Tag Archives: Ayinger

Merchant du Vin Brings Old World Brews to the New World

A bottle of Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout.

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Some of the best beers in the world are brewed by small breweries in Europe. These brews are world-renowned and, upon seeing the size of their breweries, one might wonder how such a small place could produce a beer so beloved around the globe. But, some of these breweries have done just that and have been around a very long time.

On Thursday, November 17, I had the opportunity to taste an extraordinary collection of fine brews presented at Total Wine in the St. John’s Town Center by Merchant du Vin beer importer. Merchant du Vin has been in the business of importing beer for nearly 35 years and has collected an impressive portfolio including beers from Samuel Smith, Traquair, Ayinger, Zatec, Pinkus, Lindemans, Orval, Westmalle, Rochefort, and Green’s.

On hand to guide us on our beer tasting was Rob Nelson, Southeast Regional Manager for Merchant du Vin. His presentation took us on a journey around Europe and into some of the oldest brewing facilities in the world. His stories and photos enchanted the audience and truly brought to life the history of the beers we tasted.

The first brewery we tasted from was Samuel Smith’s. The Old Brewery in Tadcaster was established in 1758 and is Yorkshire’s oldest brewery. It adheres to the old ways of brewing and maintains it’s own copper kettle and cooper for making and repairing barrels.

Beers we tasted from Samuel Smith’s included:

Organic Cider – Bright in color, light in body, and clean in flavor are the descriptors on the marketing materials and they are absolutely correct. The apple flavor is sweet without being cloying.

Organic Strawberry Ale – Sweet and refreshing with just the right amount of strawberry flavor in a medium-bodied brew. This is a beer for a lazy afternoon in a hammock somewhere.

Oatmeal Stout – This stout is possibly the standard on which all other oatmeal stouts should be judged. Indeed, it was the very first commercially produced ale that combined oatmeal and malted barley. This brew is rich and thick with sweet and bitter notes.

In a recent column I discussed Ayinger as one of my favorite Oktoberfest beers, but Ayinger also produces several other very tasty and satisfying brews. The brewery was founded in 1878 in the small Bavarian village of Aying. Today the brewery is an automated testament to German engineering that does not sacrifice authentic and traditional flavors for mass-production.

We tasted several from Ayinger including:

Hefe-Weizen – This unfiltered brew is a refreshing example of the German wheat beer. It displays the appropriate clove and spice profiles of the style and is wonderfully drinkable.

Ur-Weisse – An interesting treat, this dark brew is very malty in character, yet maintains the clove and spice profile of a wheat beer brewed in the German style.

Orval is another of the evenings offerings that, though I had had it before, I was truly looking forward to. As a brew with a Trappist designation, Orval is still brewed within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval in Belgium. Monks still work to produce it, but with some help from lay people. The brewery is still owned and operated by the Catholic Church for the express benefit of Catholic charities. There is evidence of brewing and beer consumption on the grounds of the Abbaye as far back as 1628.

The word orval means “golden valley” and is an appropriate moniker for this outstanding brew. When poured into a glass the brew is hazy and golden. It reveals fruity, hoppy aromas that are a result of the dry-hopping process used. The taste is complex, fruity with a fair amount of hop kick.

The final Trappist brew we tasted that evening was Westmalle, another complex and wonderful Belgian beer that truly makes me long to head back over to that country.

With enlightening stories and wonderful slides, Rob from Merchant du Vin truly made the evening an experience to remember. Given the opportunity to attend one of his presentations you should run, not walk. This is a man who loves his beer and has a true appreciation of the art, love, and talent that goes into making it.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Beer, Beer Education, Beer Tasting, Belgian, Imports


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Tap the Kegs! It’s Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest 2005 - Paulaner-Festhalle - front

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Summer is unofficially over with Labor Day past us. Ahead are the cooler autumn days filled with preparations for the winter and its full accompaniment of holidays. Beer-minded folk look forward to this time of year for the heartier seasonal beers that it brings like Marzen, Pumpkin Ales, Oktoberfest, Dunkelweizen, and other spiced brews.

Perhaps the most famous of the list is Oktoberfest. Many have heard of the festival held in Munich, Germany every year from the end of September until the first weekend in October. But, few know that there is a style of beer named for the event nor do they know the reason or history of the celebration. The story is about a Prince, a Princess, a weddings, a horse race, and, of course, beer.

Once again, as I enjoy doing so often, it is time to Paulaner Oktoberfesttake you on a fantastical trip into European history to discover the origin of not only a great beer, but also a great celebration. Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for 1810.

The party was a rousing success and as word traveled far and wide, Bavarians began to think that making this into a yearly event to boost the Bavarian agricultural show might be a pretty good thing. So, in 1811 Oktoberfest was held in conjunction with the first agricultural show. By 1816, carnival booths began to appear at the ‘Fest and the party grew. In 1819 festival management was assumed by the founding citizens of Munich and the things really started to take off.

But, Oktoberfest was still rather tame for the first 100 years or so. It was more agriculture than party and the only entertainment was the horse race and the few carnival tents and food vendors that set up there each year. Several times during these years the festival was cancelled due to cholera outbreaks and wars.

Beer tents first began to appear in 1896 to quench the thirst of parched festival attendees. Little did these first revelers know that in the coming years the tents would grow to hold as many as 5,000 visitors and the festival would expand to host an estimated six to seven million partiers.

After the end of World War II, Oktoberfest kicked into high gear. In 1950 the festival began its long tradition of a twelve gun salute and ceremonial tapping of the first keg by the incumbent Mayor of Munich as its official opening. The tapping is followed by a cry of “O’ zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!”). The first beer of the ‘Fest is then drawn and given to the Minister-President of Bavaria and the drinking commences.

By 1960, Oktoberfest had grown into the monumental world-famous festival depicted by German men in lederhosen and tirolerhute hats and women in dirndls. The beer tents and halls turn into seas of humanity all consuming massive steins of German beers brewed specifically for the event.

Today, Oktoberfest is known as the Largest Volksfest (People’s Fair) in the World. In 2010 the festival attracted 6.4 million visitors, only 72% of these visitors are from Bavaria. The rest are from other EU countries, the United States, Asia, and the rest of the world. While we are on the topic of statistics, a look at the astounding numbers that come out of this yearly beer blast are in order. For the most part, the drinking at Oktoberfest is done in the huge beer tents erected specifically for the event. In all there are fourteen large tents and twenty smaller tents. The largest of the tents, the Winzerer-Fahndl tent, can seat nearly 8,500 partiers inside and another 2,500 outside. When you combine the capacity of all the tents, there are in excess of over 100,000 seats available. During the run of the festival, attendees will consume nearly 2 million gallons of beer generally served one liter at a time, this equates to over 7 million liters. Hungry drinkers eat more than 500,000 chicken dinners, 240,000 sausages, and 70,000 pork knuckles.

Oktoberfest beer is of a variety called Märzen. Darker and stronger than traditional beer, Märzen contains up to 6% alcohol, is bottom-fermented, and is lagered for at least 30 days. The style is characterized by a medium to full body, a malty flavour and a clean dry finish. In Germany, the term covers beers which vary in color from pale (Helles Märzen), through amber to dark brown (Dunkles Märzen). Before the advent of modern refrigeration techniques, this type of beer was brewed in March (as its name suggests) and allowed to age through the summer, so that it was ready to drink by late summer or early fall. Like all German beer, the Oktoberfest beer is brewed according to strict German standards (called the Reinheitsgebot and in effect since 1516) that precisely define the four ingredients allowed in the brewing of beer: barley, hops, malt, and yeast.

Just 6 Munich breweries – Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten – are permitted to serve beer at the festival. Beer is served by the Maß, a one-liter mug, and costs about 8 euros. Beer maids and waiters must be able to carry 10 of these beer-filled mugs at a time.

Oktoberfest Beers to Try

Ayinger Oktoberfest Marzen

Tis tasty brew was served last year at the Springfield Brew Crew Oktoberfest party and was a big hit. Its malty and clean hop profile was refreshing and satisfying. Many described the beer as having a slight apple flavor to it. It is well worth seeking out at your local beer purveyor.

Paulaner Oktoberfest

Once brewed as only a seasonal beer, Paulaner’s Oktoberfest is now available year-round. It has a caramelized, barely malty nose and a rich, creamy full-flavored finish.

Spaten Oktoberfest Beer

Created in 1872, Oktoberfest Beer by Spaten is the first true Oktoberfest beer. This is a medium-bodied beer with rich, roasted malt flavor and perfectly balanced hops. With rich mouth feel and underlying malty sweetness, this is one of the most popular beers at Oktoberfest each year.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Pours a rich, clear amber with a two fingered off white/light tan head that drops slowly. Aromas of caramelly malt grain and toast. No hop aroma. There are flavors of deep caramel malt, biscuit and toast, with a balancing bitterness, but very malt forward. Mouth feel is medium to light.

Harpoon Octoberfest Beer

Pours burnt orange to reddish copper in color with a nice off-white, frothy head. Aromas present are of malt, slight fruit — maybe orange – slight hops. The flavor is a bit spicy with nice malts and medium body.

Local Jacksonville Oktoberfest Celebrations

Intuition Ale Works – September 24, 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM

All the stops are being pulled out for the mother of all Oktoberfest celebrations here in Jacksonville at Intuition this year. The brewers are preparing two special edition brews for the occasion – a traditional Oktpberfest Marzen and a hefeweizen. There will be all-you-can-eat German wursts and other German foods, beer games, commemorative mugs, and a German costume contest.

Tickets are available now online at or at the Tap Room during regular business hours, Wednesday to Saturday, 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. Prices are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. There are a limited number of tickets available.

Foodies USA – October 14

The Sheraton Jacksonville Hotel is the host for FoodiesUSA’s Jacksonville Oktoberfest 2011. At 5:00 PM there will be a Beer Pairing Dinner at Bold City Grill including a complete 5 course dinner perfectly paired with Bold City Beers. Afterwards, starting at 7:00 PM, explore the Bier Garden & Food Festival, where top beer and food vendors will bring their best for you to taste.

Tickets may be purchased online at The price for the Beer Dinner is $40, the Bier Garden is $25, or you can purchase both for $50.

Riverside Art Market Oktoberfest – October 21- 22

Come out Friday night after work, or anytime Saturday as RAM celebrates the cooler weather with some great German food, music, and fun!

Oktoberfest through the years has been a celebration of the end of the year harvest. Its raucous fun and revelry is matched only by the spring St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Enjoy the season with a stein of your favorite German beer and bratwurst.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in Beer, Beer Festival, Beer Styles, Events, Octoberfest, Travel


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May Off to a Busy Start

John White. Web site http://www.whitebeertrave...

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I believe I mentioned in a previous post that May was going to be a busy beer month. Now, that is no complaint mind you, merely an observation and a reminder that if you want to run with the big dogs in the Jacksonville beer circuit, you are going to need to pace yourself.

So, with no further ado, her is what I see on the horizon for this weekend.

Bold City Brewery

Friday, May 6

In 1901 the city of Jacksonville was virtually destroyed by a fire that started May 3rd at a mattress factory. The fire consumed 2,368 buildings, left 10,000 people homeless, and seven residents dead. In all, 146 city blocks were destroyed.

In remembrance of the largest metropolitan fire in the American South, Bold City is tapping a Barrel Aged version of it’s 1901 Red Ale .

Grassroots Natural Food Market

Friday, May 6 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM

Grassroots in 5-Points has always been a Mecca of good craft beer choices and a regular host of beer tastings. This week they are sampling from Ayinger (pronounced aye-ing-er) Brewery. Back in October I had the Märzen style of beer produced by this brewery and fell in love with its wonderful flavors and character. The brewery, near Munich, began producing excellent German brews in 1876 including the Märzen I mentioned which became the highest rated Vienna Märzen style at the 2007 World Beer Championships.

Just Brew It

Saturday, May 7

Every year the American Homebrewers Association, and advocate group with roots going back to 1942 in Chicago, holds an event they call the Big Brew. The aim of the event is to familiarize people with the art and craft of brewing beer.

Locally, members of the Cowford Ale Sharing Klub (CASK) are holding a demonstration brew for the public outside Just Brew It, next to Bold City Brewery at 2670 Rosselle St. Brewers will begin to set up around 9:30 a.m. and typically brew into the early afternoon.

If you have ever had an interest in learning to brew your own beer, this is a must!

Total Wine & More

Saturday, May 7 from 11:00 PM to 3:00 PM

The gang over at Total Wine are not just into wine. These guys know beer, too! With one of the largest selections of craft beers in the city, they know beer VERY well. And on Saturday, they are willing to prove it by hosting a FREE — yes, FREE Beer Fest.

Over 20 breweries are expected to be present pouring over 50 beers. Breweries like Swamp Head, Intuition, Bold City, Cigar City, and more are expected. Now that’s nothing to sneeze at! Not to mention that I, the Fearful Leader of the Springfield Brew Crew, will also be present to represent our club, talk beer, and pose for photographs (you know you want one with me).

That’s what I know is going on this weekend for now. If you know of any other beer-related happenings, add a comment or send me a note and I will update the list.

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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in Beer


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