck duds in the closet where they belong, there is one crucial aspect of dress-up holidays that must be observed: Runter von meiner Veranda.
Or, as we say in New Albany, “Get off my porch.”
Someone else asked me if I’d recommend a nice German seasonal spiced ale suitable for Christmas, you know, like a malt beverage equivalent of Glühwein, the heated and spiced national liquid obsession that Germans imbibe outdoors in huge quantities during holiday market season.
I can’t rule out that certain newer-age German breweries make something like this, given the Reinheitsgebot’s gradual fraying around the edges, but the beer purity law remains the primary reason why there’s no market for Great Lakes Christmas Ale brewed in Stuttgart.
Apart from a few grandfathered exceptions (like Gose), letter-perfect German brewers tend to reserve Wassail spices for baked goods, while (perhaps) brewing a strong Bock to be consumed in November and December, although in Munich, Bocks traditionally are released in March during Starkbierzeit.
My advice is to stock up on Aventinus Weizen Doppelbock and ride it all the way to January 1. Then again, I’m a traditionalist.
I found a YouTube video of George Carlin (1937-2008) dating to the mid-1990s. The legendary stand-up comedian was on a talk show, explaining why he usually refrained from topical references during his routines.
Actually Carlin didn’t do improvisation; he scripted and memorized his monologues, almost always sticking to universal themes: life, death, religion, and the significant differences between baseball and football.
Carlin’s thoughts struck a chord. With thirty-odd breweries operating in metropolitan Louisville, the daily news feed (as it were) is almost entirely topical, as documenting new releases, events, and sales pitches that while fitting and proper in a marketing sense, vary widely in terms of my own personal interest.
Does one purporting to write about beer choose to “cover” this teeming multitude of items, a task tantamount to alphabetizing a grocery list?
I’m not sure it matters nowadays, anyway. There’s always the social media thicket, and besides, Louisville Ale Trail seems to be doing a fine job of expounding the beery aggregate when it comes to area breweries, although their coverage area omits Southern Indiana and non-breweries, except when it doesn’t, as with the German-American Club hosting Louisville Beer Week’s kickoff party.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Speaking personally, as a beer lifer still drawing paychecks from non-brewing establishments in Hoosierland that nonetheless specialize in better beer, and cognizant that right bank geography at times disqualifies me from the Kentucky cognoscenti, merely consider this point: When beer-centric standard bearers like The Grales aren’t part of the conversation, it’s as if you unplugged the right speaker and choose to listen to half the early Beatles on the left side.
And, echoing my aforementioned comments about kitschy costumes versus demonstrable reality, it continues to strike me as sheer narcissism to throw open one’s raincoat to flash (a photo of a beer) sans testimony as to why the beer matters.
I can grasp your selfie-borne certainty that if observers already know, they know. In turn, I believe that fluffing insiders does nothing to advance the ball downfield.
As a writer, my aim is to tout universals, provide the context, and tell the stories that displace quicksand and help build a foundation for informed beer appreciation. My milieu is a sense of timelessness emanating from the pursuit of perfect pints.
I often fail at this aim. I need to work at being better.
This I resolve to do.