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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bell's Oberon: A Symbol of Summer and So Much More

Bell's Oberon was released this year on March 25, 2013. In the post below, staffer Greg 'Swig' Johnson reflects on what he believes this annual event—Oberon Day—has come to mean for craft beer enthusiasts and casual fans alike.


By Greg "Swig" Johnson

Ramble (Ober)on.

Now that another Oberon Day has come and gone, I've been reflecting on the significance of this day in West Michigan. The way I see it, Oberon has done one thing no other beer in West Michigan, the whole of Michigan, and possibly even the whole country has been able to do—Oberon has become a symbol for an entire season, and one of the best seasons at that: summer.

In a way, I'm indifferent to Oberon. That doesn't mean I think Oberon is a bad beer, not by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, it's quite the opposite. Oberon is consistently produced in high quantities and with high quality. My preference in beer styles has simply shifted over the years to where I don't reach for an Oberon when I might have in the past. Oberon has a different meaning to me now and this is where I feel justified in saying this beer has become a symbol.

The arrival of Oberon means that the end to winter is near and the seemingly endless reaches of summer are now within reach. Also, as a symbol, Oberon does not appeal only to the craft beer centric masses—year after year I see more and more BMC drinkers also reach for a six pack of Oberon when a Saturday summer BBQ is at hand. It has reached a scale of identifiability in Michigan that is unsurpassed by probably any other craft beer, which further confirms its place as a symbol more than any other seasonal craft beer offering.

This past Oberon Day, I embarked on a Michigan mini-adventure that was not Oberon centric. I wasn't seeking any of the countless Oberon release parties or blow-out pint specials that happen every year. However, as my afternoon travels turned into the evening, they brought me to Pints & Quarts in Norton Shores where, if anyone could guess, Oberon was on special for $2 a pint.

While hemming and hawing over the great beer list, thoughts of Oberon wouldn't leave my mind. I'm not sure if it had to do with the recent thawing of Lake Michigan, or seeing the cases and cases of Oberon walk into Siciliano's that morning, or maybe it was the $2 pint special. Whatever the case, I saddled up to a pint of Oberon, orange and all, and you know what? It was everything I thought it could be.

Now that the cold dark depths of winter have passed, I for one am happy to see that golden orange orb atop Bell's tap handles (even though I love winter). With Daylight Savings now behind us and wisps of sunlight reaching above the horizon well past 8pm, not to mention the dwindling snowpack, do as a recent and clever meme so aptly put it: Keep Calm and Oberon.

4 comments:

  1. As a homebrewer and craft beer enthusiast, I have found that many like me are beer 'explorers' - always looking for something new and different. I'm sure like many other homebrewers and brewmasters it would be a dream to hit that magic recipe that 'everyone' loves. Bells did it with Oberon. And while some now look down on it because of its success, I relish the opportunity to have a few pints every summer even as I continue to explore for new beers.

    Cheers!

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  2. Does anyone have a good homebrew clone recipe for Oberon?

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  3. homebrewtalk.com has a recipe or two that are supposed to be close. I have not yet tried brewing Oberon, but other than the fact that the recipe there calls for a decoction mash (which Bells assured me they do not do) it looks to be very close from appearance to tasting notes from the contributors.

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    1. Thanks for the info. Maybe I'll also check with the Bells General Store. I got a Two Hearted recipe from there that was quite good. Cheers!

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