Beer Hear – Beer Blog & Podcast
by Bob & B.R.
Bob: I'm not sure about B.R.'s Oktoberfest history, but I went to Oktoberfest in München in my youth. It was horrible. If I could remember why it was horrible, I'd tell you. But I can't. And, perhaps, that's part of why it was horrible.
BR: I've never been to Oktoberfest but I do have fond memories - and some hazy ones - of biergartens in München. And, as a 5 year old, I was probably in the small minority of kids who had their own beer mug. I was so envious of my father's bier stein that my parents bought me my own fancy ceramic one for my milk.
Regardless, we can talk about a much more "gemütlichkeit" experience in the East Village, courtesy of ZUM SCHNEIDER Biergarten. It's not an outdoor "garten", but after a litre mass you might not notice, with its large windows, rustic long tables, and decorative trees winding through the space. You couldn't be in a more joyous, friendly, spirited place for the love of beer and happiness! (Not until Spaten and Disneyworld merge.) And, appropriately enough, it's located in the original Little Germany of Manhattan, which was overflowing with beergardens in the late 1800s/early 1900s, until many of the immigrants moved uptown after the worst loss-of-life disaster in NYC until 9/11.
So... what's Oktoberfest, in München or NYC, all about?
We're not going to tell you things about Oktoberfest that Wikipedia or the official Oktoberfest website can tell you. Such as, it's the largest fair in the world, with attendance of roughly 6 million people annually, or that it was founded in 1810 as sort of a wedding party for Crown Prince Ludwig.
What we'll tell you is that ein mensch in NYC has devoted his life and energy to bringing honest, heartfelt, spirited BAVARIAN CULTURE to our fine city -- Bavarian-born Sylvester "Mösl Franzi" Schneider. We interviewed him this week for the podcast. Oktoberfest is the high-holiday of Bavarian culture, which his establishment is all about, and they do it up in grand style. It's all about beer, music and togetherness. The pictures from the opening day give a good indication of what we mean.
First, the beer of Zum Schneider -- it's only German beer, and only two tap beers are NOT Bavarian (Reissdorf Kölsch and Jever Pils). There are 12 taps of Bavarian beer, including the not so common Aventinus and Schneider Weiss, in addition to a good bottle list, that includes a favorite, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock (from Franconia, in the far northern reaches of Bavarian, which some southerners say is not really Bavaria, but we like Franconia, too!).
And Zum Schneider is the only place in NYC where you can enjoy a most delicious, small regional beer from the TRAUNSTEIN brewery, located south-east of München.
During Oktoberfest, a number of taps are replaced by the likes of Paulaner Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfest, etc. -- but this year the one to try is the rich, full-bodied, uber-malty, somewhat sweet, dark amber colored AYINGER Oktoberfest! You won't find it at the München Fest because the brewery is not within the city limits (a requirement for a beer to be served at Oktoberfest). This beer is so malty, rich and flavorful, it's like drinking a loaf of homemade bread!
And it's not a party without music, so Zum Schneider's Hausband, The Ja Ja Jas, provide both traditional and original oompah band music, to get the crowd clapping, singing, shouting, swaying, laughing and fully immersed in the experience!
To complement all the fantastic German beers and raucous live music, there's a full menu of deutsches essen -- all manner of Wursts, Schweinebraten, Schnitzel, Jägerbraten. Yes, those Krauts love them some meat! But for those of us who don't partake in Rusticallefleischplatte, there is amazing Käsespätzle (order w/o bacon), Schwammerlragout, Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Bretzelen and plenty of tasty german salad dishes.
I've eaten a lot of German cuisine over my lifetime, in America (in my mom's kitchen, in German-themed restaurants, etc.) and in Deutschland (in Bavaria, Franconia, Pfalz, Berlin, Ruhrpott, usw.) and Zum Schneider is in my top 5 all-time best German eating experiences. The German food that I've had at Sylvester's is better than most of the German food that I've had in Germany. (Though still not quite as good as mom's! ;)
Zum Schneider is a must-visit if you want true, authentic German beer, echt German cuisine, and a healthy dose of big-hearted Bavarian biergarten kultur! In fact, I'd say, given the size and commercialism of the 200+ year old München event, Zum Schneider's Oktoberfest ist der wahre Jakob!