ready, set, Oktoberfest!
Which to drink this fall? The season is relatively long, so you could probably try a whole lot of them, but I am interested in finding the best Oktoberfests, Marzens, and festival ales of the season so I can share them with you.
I’m starting with a mixed six pack of domestic Oktoberfests and pairing them head-to-head in the style of last winter’s Great Porter-Off.
Shiner’s Oktoberfest: 76 points on Beer Advocate, brewed in Shiner, TX. This beer is listed as a Marzen-style beer with an amber color and a dry, hoppy finish.
Widmer Brothers Okto Festival Ale: 79 points on Beer Advocate, brewed in Portland, OR. “Our full-bodied Okto Festival Ale is inspired by a Bavarian Oktoberfest.”
Central Waters Octoberfest Lager: 80 points on Beer Advocate, brewed in Amherst, WI. Boasts bready maltiness in the marzen-style tradition.
Left Hand Oktoberfest: tied with 84 points on Beer Advocate, brewed in Longmont, CO. “Biscuity, malty goodness dominates upfront while the noble pedigree hops lend a properly spicy, dry finish.”
Victory Festbier: tied with 84 points on Beer Advocate, brewed in Downington, PA. Uses a decoction mash technique and significant aging to achieve traditional full flavor.
Clearly the standings are quite tight with only a 10 point spread between the beers. As with the Porters, I will be tasting the highest and the lowest together until I reach the middle.
Oktoberfest beers are the product of one royal party and over 200 years of recipe-perfecting. They have a relatively long history but are still very commonly brewed today. In the year 1810 in the town of Wiesn, Prince Ludwig threw a giant party for all of Bavaria to celebrate his wedding to Theresa, and the general public was invited (not typical in that culture at that time). The celebration included food, beer, horse racing, and other games.
The alternative name “Marzen” comes from the fact that most of these beers are brewed in March or April and aged through the summer months with consumption historically taking place in September and October.
It is well-known that many beers labeled “Oktoberfest” are not exactly true to style. These six beers will be judged first for their merit alone, but also in comparison to the guideline. According to the BJCP, Marzens display, “initial malty sweetness, but finish is moderately dry. Distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a toasted aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and noble hop flavor is low to none. Balance is toward malt, though the finish is not sweet. Noticeable caramel or roasted flavors are inappropriate. Clean lager character with no diacetyl or fruity esters.” -BJCP
Let the competition begin! Tomorrow watch for Shiner and Victory going head-to-head!