"We've done more Oktoberfest this year than we've done in previous years. We started brewing it early, so it has aged a minimum of four weeks," High Point owner Greg Zaccardi says. "It's got a gorgeous color, rich malty aroma, round toasty palate, a clean finish."
Here's another first for this year's release: Thanks to state regulatory changes in 2012, brewery tour patrons will be able to get a full serving of the Oktoberfest. In previous years, tour sampling at production breweries in the Garden State was limited to 2-ounce pours.
The doors open at 2 p.m., with High Point's stalwart Ramstein wheat beers on tap; an Austrian oak barrel of the märzen will be tapped during a brief ceremony. There will also be an unfiltered pale ale that High Point has brewed intermittently over the years and most recently for the Pig and the Prince to mark the Montclair restaurant's first anniversary.
"We've had it in our portfolio for a while. There was a three-year run with it," Greg says. "It was a neat beer; people loved it."
The pale ale got bumped from brewing production by an imperial pilsner, a beer that's a closer fit to High Point's Continental Europe stylings.
The pale ale trends toward a British feel, but German noble hops (Perle and Hallertau) and West Coast hops (Cascade) keep that to a suggestion, rather than a full-on flavor.
"It's got malt; it's got hops. It's got body," Greg says.
With the Oktoberfest, High Point moved up the beer's position on the production calendar. Brewing began in May, and High Point expects to turn out 165 barrels of the copper-colored lager in draft-only availability.
The beer (6.5% ABV, 25 IBU) has been filtered, a practice brought back last year after several seasons that saw the märzen go unfiltered, but dropped very bright nonetheless. The filtering, Greg says, gives the beer an extra polish that accentuates its malt signatures.
"Filtering allows the elegance of the munich and vienna malts to come through, without a kind of yeast bite," he says. "It wasn't like the beers before were hefeweizen in character or cloudy. But this just cleans it up a little more. It has a super-nice malty character to it."
High Point (located in Butler in Morris County) first brewed the märzen in 1999, adding the beer to its output of flagship blonde and dunkel wheat beers at the request of the Hofbrauhaus in Atlantic Highlands.
The beer was well-received at the German restaurant in Monmouth County's bayshore area. The Hofbrauhaus is now gone, but Ramstein Oktoberfest has been brewed annually since that request 14 years ago and has become a growth leader for High Point.
On the heels of the Oktoberfest is Ramstein Winter Wheat Doppelbock, a mid-November release that, a couple of months later, weather conditions permitting, usually comes back around as velvety eisbock.
High Point has been stirring the pot on its beer offerings of late, with a recent soured, barrel-aged bock and the pale ale being good examples. A schwarzbier and a blonde doppelbock are under consideration for down the road.