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This famous Munich beer festival did originate in October. October 1, 1810, to be precise, when Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (later Ludwig I) married Therese of Saxonia, their nuptials sparking a celebratory five-day outdoor beer fest. Each succeeding October brought another keg party grander than the last -- until 1872, when Munich's politicos deemed the weather too chilly for the comfort of festivalgoers, and moved the event to September. The very next year festivities were cancelled altogether due to cholera, which along with the Third Reich have been the only impediments to the citizenry of Munich throwing the world's biggest beer bash.
Of course every city and hamlet in Germany throws its own Oktoberfest, as does much of the Western world. Even Miami. Granted it's no White Party, but our German restaurants, and most pubs and bars, feature promotional tie-ins to the festival along with specialized Oktoberfest brews. My favorite of these is the Festbier found at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, downtown Miami's only brewpub. Most microbreweries produce ales, which are bitter and heavily hopped -- think of these as the Noelle Bush of beers. Biersch brews smooth lagers, and has been doing so since 1988, when the first branch opened in Palo Alto, California.
Biersch adheres to Germany's Reinheitsgebot, a purity code established in 1516 dictating that beer can only have three ingredients: barley, water, and hops (some years later they discovered that yeast formed on its own, and made that the fourth ingredient). Biersch uses "2 row" malted barley, Hallertaver hops, and a Weihenstephan yeast strain imported from Germany. I have no idea what "2 row," Hallertaver, or Weihenstephan imply, but am convinced this lack of knowledge has in no way inhibited my appreciation of the lagers here. I like them all: Golden Export, a lightly hopped Pilsner with a dry finish; Dunkles, an "unfiltered" beer (which gives it its dark color) with a full-bodied, malty flavor and rich caramel aroma; and the auburn-colored Marzen, a smooth, somewhat sweet lager that is higher in alcohol than the other two (5.7 percent). Marzen is the German word for March, the month in which the beer is brewed. It then gets stored in caves until the warmer weather, with plenty of kegs put aside for Oktoberfest -- Marzen is, in fact, an authentic Oktoberfest beer that can be enjoyed all year long at Gordon Biersch.
Not so Biersch's official Oktoberfest Festbier, one of four specialty brews that rotate seasonally. This full-bodied, moderately hopped, beautifully bronze-colored draft will be served until it runs out, sometime at the end of November. Don't fret -- next in line is winter's Blondebock, with a potent seven percent-plus alcohol content that will likely kick your bock.
There are ostensibly other reasons, besides beer, to visit Gordon Biersch. The room is sleekly attractive, with the shiny brewery behind glass walls (there's outdoor seating as well). The staff is accommodating, the largely professional clientele energetic -- perhaps an understatement on Friday afternoons when the Brickell office buildings empty out. And the 320-seat restaurant serves a wide variety of decent fare, including a special Oktoberfest menu of breaded pork cutlets, pretzel-crusted halibut, and German sausages (400,000 pounds of bratwurst were sold at last year's gathering in Munich). Unfortunately Gordon Biersch doesn't start handing out Oktoberfest menus or serving Oktoberfest beer until October. Better late than never, I suppose.