Daily beer project

Oktoberfest

Posted in Uncategorized by dailybeerproject on October 12, 2010

The other day I was looking at The Big Picture, which ran a series on Oktoberfest. And aside from prompting me to add attending Oktoberfest to my bucket list (I don’t actually have a bucket list, but I would still like to go to Oktoberfest some day), it reminded me that I haven’t sampled any Marzen or Oktoberfest beers.

But first, why are they called Marzen (March) beers if they’re consumed in October? Because back in the day, German brewers weren’t allowed to brew during the summer (shocking that industry would be so regulated in Germany, right?). So they brewed their beer in March and stored or lagered it in cool caves until fall when the kegs were tapped. In 1810, to commemorate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, these kegs were tapped in a huge party, and Oktoberfest was born.

Many brewers make a Marzen-style beer as a fall seasonal. I hadn’t had one, so I took a trip to the local liquor store and grabbed a couple.

Spaten Oktoberfest: First up was a German import, a beer actually served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. I wanted to get a feel for what the Germans and visiting tourists actually drink with their huge portions of chicken, beef, sausage, and pretzels. The beer is light to medium in body, similar in color to a lot of golden ales but lighter than a typical pale ale or amber. It’s moderately hopped, enough to be apparent, but with the malt being the dominant flavor. It’s awesome. Yes it comes from a big brewer, yes it comes in a green bottle and is probably light affected after a voyage across the ocean. It still tastes good. So I can only imagine what it’s like served on tap in a liter stein in a tent with thousands of my closest friends.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest: While malt was prominent in the Spaten, it was all I tasted in the Sam Adams. In fact it was too malty. I didn’t care for it. It was good enough that I could put another one down if need be, but I definitely would not pay $1.85 for a bottle again. I’m sure it has its fans, I’m just not one.

Unfortunately, these two were the extent of the Oktoberfest beers available at the local store, so I decided to put together a sampler and try some other beers that were new to me.

Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine: This probably should have been part of phase two of the project. But it’s a barley wine, and there’s some question as to whether barley wine is beer or something else. Plus I was scared of it. With my early issues about strong beers being overpowering, I was certain I wouldn’t like it.

I wasn’t head over heels for it, but it was good enough. At 10.4% abv, it’s not the most drinkable beer. It’s just too strong. It’s a sipping beer, and somehow the brewers managed to make it that strong while still striking a decent balance. It’s fairly dark, similar to a brown or a red ale, but not as dark as a porter. The malt and alcohol is so strong that the hops, while evident, don’t dominate. It meets my standard definition of a good beer: I’d accept one if offered, but I may not spend my own money to buy it.

After reading this article in The Atlantic about an emerging American beer style that nobody can figure out how to name, I was interested in trying an American Black Ale/Cascadian Black Ale/American-Style India Black Ale/whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, the local store didn’t have any. So I came as close as I could and got a Russian Imperial Stout.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin: This stuff is supposed to be 75 IBUs. That’s pretty bitter and a lot of hops. Except that the malt was so dark and so strong (it’s 9% abv) that the hops still weren’t all that apparent. The beer was just plain strong. Too strong. I had a hard time finishing it. It was just too much for me in every way. Not awesome.

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3 Responses

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  1. etiberius said, on October 16, 2010 at 4:26 am

    I wish it was Oktoberfest all year. I love a Marzen and there is something about those bocks, dark clean lagers that I enjoy but forget about.
    This time of year is perfect for a Barleywine- standing around a campfire sipping on a 13%er It’s pretty swell.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t like Sam’s Oktoberbest. Frankly it’s one of my favorite beers from them, nice dark fruits in an easy drinking sort of way.

    And Ol’Rasputin- its a good one but its a bit like motor oil in texture. I like it but I am digging the big beers this time of year as I noted before. I can see how it could come off as a little heavy handed, though I suppose that is stylistically appropriate for a Russian Imperial Stout.

    A North Coast item you should try if available is Brother Thelonious. One of my favorite domestics. It comes off as such a complex beer but it is so drinkable with just the right amount of amerio-belge funkiness. (It might be a little strong tasting though come to think of it.)

    It’s interesting to witness the progression though. Most people start enjoying the light stuff, wheats and lagers, progress into the brown ales, detour through the IPAs then head straight to the funky Belgians then end up in the bigger beers.

    I’d be interested to see where you stand on these beers in a year or two.

    • dailybeerproject said, on October 19, 2010 at 1:18 am

      Interesting what you said about progression. That describes me perfectly–right now I’m into IPAs. We’ll see where I am in a year.

  2. New Benelux? « Daily beer project said, on October 20, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    […] Hatter is well-regarded over at BeerAdvocate, and given that my beer journey is currently on its predictable detour through the IPAs, I was anxious to try this one. The anticipation was rewarded, as this is a fine beer. […]


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