Our new friends down at Carneros Brewing are getting into the Oktoberfest spirit with “Octubrefest,” a weekend-long fiesta starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday with the tapping of a keg of their limited edition “Doble IPA” and continuing on Saturday and Sunday, all with music, games, traditional German food, pumpkin patch walks, and tours of the brewery by brewmaster Jesus Ceja. He tells me they will have dart games for the big people and a boat-making station for kids of all ages – afterward, you can race the boats in the pond in the beer garden.
So what’s with an Oktoberfest celebration at a brewery that prides itself on its Hispanic heritage (after all, “Octubrefest” is the Spanish-ified version of the name)? Well, it makes a lot more sense that you might think. As in the American Midwest, Germans were an important cultural minority in much of Central and South America, even as early the 16th century but with increasing numbers after the 1830s. After the unification of the fractured German states in 1870, the process accelerated further as imperial Germany sought to compete for global influence and commercial advantage with the Americans, British, French and Russians. Substantial numbers of Germans came to the New World as well after World Wars I and II.
The French Emperor Napoleon III even had a slightly mad scheme to impose a European aristocracy on Mexico, headed by Austrian prince Maximilian, backed by French troops. That little experiment didn’t go so well from the French perspective and Maximilian was overthrown and executed by the Mexicans in 1867, after just three years on the throne. But in the meantime, Maximilian brought in plenty of good German food, music and, most importantly, beer, and the Mexicans liked all that stuff better then their short-lived European emperor.
In fact, the style of dark, malty lager known as “Vienna Lager” is nearly extinct in its native Austria, but it has lived on in Mexico in the form of well-known brands such as Dos Equis, Bohemia, and Negra Modelo.
“There is a lot of history and ties between [Mexico and] Germany and Austria in regard to beer,” Jesus said.
The Doble IPA will be an unusual brew for Carneros, which specializes in lower-alcohol beers. This one will weigh in above 8 percent alcohol by volume and will have a hefty dose of Cascade bitterness, something like 140 IBUs. Jesus said he planned this as a one-time experiment and he made only about 200 gallons total, but if the public likes it, he might add the recipe to the rotating seasonal lineup.
Admission to the Carneros event is free. They would like you to RSVP so they know how much food to buy, but it is not required. You can RSVP here. Festivities are 5:30-8 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
– Sean Scully