Beer Beer Beer

Octoberfest Beers: A New Times Taste Test

Despite that this will be my first hot weather fall, I still love October for its association with changing leaves, football games, and braising season. 

In tandem with the weather changes to the north, beer geeks transition from light, refreshing beers to heartier, toasty lagers. 

Generally speaking  --as I confessed last weekend-- I'm a year round Bud girl: the imprint of my father's admonition that there's a sandwich in every beer having stuck with me. That said, when I'm hungry for more complex beers (and sandwiches), I can be convinced to break from routine and try something new. 

Such was the case this week, when I was inspired by the many Oktoberfest offerings to stage an in-house taste test with a slew of American beers and a counterpoint German beer. 

Most American Oktoberfests are brewed in the Marzen style, a nod to the olden days before pasteurization and refrigeration, when March marked the hiatus of the brewing season. Among other reasons to celebrate fall, October was an excuse to drain the rest of the Marzen barrels and to begin brewing anew. 

Marzens are toasty, copper lagers, with a balance of malt and hops, though American renditions can get carried away with the latter. German Oktoberfests have been trending away from copper and heading toward blonde, showcasing crisp spice and less toast. 

Without further delay, here's the first of several rounds of a New Times unofficial guide to Oktoberfest beers.

Can't Drink This
Harpoon Octoberfest has an "intense aftertaste." "Boring, fizzy, light," was the most complimentary assessment, though most tasters agreed: this hopped "guy beer" is "hard to swallow."

Hex from Magic Hat was one of those beers we kept sipping for its strangeness. "Sourdough bread with a nice aftertaste," said one taster. I like very sour such as Gueuze beers, but I poured mine out. Another taster used it to water her plant, fitting considering one commenter described it as "a woodsy bark beer."

The Meh
"Is there beer in this beer?" said one taster of the Shiner Oktoberfest. An easy drinking seasonal brew, sippers said it's "light without much flavor," while another said, "lemon, wheat, malt, balance: Budweiseresque."

"Exciting, bright and fruity" was one taster's reaction to Victory Festbier the beer that was perhaps the most divisive of the bunch. "Grassy, like a pile of lawn trimmings," and "bready, too bready," were some other reactions.

The Good
Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest is the lone German in the bunch, which was overall well received. "Mild, well balanced, round and blonde," is one assessment, while another taster said it's "sweet, like Bit  O'Honey in a good way." 

Sam Adams Oktoberfest was a favorite of several tasters, one of whom admitted she does not like dark beers. "Good. Basic. A little rich," said a sipper, while another said it's "more like an IPA than a spicy Oktoberfest." "Easiest to drink and tastes like fall."

Brooklyn Oktoberfest is "a good intro to Oktoberfest beers," said a taster. "Interesting and creative," said another.  "Sweet and bready: delicious!" said a sipper. "Less rich and more bite than Sam," the tie for the group's favorite.

Though you likely won't find any of the American brews at this weekend's Oktoberfest on Saturday --which we wrote about here-- you will have many opportunities to try German styles.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart