Fall and winter bring with them a plethora of seasonal beers: Oktoberfest, pumpkin ale, Christmas ale, and all the hybrids in between. Most of them I view sourly as marketing stunts to take up more shelf space to sell more of the brand. Rather than bitter prematurely, though, I tasted a sample of fall beers to try to prove myself wrong.
Oktoberfest, as a style, is synonymous with the Märzen style. Märzen is German for March, which is around when this style is typically brewed. Back in the days before refrigeration it was too difficult to brew in the summer, so this beer was brewed in early spring, stored in a cool spot over summer, and brought out in time to celebrate Oktoberfest. How better can one celebrate the approach of winter than by getting blitzed?
Oktoberfests are known for their full-bodied, roasty toasty-ness. I often find the American take on them too malty or sweet, but lucked out with two excellent examples recently. Fat Head’s Oktoberfest and Victory Brewing’s Fest Beer are both lagers and both a gorgeous shade of carmely brown. Both also have a quality the popular lagers in America fail to achieve, in that they both taste really good.
I don’t know how far afield Fat Head’s distributes, but if you ever have a chance to pick one up, do so. Their Oktoberfest had a serious hop finish that was in no way bitter, but rather cleansing. (Ben noted that the beer was quite nutty, opening wide the opportunity for me to explain that that’s how I like ‘em.) The nuttiness was balanced though, leaving a rich, almost marzipan-like fullness in the middle. The complex malt base was well-balanced by the hops, revealing a full, smooth character one doesn’t find in run-of-the-mill lagers. Continue reading