It’s that time of year again. The leaves have started changing colors, and have begun to descend to the earth. The temperature begins to cool. And the lederhosen finds its way into everyday life. It’s getting close to fall, and more over, to Oktoberfest. Here is a quick shootout among Oktoberfest varieties I have had the opportunity to try over the last week or two. If you disagree with anything you read below, feel free to grab some of these and give them a try. See for yourself what these puppies have to offer. Enjoy…
Becks Oktoberfest (Brauerei Becks & Co.) 5% ABV
Good caramel flavor in this one. I was fairly apprehensive about this beer, judging by my experience with other Beck’s varieties. Its flagship beer reminded me a little too much of the crisp, skunky hoppiness left in your mouth after drinking a few Heinekens. This one however offered a pleasant surprise. It pours a nice clear dark amber color, with a nice thick creamy head that stays present for a while despite thinning out as you drink it. Thin, light carbonation. Aroma is a little hoppy, but still malty. Little hop presence in contrast to the malty, caramel taste. Maybe some toffee as well. The hops balance well with the malt and barley. This one could be a contender…
Dundee Oktoberfest (Genesee Brewing Co.) 5.5% ABV
From the makers of Honey Brown, Dundee (formerly known as J.W. Dundee) Brewing Co. has produced an Octoberfest variety. Upon pouring, a thick creamy beige head settled at the top. This has a fairly weak aroma, although you can get a sense of pumpkin. The color is a dark amber or light-to-medium brown. Just looking at it in the light told me all I needed to know about carbonation. Lots of tiny bubbles racing to the top of the glass. I was surprised by the head retention. It actually sat for a while and settled more slowly than expected. Not much lacing left after each pull. Very little hop presence in the taste. This is pretty decently balanced using several malt varieties to provide that caramel taste with a very slight hint of spice. Maybe some hoppiness was detected in the finish, but not nearly enough to overpower or really even balance with the malt. Fairly unassuming and lacking much boldness, this is good if you’re looking for a mellow fall evening.
Flying Fish Octoberfish (Flying Fish Brewing Co.) 5.5% ABV
The Cherry Hill, NJ brewery decided to give it a shot with an Oktoberfest-style beer. Upon pouring, you notice plenty of little bubbles dancing through a light, clear copper body. Plenty of carbonation. Very faint malty smell. The head that rests at the top started out thin and all but disappeared shortly thereafter. The taste offered a decent serving of roasted caramel malt and bread with a touch of hop bitterness. Not bad, but I’m not going to claim this as a front runner just yet.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen (Paulaner Brauerei) 6% ABV
Paulaner, brewers of one of my all-time favorite beers (in my humble opinion, their Hefeweizen is the nectar of the gods) had a lot to live up to with this offering. This poured a nice thick white two-finger head, which settled fairly quickly, leaving behind a vast amount of lacing. That too, however, disappeared at the drop of a hat. The nose produced a faint smell of grains, and hint of caramel sweetness. Its taste however was a little underwhelming. I had to let it sit out and warm up quite a bit to get any of the flavor I was seeking. I’ve heard this can be common with a lot of darker German beers, but I was still expecting something a little more awe-inspiring. I expected some hearty maltiness and good caramel notation, as is prevalent in many German beers, but was too thin for my liking, and therefore it’s not the best I’ve had in this style.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest (Boston Beer Company) 5.5% ABV
Samuel Adams has produced yet another winner. This beer poured a nice golden amber color, almost copper-like. Good flavor with this one. Immediately you get the hint of toasted malts and caramel notation, but then a nice amount of hop presence keeps it respectable. Using Noble hops to add fragrance and crispness to the malty caramel, Jim Koch and the gang at the Boston Brewery spared no expense at finding the best one for this beer. They always claim to strive towards brewing the best beer with the best ingredients, and this one definitely supports that claim. This was poured off the tap rather than from the bottle, so maybe that has something to do with it. However, after buying a six pack of this beer, I enjoyed it as much as its draft brethren.
Victory Festbier (Victory Brewing Co.) 5.6% ABV
Very malty, with a bit of hop presence. Pretty fair amount of hops in the aroma, but driven by toasted malt and spices. Pours a dark amber and a fairly creamy off-white head, but one that dissolves quickly and completely. Medium carbonation. Very thin lacing apparent in the glass. Taste is malty right off the bat, hints of caramel spice. Lots of malt goodness. Fair hop presence in the finish. Not bad for an Octoberfest variety, but the spicy and hoppy elements don’t seem to fit perfectly.
Drinker’s Pick – I know this might be blasphemous to some, but I was really surprised by the Beck’s variety. The Paulaner had such great expectations that while it was good, it was nowhere near what I had hoped it to be. The Victory was good, but strangely balanced. Sam Adams was definitely a contender, but this might be a toss-up with Beck’s. Perhaps a head-to-head shootout will determine our winner…