From the Bar: We all like Pretty Things

Last week, many Venture Café-ers inquired about the particularly yummy beer we were serving. Folks, it’s Pretty Things, Jack D’Or (Jack of Gold)! Dann Paquette’s Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but the brewery is a “gypsy brewery,” with no permanent brewing home. Dann has made temporary homes at various local breweries including Ipswich Brewing Company, Pilgrim Brewery, Mill City Brewing Company, John Harvard’s Brew House, North East Brewing Company, and The Haverhill Brewery. Jack D’Or pours as Dann’s flagship beer.

Although Dann and his beer now reside in the US, the inspiration for Pretty Things beer came from the Ripon Cathedral in York, England. The cathedral formerly provided the background for the writing of “Through the Looking Glass,” and featured many pretty carvings in the choir. Dann took the cathedral’s creative spirit and applied it to brewing beer. Dann now includes hops and yeast in his register of pretty things, along with the cathedral carvings of his earlier days.

Other Pretty Things beers include Hedgerow Bitter, Field Mouse’s Farewell, Baby Tree, St. Botolph’s Town, Babayaga, American Darling, Confounded Mr. Sisyphys, and Fluggy White Rabbits. Want to taste them? To see where you can find Pretty Things beers, visit and read Dann’s tips for enjoying his beer here

From the Bar: You don’t have to speak German to understand “Oktoberfest”

I’m not a huge fan of the “seasonal beer,” but I have been looking forward to seeing the various Oktoberfest beers on the shelves. Oktoberfest beers are officially known as Maerzens. The name comes from the time of year historically designated for brewing in Bavaria, Germany: brewing season ended with spring and picked up again in the fall, because without modern refrigeration it was difficult to brew beer due to hot summer weather and bacteria. Thus, Bavarian beers were brewed in March (Maerzen), kept in cold storage, and liberated in the fall.

Maerzenbier features a medium to full body and its color can range from golden to reddish orange. The beer tastes sweet and malty, with a hint of clean, hop bitterness. The malt character is light-toasted, and alcohol content ranges slightly higher than the average beer: typically from 5-6%.

Listed below are the top Oktoberfest beers rated at the 2010 US Open Beer Championship. According to the expert beer guy at New Bay View Liquors, my favorite local package store in South Boston, the rumor is that Oktoberfests are weaker this year than in previous years. You’ll have to taste for yourself, so we’ll be sampling some seasonals in the coming months at Venture Cafe. Embrace the New England fall, even without the lederhosen and goat hair-tufted cowboy hats!

1. Snake River Lager – Snake River Brewing – Wyoming
2. Heavy Seas Marzen – Clipper City Brewing – Maryland
3. Capital Fest – Captial Brewery – Wisconsin
4. Paulaner Oktoberfest – Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu – Germany
5. Left Hand Oktoberfest – Left Hand Brewing – Colorado
6. Staghorn Octoberfest – New Glarus Brewing – Wisconsin
7. Great Lakes Oktoberfest – Great Lakes Brewing – Ohio
8. Dogtoberfest – Flying Dog Brewery – Maryland
9. Bell’s Octoberfest – Bell’s Brewery – Michigan
10. Ayinger Oktober Fest – Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer / Brauerei Aying

For beer advocate’s full report on Maerzens: