October is just around the corner, but you still have time to make a batch of Oktoberfest brews. Get to know the traditional noble hops of Germany’s Oktoberfest, as well as a few combinations that can make them a little more interesting.
Hallertau is your typical Noble hop, heavy on the spice and full of earthy flavors and aromas. It is the quintessential German hop. If you’ve gone to an Oktoberfest and drunk a few beers, most of them would probably have been Hallertau brews. It is very aromatic with very subtle floral and even citrus tones. Pair it with strong citrusy hops like Citra or Amarillo to add a bit of flavor, or pair it with Mosaic for a well-rounded, mature brew. Hallertau is perfect for making lagers, pilsners, and Belgian ales.
Brews made from Tettnang have flavors and aromas similar to those you would expect in your afternoon tea (if you even have afternoon tea). It blends subtle spicy and floral tones with a mild herbal aroma. Tettnang can be a little too subtle when it comes to flavor, but it makes an excellent bittering or purely aromatic hop. You can use strong herbal hops like Columbus or Nugget in flavoring to accentuate its tea-like character. You can also go the path of lemon iced tea by pairing it with Lemondrop hops or any other citrusy hop. Tettnang works well with IPAs, ales, lagers, and pilsners.
To get the real Oktoberfest brews, you need to get the Czech Saaz. A US version of Saaz is available, but it loses some of the original’s spicy and floral tones. The Czech Saaz has a potent mix of spice and floral tones with a bit of earthiness and citrus adding to the flavor. Saaz is primarily used for flavoring and aroma and requires a separate bittering hop. At first taste, you might mistake Saaz for Summit, Nugget, Simcoe. Combinations that work for those three also work for Saaz. Authentic Czech hops are very hard to find; they have meager yields and are usually reserved for local consumption. Saaz brews are a bit on the hoppy side, perfect for lagers and pilsners.
Spalt is strong on herbal and spice flavors, with traces of citrus and fruit (bananas?). It evokes extremely noble-like spicy, earthy, and herbal aromas with not so subtle floral tones. Go wild by pairing it with the chocolate, banana, and curry flavors of Taurus, or go with a safer bet by pairing it with a purely fruity hop like Galaxy or Citra. Limit your brews to lagers and pilsners or traditional German bocks, as Spalt brews are even hoppier than Saaz’.
In the end, with Oktoberfest just a few weeks away, it might be time to brew those German lagers and fill your brewery with the scent of spice and herbs. Add a bit of flavor and stay true to the spirit of Oktoberfest, which is having a good time and drinking a lot of beer.