AC9-47Con ocho años el Oktoberfest criollo es una de las fiestas de la cerveza más conocidas de  esta parte del mundo. Doce hectáreas reciben a  miles de visitantes que llegan sedientos a probar las más de 60 marcas que este año llenaron la explanada del Múnich.

Llegado el último fin de semana de  octubre, ya se sabe que Oktoberfest de Malloco abre sus puertas para comenzar  la fiesta pionera y una de las más grandes que se realiza en Chile. Con decenas de stands de cerveza, entre nacionales e importadas, esta expo se ha instalado en  las afueras de la Región Metropolitana y se ha convertido en una tradición santiaguina, cuyos habitantes programan algunos de sus días – ojalá fin de semana – para ir a Malloco, casi como a cumplir una manda.

Y así lo sabe Alex Zahlhaas, creador de  este evento. Inspirado por sus orígenes alemanes y por la perseverancia de su madre de mantener las tradiciones, Zahlhaas se atrevió a hacer  el  primer Oktoberfest con sólo 5 cerveceros y recuerda que fue “una grata experiencia”. Hoy, con ocho años y habiendo crecido en territorio más de 10 hectáreas, lo que inició como un encuentro cervecero, es una de las fiestas más grandes del país  junto con la Bierfest de Kunstmann en Valdivia, que este año cumple once años al más puro estilo alemán y que recibe 10 mil visitantes en cuatro días en el Parque Saval, pero que involucra a toda la ciudad y los turistas, con diversas actividades deportivas, de recreación y culturales, convirtiéndola en la única  y más grande de la región.

Malloco y su encanto

Pero Malloco es Malloco. No importa el calor ni la distancia, hay que ir al Oktoberfest y tomar toda la cerveza que se pueda. Plata no falta, menos las ganas ni la paciencia, pues llegar o salir de ahí puede tomar horas, pero nada importa más que haber estado en Malloco. Sólo para entrar puede haber una fila de cientos de metros, sin contar a todos los visitantes que van caminando por la orilla del camino, los que no resistieron más el calor en el bus que no avanza por el exceso de tránsito. Otro tanto está por el costado en el sector de estacionamientos, cuya recaudación va toda para el Cuerpo de Bomberos de la comuna.

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Una vez dentro del recinto ¡Yuhu!, comenzó la fiesta y las caracterizaciones de personajes foráneos  – que nada tienen que ver con las tradiciones chilenas, en un recinto donde el 90 por ciento de su cerveza es nacional – se mezclan con los diversos colores de la bebida más apreciada. Representaciones vikingas, mexicanas, gringas, irlandesas y alemanas aparecen entre la diversidad del público que busca, primero, las degustaciones y luego, llenar el vaso con la marca y estilo que más le ha gustado. Claro que con tanta degustación y tantos stands recorridos, muchos no recuerdan cuál es la cerveza que quieren comprar, pero vale la pena arriesgarse y pedir una rubia, roja, negra o de 10 grados.

¿Color o estilo?

Sí, porque así la gran mayoría toma cerveza en Oktoberfest. Pocos son los que piden una Pale Ale, Red Ale, Stout o Barley Wine. Y claro, varios se arriesgan a ser ilustrados  con carácter por Karin Hevia de Cervecería Szot que les ofrece a sus clientes el estilo que produce y no el color del líquido. Y así lo hacen varios cerveceros más que ofrecen el color y explican a qué estilo pertenece, todo para educar al consumidor de su producto.

Pero algunos clientes son porfiados y prefieren seguir con los colores en vez de aprender de estilos,  a fin de cuentas, no importan el color ni el sabor, sólo la cantidad de  centímetros cúbicos y grados de alcohol que alcance a consumir durante su visita a Malloco.

He aquí una gran discusión que hay entre los cerveceros que están empeñados en contribuir al desarrollo de una cultura cervecera en Chile. Si ellos no educan al consumidor, ¿quién? Oktoberfest es una excelente oportunidad de negocios para los productores nacionales e importadores, pero también es un magnífico escenario para enseñar a consumir esta bebida dándole la categoría que se merece: la de un producto Premium que se obtiene con ingredientes naturales, de primera calidad  y se  logra con mucho esfuerzo.

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Malloco’s Oktoberfest is the best-known in the region

AC9-48For eight years this criollo Oktoberfest has been one of the most well-known beer festivals in this part of the world. Twelve hectares welcome thousands of visitors who are thirsty to try the more than 60 brands that filled the Munich terrace this year.

When last weekend of October is upon us, we know that the Malloco Oktoberfest is opening the doors of its pioneer festival, which is one of the largest festivals held in Chile. With dozens of booths with both domestic and imported beers, this expo takes place in the outskirts of the metropolitan area and has become a Santiago tradition. The city’s inhabitants make it a habit to schedule trips – ideally on weekend days – to go Malloco, almost as if fulfilling a vow.

And no one knows this better than Alex Zahlhaas, creator of this event. Inspired by his German origins and his mother’s perseverance in maintaining traditions, Zahlhaas held the first Oktoberfest with only five brewers and recalls that it was “a great experience.” Today, after eight years, and after having expanded to over 10 hectacres of land, the festival that began as brewers’ get-together is now one of the biggest in the country, along with the Kunstmann Bierfest in Valdivia, which this year celebrates eleven years of existence in the purest German style. The Kunstmann Bierfest receives 10,000 visitors in four days in Parque Saval, making it the largest festival in the region, and the whole city gets involved, along with many tourists, to partake in different sporting, recreational and cultural activities.

Malloco’s charm

Yet, Malloco is Malloco. No matter the heat or the distance, you simply have to go to Oktoberfest and drink all the beer you can. You’ll have to bring money, plus enthusiasm and patience, since getting there or leaving can take hours, but nothing matters more than having been in Malloco. There might be a line of hundreds of meters long just to get in, not counting all the people walking along the road who couldn’t take the heat of the bus that is stopped in traffic. The same thing happens along the side by the parking area, whose proceeds all go to the Fire Department of the municipality.

Once inside the enclosure – Woohoo! The party has begun, and portrayals of numerous foreign characters – which have nothing to do with Chilean traditions, and this in a space where 90 percent of the beer is domestic – mingle and mix with the many different colors of our most appreciated beverage. Viking, Mexican, American, Irish and German personas appear among the diverse public, who is there, first, for the tastings, and second, to fill their glasses with the brand and style that most caught their fancy. Of course, with so many tastings and booths under their belts, many do not remember which beer they wanted, but it’s worth it to take a risk and ask for a lager, red ale, stout or a “10 degree” beer.

Color or style?

The answer is simply yes, because of how most people drink beer at Oktoberfest. There are few who ask for a Pale Ale, Red Ale, Stout or Barley Wine. And of course, many run the risk of having it explained to them, in grand style, by Karin Hevia of Cervercería Szot, which offers its customers the style it produces, not the color. Many brewers offer by color and explain what style it belongs to, all to educate the consumers of their product.

But some customers are stubborn and want to stick with colors instead of learning styles; in the end, they are not interested in the color or flavor, just the amount of cubic inches and alcohol content they manage to consume while visiting Malloco.

This issue is a current topic of discussion among brewers who are determined to contribute to the development of a beer culture in Chile. If they do not educate the consumer, then who will? Oktoberfest is an excellent business opportunity for domestic producers and importers, but it is also a perfect place to teach how one should consume this drink, giving it the category it deserves: a premium, high-quality product that is derived from natural ingredients and achieved with great effort.

Those in the know

However, Malloco has its own personality. Those who know beer, know styles and are familiar with the prestige of different brands go to this festival to taste beers, but more so to buy their favorite brands, take advantage of sales and to see something new, to see what beer surprises them, and there’s no doubt they leave Malloco satisfied.

Every year brands are added and others disappear. All micro producers prepare for months to face these ten days of hard work. Days start early, to get everything ready and head to Malloco, and end late, closing the booth to return to Santiago when it’s almost dawn. As Mauricio Villagran of Cerveza Edelstoff says, “To come to Malloco you have to physically and psychologically prepare yourself.” But it’s worth it, at least according to exhibitors. They all sell all their production, and sometimes even run out.

This year – unlike in the past when Oktoberfest grew exponentially in terms of number of stands, square meters, labels and visitors – there were only 60 beer booths, facilitating equitable distribution and benefitting all producers equally, and enabling consumers to better appreciate the quality and quantity of the beers available (without tasting a quantity of samples that would leave anyone dizzy). The producers themselves commented on the public order, safety and excellent organization of the festival, bringing back to Oktoberfest the initial magic that brought so many people together, the magic of a brewers’ get-together, a place to share experiences and knowledge and to chat with friends while enjoying a good beer.

Debutantes

The beer created as the Collaboration Brew in the Americas Beer Cup competition, an Imperial Sticke, was the only new beer sold at the Oktoberfest, and it was marketed only in draft form and went on sale at the Szot booth. Karin Hevia commented: “This beer has been very well received among the public, especially among those who know beer and are looking for something new.”

The Imperial Sticke is adapted from the classic German Sticke style. It is characterized by a very high malt content balanced by the prolonged bitter flavor and aroma of its hops and alcohol content. This makes the Imperial Stike one of the strongest and most uncommon Altbiers. Aged with oak chips, it has a slight smoky, woody component, evoking classic elements of maturation in wooden barrels and old-fashioned malts dried in smoking kilns with direct fire. Toasted and carefully selected French OakPLUS oak chips replicate these flavors. The chips are immersed in the fermenter in a porous bag during the final stage of the primary fermentation, and contribute a slightly sweet aroma, almost of chancaca (Latin American unrefined cane sugar).

The other sensation was Cervercería Mossto’s “India,” gold medal winner in the Americas Beer Cup. It surprised every consumer who tried the typical tasting (some a bit suspicious of what they were getting). Surprised by the flavor, aroma and complexity of this beer, they understood why it was chosen as the Best Chilean Beer and, of course, they bought it.

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And finally, against all odds and expectations, “micheladas” made up a big part of the consumption at Malloco. Prepared “in situ” with a 330 cc lager or pale ale, freshly squeezed lemons, merquén to taste, salt and one or two other ingredients chosen by the bartenders, they are served in a glass with the rim dipped in salt, and there you have it. “Here is your michelada,” the bartenders proclaim, waiting as the customers break into smiles, tears almost filling their eyes, with the excitement of receiving their concoction, practically made ​by an alchemist.

Meanwhile, observers crowd around, some tempted to order one, some doubting and preferring their beer just as it is. But everything is allowed at Malloco. No one judges or points fingers when someone’s tastes do not match their own. The important thing here is to enjoy the place, beer, friends, the costumed characters and the music on the stage, where the sound and rhythm of the Tyrolese dancers encourage everyone to sing, jump and shout for more. The idea is to enjoy Oktoberfest, because once it’s over, there is nothing to do but wait until next year to come back and repeat the experience.

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