Archive for the 'Oktoberfest' category
Next style up on the beer fridge clearing list, Octoberfest. This was an easy task once again, since I only had one Octoberfest left, Jack’s Abby Copper Legend. Jack’s Abby is located in Framingham, MA and is one of the few (only?) all lager american craft breweries. There is definitely something ballsy about being a lager only brewery in the American craft scene. However, ballsy or not, if their beers suck it does not matter.
I do not know about their other beers* but their Copper Legend does not suck. It’s malty, naturally, but it’s a great mix of breadcrust and caramel malt flavors, which give the beer some complexity. The beer does not stop there. Mid-tongue whispers of apple and banana can be found and the finish is dry with hints of black pepper. The orange-amber beer, with a thin head, takes all of these flavors and smoothly passes them over an eager tongue.
High praise for this beer. Though it does not displace my number one Octoberfest (Victory Festbier… which I haven’t reviewed?!?!), it comes a very close second and next year a head to head battle between the two beers is certainly called for. Definitely need to try more Jack Abby’s beers.
*Their Smoke & Dagger won the bronze medal in the smoked beer category at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, so I could assume that is good. Could.
After a slight deviation to the mild style, back to Oktoberfest 2009 reviews. This time it is the Würzburger Festbier. This beer was not had with the two Oktoberfest/Marzen beers previously reviewed.
A frothy white head topped the rich golden elixir. Aromas of bread and malt pleasantly waifed towards my nose. In the mouth the beer ran light and clean, with the aforementioned bread and malt taste. Some sparse hop spice in the finish of the beer made for a slightly coarse ending. I wish the hop had been better integrated making the beer clean all the way through the mouth, at least that is how I felt during the session.
Nothing overly crazy with this beer. I think it hits all the Oktoberfest/Marzen key points. Very much reminded me of the Stoudt’s Fest beer.
Next up for Oktoberfest 2009 reviews, Weihenstephaner Festbier. In the glass stein mug the beer was a clear golden, topped with a tight “cappachino foam” looking, white head. Columns of fast and slow moving bubbles were interspersed through the beer’s body. The nose was a strong noble hop spice, mixed with some light pale malt. The mouthfeel was light and possessed some carbonation play on the tongue. The beer played spicey all along the tongue with a crisp and lightly bitter finish. As the beer warmed a light bread character broke through the hop spice.
Having the Stoudt’s and Weihenstephaner in the same session was interesting. It really gave a good sense on how different the style can be, when having two beers of the same style right after each other. I would go with the Weihenstephaner for one or two beers, to really get a good hit of noble hops, but for a full day Oktoberfest event I would stick with the Stoudts, due to its very mellow flavor characteristics.
With Oktoberfest over, let’s get some Oktoberfest reviews posted. Though not in Germany, I was fortunate enough to have a few Oktoberfest beers here in Boston over the festival’s 16 days. The highlight of the beers I had during that time was a gravity poured Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse from a faux-wooden barrel (‘faux’ because the barrel’s wooden exterior actually contained a metal keg) into a ceramic mug. Though it was not a traditional Oktoberfest beer, it definitely was a fun little beer experience. Enough rambling, lets start the beer reviews.
I’ll start American with Stoudt’s Fest. The beer, poured into a glass mug, had a large off-white head . The head, which sat atop a clear copper body, was kept alive by steady streams of tiny bubbles found throughout the beer’s body. After a few minutes the head receded to a thin, yet full, covering. The nose seemed pretty straight forward with bread, grains and fading hints of noble hop spice. Much expected, due to the predominant bread and grain aromas, the taste of cereal grains and white bread crust engulfed my mouth. Nothing strong or overpowering in either. The finish had a light bitterness, which gave the beer a slight harshness. Overtime hints of lemon joined this bitterness.
A good beer with nothing major to complain about or to make it stick out for that matter. At 4.5 abv, a good sessionable beer choice.
It seems like I’m always waiting for dark beer season to end so I can get back to my tasty witbiers and hefeweizens. However, this year, I’m really psyched to get to the Octoberfest beers. I’ve had the opportunity to taste a few out at bars, and it has piqued my interest for what all the brewers put out this season. For this particular review, I was just looking for an inexpensive and tasty way to feed the Octoberfest monkey, and Saranac is almost always good for providing a pretty decent and well-priced beer…
This beer pours a clear and deep, deep golden color. I wouldn’t quite call this brown, but it’s pretty darn close. In the nose, there are a ton of those autumny Octoberfest spices. Seems like some nutmeg and cinnamon are involved, and they gently burn the nose in a good way. In the mouth, this is a rather generic, but very tasty, Octoberfest. It is well carbonated, which provides a nice tingle on the tongue. Initially, there is a great dark malt sweetness with some chocolatey tints. On through the mouth, the nutmeg and spice perk up along with just a slight bit of hop earthiness. Down the throat, the beer washes rather clean leaving around some of that spice and making me anxious for the next drink. Basically, this beer does what I wanted it to do. It isn’t experimental or too bodacious – it’s just a good ol’ plain Octoberfest. I highly recommend it if you’re trying to get all seasonal on a budget…
I tell you what, folks. It’s cold in Durham tonight. I mean, like, sub-arctic 45 degrees cold. I don’t relish the onslaught of winter weather, but it does remind me of growing up over in the mountains of NC and that first frost of winter. So, in that vein, it seemed fitting to reach for a brew from Asheville, NC to warm me up this evening, and it just so happens that the Clawhammer Oktoberfest is the lucky winner.
The Clawhammer pours a medium amber color – really more golden than amber – with a thin and slightly off-white head. The aroma of this beer is mostly malty, with a buttery, almost pretzelish, scent to it. In the mouth, this is a sweet and spicy Oktoberfest that, I must say, is one of the better Oktoberfest brews I’ve had this year. In the front of the mouth, we get a lot of malty sweetness. As this sweetness progresses, it gets a bit spicier with hints of those autumn spices that I know not the names for – reminiscent of tasty desserts and colors like orange and brown (or maybe that’s just me). Anyway, this does have some richer buttery elements to it that gives it more of a dessert-like quality. However, it tends to wash pretty clean, like any good lager. All around, this is a flavorful and refreshing Oktoberfest, meeting my expectations of a beer that would come from a town such as Asheville. Highly recommended, I think you’ll be hard up to find a better Oktoberfest than this, judging from those I’ve tasted thus far…
I won’t lie to you – this beer is mad suspect. I assume it is of the Oktoberfest genre, and I know it’s from Shmaltz, who generally makes an excellent brew. But, it also pours a cloudy blood-red hue with no head and claims to have an abv of “6.66%”. Honestly, seems a bit gimmicky, but I’ll of course not judge a beer by it’s cover. Let’s give it a taste…
The aroma of this beer is rather sweet – there is some sweet malt and spice here, but I’m also getting some interesting berry tints. In the mouth, this beer is mostly rich malt and spice. All through the mouth we get dark, rich flavors of sweet malt. There is some mild bitterness here, mostly of the rootsy and metallic variety, and it hits around the center of the tongue, continuing on into the aftertaste where it sticks to the back of the tongue. Riding along periodically with the malt, we get some doses of spice. I’m having some difficulty placing the spice, but it is mildly reminiscent of the desserts and spiced breads you expect around the autumn and winter seasons. I’m not really getting much of the berry flavors in this beer – maybe just a bit of dark cherry – which leads me to wonder if I’m not swayed by the color of this beer to think I’m smelling something that’s not there. Honestly, this isn’t either a great or bad beer. It’s good, and I’d say about par for the course of Oktoberfest beers I’ve had thus far this year (those are limited to this and Sam Adams). To be perfectly honest, the color of this beer really throws me off, and Matt seems to agree. It freaks you out initially (thus the name), it manages to taint my expectations a bit, and I can’t help but feel it makes the beer feel a bit artificial. So, while I respect the gimmick, this would’ve been a better experience for me if we’d done without that little touch.
With Oktoberfest coming to an end October 7, I decided to fill my stein with Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen and join in the celebration before it was too late. As I lifted the liter vestibule of clear amber liquid to my lips, I thought to myself “I wonder how the stein came about?” A few short keystrokes later, I found some interesting reading on the web.
First, when English speakers shortened the original German word ‘Steinzeugkrug’, which means “stoneware jug or tankard”, to the popular term of ‘beer stein’, they cut off the wrong word. ‘Beer stein’ literally means “beer stone“, which is not the best of descriptions for something that looks like a jug. They should have shortened it to ‘beer krug’ as ‘krug’ means jug in German, so you would then get “beer jug”. Then again ‘beer krug’ does not really roll off one’s tongue.
Second, I do not actually own a beer stein. I own a maßkrug (pronounced ‘moss kroogh’), which means “dosage guaged jug”, with the dosage for a maßkrug having changed over time from 1.069 liters to the current 1 liter. The difference between a maßkrug, or any large mug for that matter, and a stein is the fact a stein has a hinged lid. That one factor of a hinged lid dates all the way back to the early 1500s.
In the late 1400s great swarms of flies would invade Central Europe. To protect people from these flies, and the fact people were afraid the Black Death (bubonic plague), which took place between 1340 and 1380, would make a recurrence due to the flies, numerous sanitary measures were implemented through the years by several principalities (in what is now Germany). One of these measures was that all food and beverages needed to be covered. The Germans, still wanting to consume their beers with one hand, added the hinged lid to their mugs and the steinzeugkrug was born. (Another sanitary measure enacted around this time, April 23, 1516 to be precise, in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria was the famed Reinheitsgebot, or German purity law, which only allowed water, barley, and hops to be used in the brewing of beer.)
Throughout the ages the stein has changed in shape, material, and decoration. In the 1600s every region had its own take on a stein’s shape, from wide and sturdy in the south, to sleek and tall in the north. However, from the 1700s and onward the common stein’s cylindrical shape took hold across the regions and stein material and decoration became the varying factors between the regions. Depending on the time, technology, and financial means available, steins were made from wood, earthenware, stoneware, faience (similar to porcelain), pewter, glass, or silver. Much like the materials used in the stein’s creation, stein decoration was dependent on the time. Starting with decorations of shields and historical, allegorical, and biblical scenes, stein decoration progressed with the artistic styling of the times.
For further reading, I suggest “A Brief History of Beer Steins”, though “brief” it is still very thorough.
About the Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen, it pours a thick, two and a half finger, white head into my maßkrug. The head sticks around for a good 4 minutes, before settling down to a thin foam. The most noticeable smell is one of bready malt with a slight hint of caramel. In the mouth the beer is medium body with a big taste of bread. I search for the caramel but can not seem to find it. The beer finishes with a pleasant hop bitterness, though there is a lingering musty aftertaste when all things are said and done. Not a complex beer, but quite drinkable. I found myself going for a refill without hesitation.
An interesting side note about the Ayinger is the fact it is not an official Oktoberfest beer. Oktoberfest is actually a registered trademark and can only legally be used by six Munich breweries: Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Lowenbrau, Spaten, Hofbrau, and Augustiner. These six breweries are also the only six allowed to set up tents at the Munich Oktoberfest. (source: The Best of Oktoberfest) How does Ayinger not get in trouble for their labeling. “Well judge, we call our beer Oktober (space) Fest-Marzen.” Tricky, tricky.
Here’s another tasty seasonal treat from the folks at Beer of the Month Club. Now, I don’t generally consider Iowa to be a hot bed of great craft brews. But, these days, we’re seeing tasty beers come from all over the place. Hell, I hear that even Italy’s craft brew market has been rejuvenating itself in recent months, so who knows what’ll happen next! At any rate, I’m glad to see this offering from BOMC that is both from an under-represented niche of the craft beer market geographically, but is also arriving just in time for the start of Oktoberfest (which I believe began just a few short days ago).
This beer pours a slightly hazy dark amber color with very little head and very fine but consistent carbonation. The aroma of the beer is full of dark malt with some hints of caramel and spice with maybe just a hint of anise. In the mouth, this is a pretty straightforward Oktoberfest brew. The first sensation is of a light spicy burn on the tip of the tongue. This spice is fairly sweet with a dark richness to it. Through the mouth, there is almost no hop presence to this beer. Rather, the flavor profile begins with the spiciness, then builds to a dark malty sweetness around the middle of the tongue that moves all the way to the back of the mouth, where the presence of anise is again confirmed, along with some other spices whose presence tells me that I need to take some beer tasting classes so that I may begin to identify them. All in all, this is a great example of an Oktoberfest brew. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it is quite delicious and true to the variety. The richness and refined sweetness of the brew makes it taste like some good thought went into its creation. This is a great first taste of Millstream for me – I hope to try some more soon.
Matt - September 26, 2007
As Dave pointed out a few days ago Oktoberfest has officially begun. In keeping with the reason for the season it time to start tasting this falls offerings. I would have liked to have seen how this brew would have stacked up in last year’s Oktoberfest Challenge but I guess that’s neither here nor there now. Bell’s generally puts out a quality product and Ben has said their Two-Hearted Ale is among his top five beers of all time so I have high hopes for the Octoberfest.
This interpretation has a clear, copper color. It pours with a gracious amount of white head but it disappears after a minute or two. It has no distinct aroma that suggests its contents. It has a crisp, metallic smell with a bit of sweetness, which is simple yet enticing. The majority of the taste is of deep maltiness, and I’m getting a little nut at the end. There is a bitter sweet “grapeness” that tickles the back of the upper palate. I’m experiencing a hefty dose of carbonation with each swallow but it doesn’t burn as it goes down the throat. A small hop quality creeps in to the nasal cavity giving this beer a bigger flavor than I had expected. This is a fantastic brew and I highly recommend it. This is a perfect beer for any fall occasion.
Matt - September 16, 2007
On the eve of my birthday I have been coaxed into drinking many beverages and hence I am compelled to review a few, well at least one. I had the Bell’s 8000 ale, but I didn’t write any notes at dinner so I don’t feel confident that I could accurately comment on the taste so I better stick with the brew that is currently in front of me. Lunz picked this one out and given that it is a Weyerbacher product I expect that I will find it quite delightful. So, without further a due here is what I think about the Imperial Pumpkin Ale.
It pours a deep amber, almost ruby color. It has a pronounced head that slowly dissipates, leaving a tiny ring at the meniscus of the liquid. The smell is heavy with pumpkin and cinnamon and nutmeg. This beer is like pumpkin pie without the bready pie crust. It reminds me of the Shipyard Pumpkin Ale. The cinnamon is the most noticeable flavor of this brew and much like the Shipyard I think it is very delicious. The spiciness burns a hair as it flows down the throat, but it is a good burn. The alcohol content is relatively nonexistent which makes this beer even more enjoyable. This is a specialty beer with a specific flavor and for that reason I guess I would classify it as a “flavored” or “fruit beer”, even though the latter is a tremendous stretch. It certainly has a taste specific only to pumpkin ales and one that is only found at this time of the year. This is an excellent fall beer and one of the best pumpkin ales I’ve ever had. I haven’t even gotten to the imperial part of it. It weighs in at a hefty 8.0% so enjoy with care. This has been another terrific beer from the Weyerbacher family.
This is a production of the famous Two Times brewery of Durham, N.C. I tried this beverage while staying at the Two Times Lodge. The beer was originally conceived as an Octoberfest varietal. While this reviewer feels it is a good beer, the proprietors of the brewery were unsatisfied with the results. Thus, we’ve dubbed the beer The Great Buntino, in honor of UNC’s soon to be ex-coach, John Bunting. While Coach Bunting is a great guy with great intentions for the team, the result is simply mediocre. The brewers felt this described their Octoberfest accurately, thus it was dubbed The Great Buntino.
With the history of the name out of the way, on to the review. The beer pours out of the tap with a beautiful, orange color and a great deal of head. It almost appears to be unfiltered. In fact, the color and pour is reminiscent of a dunkelweizen – which perhaps does lend credence to the brewers’ belief that it’s not an adequate Octoberfest. There is a nice mouthfeel, which dissipates quickly. The beer is irrepressably drinkable – one could easily imagine sitting down for an afternoon and evening session of drinking this and be content. However, it does not quite capture the Octoberfest style. There is some sweetness to it, and almost a bit too much to be considered a true Octoberfest. On the whole, this beer pleases my palate. I certainly enjoy drinking it and would recommend as a good drinking beer to anyone.
When all was said and done this was a difficult decision. Many factors were taken into account and after much deliberation we have come to a concensus. The winner of the 2006 Two Times Brewery Beer-toberfest is…..
It embodied all of the characteristics of the Oktoberfest style – toasty, spicy, malty and sweet. All of these combined to create a complex array of flavors that perplex the palate and entice the drinker to reach for more.
Nevertheless we were impressed by some of the more adventurous varieties put forth by our other competitors. For instance the Harpoon was in tight contention for 1st place, only taking 2nd due to its slack adherence to the traditional Oktoberfest style. Similar results were considered for our offerings from Dogfish Head and Red Hook – while they are exceptional beers, they stray a bit too far from traditional standards. On a similar note, the Sam Adams offering was quite good, but perhaps lost points due to the fact that it comes from a popular macro-brew – as beer nerds, we are unfortunately biased towards our less mainstream brewers. It should also be noted that the Pumpkinhead Ale was not considered in the running only due to the fact that it is not a true ‘Oktoberfest’ beer. But, were we crowning the ‘best-tasting’ beer tonight, Pumpkinhead would have won hands down. While the top 5 beers tonight are all exceptional beers, the Otter Creek offering is sadly a distant sixth place, due to the fact that it is completely and entirely undrinkable beside a true Oktoberfest beer.
Standings: 1 – Brooklyn Oktoberfest; 2 – Harpoon Octoberfest; 3 – Flying Dog Dogtoberfest; 4 – Red Hook “Late Harvest” Autumn Ale; 5 – Samuel Adams Octoberfest; 6 – Otter Creek Oktoberfest; VIP – Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
**Disclaimer: These are solely the opinions of the tasters at hand. We recognize that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We don’t do this in an attempt to degrade the efforts of any brewery. Rather, we ask that you patronize your local brewers and explore various options to form your own opinions. We also ask that you post these opinions, as we don’t have all the answers and we will certainly benefit from your views in our future tastings.
This is noticably different than the other beers we have had this evening. It is very malty with a hint of vanilla. That coupled with the spice and berries = a well-rounded, balanced beer. No flavor stands out above the rest and all of them seem to stimulate the appropriate parts of the tongue and mouth. Another thing I like is that I have yet to experience a bad aftertaste. I don’t fee like I have to take another sip to rid my tongue of bitterness. Harpoon has created a sophisticated and complex beer and one I think others should try to imitate. -Matt
As Matt says, this is another unique take on the genre. This one carries a heavy aroma of berries on the head. In the mouth, there is just the slightest burn. But, this burn is quickly overtaken by a fruity sweetness on the middle of the tongue. Towards the back, this sweetness kicks into a hoppy bitterness that sticks on tongue with some residual sweetness. I find this Octoberfest very nice, very easy to drink, and probably one of the most accessible Octoberfests of the evening. -Ben
Matty was worried that this would be too off-the-wall – sometimes Flying Dog does that. But, fortunately, I think we made out okay. This beer is very pleasant. The color is typical (dark amber) and the aroma is sweet with lots of grape. In the mouth, the beer maintains a malty presence throughout. In addition to this, I still get a lot of grape out of this beer. Cutting this grape is a tart flavor and a blend of autumn spices. I wish I had a better vocabulary to fully describe the flavor of this beer – but, I don’t. So, I’ll suffice to say that this is a good Oktoberfest – a little off-kilter with a unique sweetness that isn’t cheap and plays well with the other spicy undertones involved. I like it. -Ben
This brew doesn’t have the strong, hoppy, metallic aftertaste that some of tonight’s brews have had and I can’t say that is a bad thing. Ben is right, it shares SOME of the characteristics of a traditional oktoberfest and its smooth drinkablility makes it quite enjoyable. It reminds me more of a typical lager than the actual “oktober” style. For this reason I can’t give it the highest honor but I can say I will buy it again. I must also say that I apologize to the brewers at Flying Dog for doubting you, strong work. -Matt