The Beer Lover's Table: Italian Sausage Hoagies and Weihenstephaner Festbier

Oktoberfest is back. For the first time since the pandemic began, the annual festival is returning to the Theresienwiese in Munich. The event is a larger-than-life spectacle of supersized beer “tents” and roller coasters and litre upon litre upon litre of golden festbier. Given all that drinking, there needs to be plenty of food to sop it all up; to no one’s surprise, Oktoberfest staples (think roast chicken and spaetzle, ham hocks and bratwurst) lean hearty and gut-busting.

Rather than do an exacting recreation of the traditional fare, this year I decided to channel Oktoberfest via Philadelphia. Meet the Italian sausage hoagie, a humble and heavyweight sandwich. Recipes vary, but most feature Italian sausage, cooked-down bell peppers and onions, oregano, perhaps some cheese, potentially red sauce, all packed into a hoagie roll (a cousin of the submarine sandwich roll).

The sausage hoagie is nothing fancy, and it is entirely wonderful. In my version, I used pork sausages flavoured with fennel and chilli (you could swap in a veggie alternative), added fresh oregano to my bell pepper and onion mixture for herby oomph and found a jar of pickled chillies at my local Turkish grocery store. I also gave my rolls the garlic bread treatment before assembling, spreading them with garlic butter, topping them with shavings of mild pecorino (in lieu of the traditional provolone) and melting under the grill.

There are few things better after downing a maß or several. I know, because I ate my hoagie alongside a glass of Weihenstephaner Festbier, a perfect pick for the season. It’s like a souped-up helles, ample with bready, biscuity and lemony goodness. It’s less cloying or sticky than some other festbiers I’ve tried, and while it’s not served at the main Oktoberfest event (that privilege is reserved for Munich’s “big six” breweries), it’s an ideal pick to conjure the requisite gemütlichkeit.

Italian Sausage Hoagies
Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large bell peppers, sliced
2 red onions, sliced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
Leaves from 4-5 stalks fresh oregano, roughly chopped (substitute 1 tablespoon dried oregano)
70g unsalted butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
4 large sausages (substitute vegetarian sausages)
4 hoagie or submarine rolls
200g mild pecorino, very thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
Spicy pickled peppers
or pickled jalapeños (optional)

1. Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add the bell peppers and red onions, and turn the heat down to medium low. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for roughly 5-6 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are softened. Add the red or white wine vinegar and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the oregano and mix through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Next, prepare a garlic butter mixture for your hoagie rolls. Place your butter in a small bowl or ramekin and microwave for just 10-15 seconds, or until softened but not melted. Add the minced garlic and mix through. Set aside.

3. Place another large frying pan (or transfer your pepper mixture to a plate) over medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Once hot, add the sausages. Cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, flipping regularly with tongs, until cooked through and golden-brown on all sides.

4. While the sausages are cooking, prepare the hoagie rolls. Using a serrated knife, slice them in half, though not all the way through. Place on a foil-lined baking tray and spread over the garlic butter. Place under the grill for 2-3 minutes, or until starting to toast. Arrange the cheese shavings evenly over the rolls and return to the grill for 1-2 minutes more, or until the cheese is melted.

 5. To assemble your hoagies, divide the pepper and onion mixture between the four rolls, then top with the sausages. If using the pickled hot peppers, nestle in the hoagies or serve on the side. Serve right away.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers - like this one - every month.