What I like most about beer is seasonal specialties. As each season wraps up, I look forward to what the next season beholds. With the craft brewery industry continuing to grow, the seasonal specialty options are only getting better. Saisons are becoming easier to find, winter beers are becoming more creative, and summer fruit infused beers are becoming more refined. But if I were to pin my finger on my favorite seasonal varietal of them all it would be Oktoberfest style beers.
This post is the beginning of a series of posts focusing on what Oktoberfest varietals I have been drinking this season. No, it doesn’t include them all as I try to shy away from taking notes on each beer I drink. I would annoy my friends and Mrs. G. View this as a sampling done in the confines of my house with perhaps a lager or two consumed out.
First, what makes an Oktoberfest an Oktoberfest? I went to some trusted sources.
Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so theyd keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.
The common Munich Oktoberfest beer served at Wies’n (the location at which Munich celebrates its Oktoberfest) contains roughly 5.0-6.0% alcohol by volume, is dark/copper in color, has a mild hop profile and is typically labeled as a Bavarian Märzenbier in style.
The Joy of Homebrewing
Octoberfest and Marzen are rich amber orange copper colored lagers. Their aroma is assertively malty and appropriately balanced with quick, sharp, but not lingering hop bitterness. A seasonal style traditionaly brewed in March, this rich beer is quite strong in alcohol at the fabled Octoberfest in litre and half litre steins
- Original Gravities: 1.050 – 1.060
- Alcohol: 5.3%-6%
- Bitterness: 18-25 IBU
- Color: 4-15 SRM
Ingredients: This lager is distinctly German and the ingredients ought to be, too. The base malt should be good two row Pilsner, with up to 20% Vienna or Munich malt. Some recipes contain some crystal but this can make purists shudder. The hops are a Noble variety even though the hopping should be very light. Don’t use a yeast that results in too dry of a beer. Malt is the star in a good Oktoberfest so let it shine. If you don’t have lagering capabilities, a good Koelsch yeast should do.
Tasting Notes: The overall impression left by a good Oktoberfest/Maerzen should be malt but not in the nutty, bready way of a British Brown; after all this is still a German lager. The Vienna or Munich malts lay down a broad but light malt character. With only enough hops to balance, the malty character is dominant in the aroma and flavor without being overwhelming. The body should be light brown with a white head.
Blue Point Brewing Company Oktoberfest
- Brewery Home: Long Island, NY
- Color: Orange
- ABV: 5.5%
- Nose: Light, bright, brew hall fresh, yeasty
- Flavor: Light malt. Clean yet yeasty finish
- Grade: A
- Opinion: A relatively classic styled beer punctuating it point well to earn the A
Flying Fish Oktober Fish
- Brewery Home: Somerdale, NJ
- Color: Reddish
- ABV: 6%
- Nose: Citrus hops, allspice, lemony watermelon
- Flavor: Medium malt structure paired with a medium hop finish.
- Grade: -A
- Opinion: I like the addition of the stronger hops – very creative. The malt and the hops seemed to fight with each other, but in a good way. Like an evenly paired thumb wrestling match.
Spoetzel Brewing Shiner Oktoberfest
- Brewery Home: Shiner, TX
- Color: Light copper
- ABV: 5.8%
- Nose: Strong malt and grain
- Flavor: All malt, lingering finish, slightly metallic
- Grade: B
- Opinion: I typically like all things Shiner (love the Cheer) but found this beer to be flat.
Attention Breweries – Want to add to this list? Send me a sample of your Oktoberfest and I’ll be sure to include it on my list to review.