Oktoberfest Beer Roundup – 2011 Edition

Octoberfest is upon us and this is a good time to review some of the specialty seasonal beers brewed and marketed for this particular time of the year. For this review I grabbed some samples from the local store. I chose beers that were being marketed specifically as Octoberfest beers or at least had the term “fest” or “ober” in the title. Historically, the German Octoberfest actually begins in late September and ends on the first weekend in October. It originally ran in October but everyone agreed that Bavaria gets cold in October so the festival was moved into September even though the name did not change. Since its inception in 1810, it is held annually in Munich and attracts more than six million visitors. German Octoberfest beer is traditionally higher in alcohol and sugar content.

Leinenkugel’s Ockotberfest German-Style Marzen. The color was a deep yellow and it poured with one inch of head. This beer had an average amount of carbonation. The first taste was of hops. After that there was a peculiar toasted malt and bread taste. It was not unpleasant, just unusual. It was a very drinkable beer. As I made my way through the bottle, the hops receded a bit and the toasted malt came forward. It is definitely the most distinctive of the traditional Octoberfest beers that I tried. Of the five beers I tried you may want to give this beer a chance if you want something a little different.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer is described as a Lager brewed with five varieties of malted barley. The color is definitely darker and more opaque than the Leinenkugel and has a deep amber color. When poured, it developed a one and one-half inch head of foam and left a lot of lacing. The aroma is different than high-hop beers as well. It has a deep malt aroma. The backside of a taste results in a bit of bitterness from the hops. The taste remains very malty, without any of the molasses taste that some malt-heavy beers have. The balance between malt and hops is very good.

I poured the Paulaner Ocktoberfest Marzen into a glass and an inch-high head of foam rose up fairly quickly and died down just as fast. There was no lacing. The aroma is slightly sour and there was a high amount of carbonation. The malt flavor present with a slightly nutty taste. The hops gave the beer a slight bitterness on the backend but it was not overly bitter. The color was clear and the color of iced tea. PaulanerBrauerei is from Munich and is one of the official brewers of Octoberfest beers for that city’s festival. I do not know if this particular beer is anything like the beers that are served in the Munich Octoberfest, but it would be interesting to know.

The New Belgium Hoptober is the odd man out in this taste test. I suppose that there are those of you out there, and you know who you are, that are on this high-hop bandwagon and just love the taste of hops. If you are looking for a way to ring in the autumn season with a seasonal beer, then this Hoptober is probably your ticket. The overwhelming flavor is that of hops, hops and more hops. It reminds me of an awful lot of New Belgium’s Ranger Inda Pale Ale, though perhaps crisper and lighter. I’d have to compare the two side by side to be sure. I can say that there is a very crisp citrus taste.

The Shiner Oktoberest beer brewed in Texas at the Spoetzl Brewery. It is also brewed in the Marzen style as an Octoberfest beer. It features a 5.8% ABV. The beer is orange-yellow and has an aroma of hops. After pouring, it developed a fairly thin 1/2″ head — and I tried to get it to foam up. The first few tastes yield a bread, wheat, and yeast flavor. The aftertaste is fairly bitter, with some caramel flavor. Of all of the beers, this was my least favorite. It just seemed to be lacking in any real character or depth.


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