Not only is it college football season, but it’s Goldilocks season. The culmination of perfectly crisp and cool fall mornings, a visit to your favorite butcher shop or meat counter to fill your grill and the week-long anticipation of Saturday. When it all comes together, it is without a doubt, my favorite time of year – because everything is just right.

With Louisiana Tech being the opponent, it would be timely to mix up some gumbo, red beans and rice, or even a mess of crawfish. In fact, I can remember back to days when I was in school and prepared such a spread for a Louisiana Tech game (Sept. 2, 2000 – the week after the blazing hot Iowa game at Arrowhead) – there was enough jambalaya and andouille sausage to feed a good portion of the student section. But seeing as this is the only home game of the season that falls during Oktoberfest… Prost!

Held in Munich, Germany and largely in September (yes, September), Oktoberfest dates back to the early 1800s, celebrating the marriage (who gets married during football season?) of King Ludwig I and his princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Now, it’s just a good excuse to gather, drink good beer and listen to music. That seems an awful lot like a first-rate tailgate and confirms to me that the Germans are onto something that should be emulated.

Last season, Erik did a great “’Wurst to First” write-up, encouraging us to sink our teeth into bratwurst, sauerkraut and bread bowl of beer cheese soup. Trust me when I suggest that there are few finer meals on the planet than that one. Rather than recreate that meal with a full ‘fest of my own, I’ll take a shot at supplementing it and adding a few beers.

The man makes a good pretzel.

The man makes a good pretzel.

The best accompaniment for any meal this time of year are pretzels – big, chewy, salty ones. Because you can prepare them in advance, they’re also an ideal tailgate food. Everybody seems to have their favorite homemade pretzel recipe, but mine is courtesy of the mad food scientist himself, Alton Brown. His pretzels are simple and can be easily modified with the addition of cinnamon and sugar, garlic salt, or your favorite flavor. And paired with the right beer, they’ll make a tasty snack before or after kick-off.

There are a number of really good beers this time of year to pair with the pretzels (and everything else in last year’s ‘fest post) – my current favorite is the Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest from Chico, California. This limited release is brewed in collaboration with Brauhaus Riegele of Germany, with each year’s release from now on in partnership with a different German brewery.

Sierra Nevada's Oktoberfest

Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest

Beautifully golden-orange, with steady white head. Nothing imposing, but damn it’s pretty. At the fore, it’s biscuity, with brown bread, a bit of caramel, and then closing somewhat floral and with green apple skin. A contradiction of simplicity and complexity in a bottle.

Crisp, really well carbonated and balanced between the soft maltiness and background bitterness. This beer is a great introduction to the marzen style, as it’s richly inviting, easy to drink and still, complex. Without a doubt, one of my favorite ‘fests.

Left Hand Brewing's Oktoberfest

Left Hand Brewing’s Oktoberfest

Another of my favorites is the Oktoberfest from Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, Colorado. It’s a particularly deep red-orange for a marzen style. Like a blazing late night bonfire, licking toward the dark sky overhead.

Inhaling deeply, it really soaks in – sweet and highly malted on the nose like a giant German malt bomb, you know that full beer-krieg is imminent. Sweet and sticky malts, raisins, toasted sugar, and some nuttiness is reinforced with a good hop balance, all of which marches across the tongue. While it seems grander than a traditional ‘fest, it really works.

Grab a beer and a pretzel, and we’ll see you on the lot!

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