Showing posts with label oktoberfest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oktoberfest. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Oktoberfest Champions League: The Final 6

We needed a tie breaker...

If you recall from the previous post, where I tasted 24 beers marketed for Oktoberfest, Benediktiner Festbier and Left Hand Oktoberfest had tied for top position in their group. In terms of their score, they had exactly the same points in each of the categories, the solution then was to drink them blind again, score them again, and then average their scores to break the tie, hopefully. It turned out the Benediktiner squeaked home by the narrowest of margins, giving me a final 6 of:

  • New Realm Bavarian Prince (m?rzen)
  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-M?rzen
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest (m?rzen)
  • Benediktiner Festbier
  • Sierra Nevada (m?rzen)
  • Von Trapp Oktoberfest (m?rzen)
For the final 6 I decided to stick with the blind tasting and my points method of
  • Appearance - 3 points
  • Aroma - 10 points
  • Taste - 15 point
  • Balance of bitterness and sweetness - 2 points
  • Personal opinion - 10 points
With the inestimable Mrs V again decanting the various cans and bottles while I pottered away to make sure I wasn't aware of what I was drinking, the final 6 scored as follows:
  1. Ayinger - 34/40
  2. Great Lakes - 33/40
  3. New Realm - 33/40
  4. Sierra Nevada - 32/40
  5. Von Trapp - 31/40
  6. Benediktiner - 27/40
Having used the average of 2 tastings to split Benediktiner and Left Hand, I had decided that I would use the same method to decide the final rankings of the 2020 Fuggled Oktoberfest Taste Off, giving us...
  1. New Realm Bavarian Prince - 67/80 (33.5)
  2. Great Lakes Oktoberfest - 65/80 (32.5)
  3. Ayinger Oktober Fest-M?rzen - 64/80 (32)
  4. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest - 63/80 (31.5)
  5. Von Trapp Oktoberfest - 61/40 (30.5)
  6. Benediktiner Festbier - 58/40 (29)
I won't bore you with my full tasting notes for the winner, but on both occasions, about 10 days apart, I noted a superb malt complexity that was mostly the classic toasted bread thing that you get with Munich and Vienna malts, sweet without being sugary or caramelly. In terms of personal opinion, both times I gave it 8/10 and noted that it is the kind of beer I would happily sit and drink several ma? of.

As in previous years, I wouldn't be too surprised if I pick up some singles of other Oktoberfest lagers that weren't available when I collected the entrants to see if Bavarian Prince can hold onto its crown, but as things stand, well done New Realm for creating a lovely m?rzen that will be in my fridge for a while yet this autumn (also, yay autumn is here!).

Friday, September 4, 2020

Oktoberfest Champions League: Group Stage

The plan was simple, find at least 24 beers being marketing as "Oktoberfest" lagers, whether festbier or m?rzen, and decide which is the best available in central Virginia.

The first year I did this I restricted myself to lagers brewed in Virginia, last year I changed that to include non-Virginian beers that are available in the shops. When I restricted myself to VA beers, I could just do a single sit down flight, whereas last year I did a knock out competition with a final four. I have to admit that I found the knock out approach somewhat onerous, so for this year I decided to have 6 groups of 4 beers, chosen at random, and the winner of each group would go to a final group stage.

The 6 groups lined up as follows:


At first glance, groups 1, 3, and 6 looked to be the most difficult, and so it turned out, with several well regarded Oktoberfest lagers not making through to the final group of 6, which I will write about in a later post, once I have given my tastebuds a day or several off, and a chance to reset by drinking helles and pilsner again.

To choose a winner in each group I decided to combine the Cyclops tasting notes method that I like to use with a quasi-BJCP point approach, which I broke down thusly:
  • Appearance - 3 points
  • Aroma - 10 points
  • Taste - 15 points
  • Balance of bitterness and sweetness - 2 points
  • Personal score - 10 points
Given the festbier and m?rzen variants when it comes to Oktoberfest lagers, I judged them according to their respective BJCP category descriptions. The definition of festbier specifically calls out "amber hues" as unacceptable in the colour department, any beer that veered into orange was judged as a m?rzen regardless of marketing.

Here then are the final standings by points.

1. New Realm - Bavarian Prince (34/40)
2. Great Lakes - Oktoberfest (32/40)
2. Sierra Nevada - Oktoberfest (32/40)
3. Left Hand - Oktoberfest (31/40)
3. Von Trapp - Oktoberfest (31/40)
3. Benediktiner - Festbier (31/40)
4. Ayinger - Oktober Fest-M?rzen (30/40)
4. Samuel Adams - Octoberfest (30/40)
5. Devils Backbone - O'Fest (29/40)
5. Warsteiner - Oktoberfest (29/40)
5. Edmund's Oast - House Oktoberfest (29/40)
6. Port City - Oktoberfest (28/40)
7. Paulaner - Oktoberfest (27/40)
8. Shiner - Oktoberfest (25/40)
8. Leinenkugels - Oktoberfest (25/40)
9. Blue Mountain - 13.Five Ofest (24/40)
9. Brooklyn - Oktoberfest (24/40)
9. Ballad - Oktoberfest (24/40)
10. Schlafly - Oktoberfest (23/40)
11. Starr Hill - Festie (22/40)
11. Brother's Craft - Festbier (22/40)
12. Bingo Beer - Oktoberfest (21/40)
13. Genessee - Oktoberfest (19/40)
14. Solace - Gute Nacht (10/40)

To ensure that the tasting was completely blind, Mrs V picked beers at random from the fridge while I was out of the room, and other than the one litre can of Paulaner as the final beer, I had no idea about what was what until we sat last night and worked out the rankings.

The final 6 though are not to be the top 6 beers by points, but rather the 6 beers that won their respective groups, although this is pretty much what ended up happening, which gives me a bit of a headache. Left Hand and Benediktiner tied for their group, even to the point of having the exact same points for each category, so this weekend I will try and find some more Left Hand and do a beauty contest tasting to decide the winner. If I can't find the Left Hand, then Benediktiner will go forward.

The rest of the final 6 are:
  • Ayinger
  • Great Lakes
  • Von Trapp
  • New Realm
  • Sierra Nevada
I definitely get the sense that splitting these 6 will be a very difficult task, but we leave that for a few days and another post.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Oktoberfest Crown Challengers - Saranac and Victory

Back before I went to Central Europe for ten days I was wrapping up my Oktoberfest lager challenge. As things stood, the reigning champion was Jospehsbrau Oktoberfest from Trader Joe's, contract brewed by Gordon Biersch. I had two remaining beers in the fridge to pit against our champion, and so the other night having put the twins to bed, I cracked them open, with a bottle of Josephsbrau to compare alongside.


I started off with Saranac's 1888 Oktoberfest, a brewery that for some reason very rarely seems to make it into my fridge. Anyway, on to the Cyclops notes...
  • Sight - crystal clear copper, thin loose head, off white, dissipates very quickly
  • Smell - crackers, very light toffee, very little of anything really
  • Taste - lightly toasty, some grassy hops, some toffee sweetness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Other than looking the part, this beer was a distinct let down. Everything seemed so restrained as to be almost bland and barely worth the effort of finishing the 12oz bottle. It wasn't that it was a technically bad beer, there was little to pick at from a quality control standpoint, it was just plain boring.

Josephsbrau retains its crown...

On then to Victory Brewing and their Festbier.

  • Sight - dark copper, beautifully clear, very little head initially but swirling the glass revives it
  • Smell - sweet toasted grains, caramel, bready, syrup, light lemon note
  • Taste - quite syrupy, sweetness dominates to the exclusion of all else
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Far too sweet for my tastes, really seems to lack the clean crisp bite of a well lagered beer. I had high hopes for this given Victory's lovely Prima Pils, but those hopes were dashed by the overwhelming sweetness of the beer.

Again Josephsbrau sees off the contender, mainly due to its superior balance and drinkability.


Given that Oktoberfest lagers have basically disappeared from the shops, the 2019 Fuggled Oktoberfest of the Year is Josephsbrau Oktoberfest, a victory for contract brewing and traditional German brewing practices!!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Oktoberfest Crown Challengers - Josephsbrau

Having seen off the challenge of Spaten, Josephsbrau Oktoberfest from Trader Joe's hoved into view.

I am happy to admit to having a soft spot for the Trader Joe's range of contract brewed beer, where else can you get thoroughly reliable, solid central European lagers for under $6.50 a six pack? Of course, the lagers are brewed by Gordon Biersch, and while they may lack the sex appeal of trendy breweries, I have never once had a bad beer from them, they just do them right, and do them well.

But how would it stand up to the beer that is the only annual release I keep an active eye out for?


Once again with the Cyclops:
  • Sight - pale copper, nice white head that lingers and leaves a lovely bit of lace
  • Smell - tangerine citrus hops, toasted teacake, some herbal notes
  • Taste - juicy sweet malt character, fresh scones, firm citric bitterness
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
What a cracking beer this is.

Let me tell you a story, last weekend Mrs V and I took the boys to the Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore for their first camping trip. Along for the trip was my good friend Dave, his wife, and their son who is only a couple of months older than our pair. Dave and I drink a lot of beer together, and we have been caning 12 packs of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest like nobody's business this year. Indeed, we polished off another one on Friday night, having got the tents sorted and the children to sleep. On the Saturday, we started on the Trader's beer, though admittedly I waited until the sun was down to start drinking, and the consensus then was that Trader's is a more drinkable beer.

It is, then, on that basis that Sierra Nevada has been knocked off its perch in the Fuggled Oktoberfest Taste Off. Josephsbrau Oktoberfest is simply delightful and unlike other seasonal beers that folks describe as "drinkable" it doesn't fall into the bland trap.

The king is dead!


Long live the king!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Oktoberfest Crown Challengers - Spaten

So....where did we leave it? Oh that's right, from my perspective the winner of the Fuggled Oktoberfest Taste Off was Sierra Nevada's collaboration with Bitburger. As is the way of things though, the shops suddenly had more beers bearing the Oktoberfest label and so I knew I had to find a way of incorporating those into things.

The plan then is simple, a series of head to head tastings and whoever is left standing at the end will be declared the Fuggled Oktoberfest of the Year, a prize so unmatched in prestige that it is quite literally priceless, oh ok then it has no monetary value.

The first contender was Spaten's Oktoberfest, marketed as the "Ur-M?rzen", the original M?rzen, it seemed only natural to start things off with this.


Using the Cyclops beer evaluation tool, here's my thoughts on Sierra Nevada
  • Sight - copper, medium white head, nice lacing
  • Smell - toasty malt, light brown sugar, floral hops
  • Taste - slight peppery hop note, toasted teacake, nicely clean bitter bite
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
There is a reason I have drunk a lot of this since it came out in August, it is damned delicious. What then about the challenger?

  • Sight - rich orange with red highlights, firm white head, good lacing
  • Smell - sweet grainy malt, subtle honey, citrus and spicy hops
  • Taste - soft toffee, caramelised grains, a bit indistinct
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Ok, so it is a nice beer, good balance leaning more toward the malt, and with a nice clean finish. The problem with it though is that it is just rather forgettable.


Sierra Nevada then holds onto their crown...but other challengers are lining up.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Oktoberfest Taste Off - The Final

The final four.

Originally my intention had been to have a pair of semi finals followed by a final and third place play off, kind of like the World Cup, but I changed my mind.

On Sunday morning, Mrs V and I, with the twins in tow decided to go to the Somerset Pasture Party being held just up the road from us. Basically the "party" is an exhibition of vintage steam and gas powered contraptions, and with sons that get all excited at trains we figured they'd enjoy it too. We had also arranged to meet up with my good friend Dave and his wife Ali, along with their son, who is slightly older than our boys.


Once done with choking on wood and coal smoke, thank god for what remains of the EPA and the Clean Air Act frankly speaking, we all decamped to our place for lunch and drinkies. With the ladies in the kitchen preparing lunch, the kids watching cartoons and/or playing with toys, I decided to split the bottles I had for the four remaining beers with Dave and choose a final ranking for them. The final four, as a reminder, were:
We decided to rank them purely on the basis of personal preference rather than comparing to any particular style definition, especially as from the picture you can see that they cover a range of colours and interpretations of "Oktoberfest" lager.


Our initial rankings were:

Dave
  1. Goose Island
  2. Ayinger
  3. Sierra Nevada
  4. Samuel Adams
Al
  1. Sierra Nevada
  2. Ayinger
  3. Samuel Adams
  4. Goose Island
Other than both having Ayinger as our second favourite, everything else was up in the air. Dave had Goose Island ahead on the basis that it was not as interesting a beer as Ayinger and Sierra Nevada and therefore something he was likely to down plenty of in a sitting, I had it last because I thought it was not as interesting as the others and I would get bored after a couple, same justification, different outcomes.

We both agreed that Ayinger was a really complex, interesting beer, very different from the American beers, but excellent drinking. The question was whether we would want to drink it by the litre? Both of us said that a couple of pints would be fine, but eventually we would end up with palette fatigue.

Between us I think we have probably drunk well in excess of 120 bottles of this year's Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, and we both love it. I put it first because it would be something I could drink plenty of, and have done so far this year, without getting bored. Dave put it just behind Ayinger because Ayinger was more interesting and if he was just having a couple then he would go for the Ayinger.

It sounds terrible to say, but both of us thought Samuel Adams was just "meh". It's ok, not terrible interesting, not terrible, but also not something either of us would happily down a 12 pack of together on the deck, the sweetness we agreed was one dimensional.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, we asked our respective wives to try our first choices and let us know their thoughts, but Ali preferred the Goose Island, and Mrs V the Sierra Nevada. Birds of a feather and all that jazz.

So we decided to have a policy of horses for courses. If you are having a session and don't want to think too much about the beer you are drinking, go for the Goose Island. If you are having a session and want a beer that doesn't just fade into the background, go for the Sierra Nevada.

While Sam Adams will not likely make another appearance in my fridge this year, the Ayinger most certainly will as I found that I really enjoyed it, even though it was much more "old school" m?rzen than the moodern, paler, Oktoberfest lager styles. I can imagine using it in many late autumn and winter recipes, especially for soaking fruit for a cake, or in my roasted garlic and onion jam recipe that I plan to make again soon.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Oktoberfest Taste Off - To The Final Four

And so the 16 became 8...

Time for the quarter finals of the Fuggled Oktoberfest taste off. Once again I did this blind, with Mrs V choosing at random numbers for the draw and them bringing me the quarter finals in whatever order suited her whimsy. The quarter finals were:
  • Hofbr?u Oktoberfestbier vs Ayinger Oktober Fest-M?rzen
  • Port City Oktoberfest vs Goose Island Oktoberfest
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest vs Devils Backbone O'Fest
  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest vs Paulaner M?rzen
Unlike the first round, which if you are interested you can read about here, I am going to include my tasting notes for the quarter finals, as ever using the Cyclops beer tasting template designed by a friend of mine, and these are in the order Mrs V gave them to me, winners in italics.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest vs Paulaner M?rzen


Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  • Sight - light red, large ivory head, good clarity and head retention
  • Smell - unsweetened cocoa, toffee, light lemony hops, bread crusts
  • Taste - bready malt, light toffee, subtle spicy hops, just a touch thing
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Paulaner M?rzen
  • Sight - copper, small white head, decent retention, very clear
  • Smell - grainy malt, cotton candy, herbal hops
  • Taste - Smooth, doughy bread, grassy hops, balanced but lacking bite, touch lemony
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
Although the Sam Adams was a bit thinner than the Paulaner, the lack of a clean snappy bite really counted against the German beer.

Port City Oktoberfest vs Goose Island Oktoberfest


Port City Oktoberfest
  • Sight - rich golden, thin white head, lingered
  • Smell - light citrus, cereal, slightly toasty
  • Taste - toasted crusty bread, some grassy hops, subtle citrus, slightly dull finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Goose Island Oktoberfest
  • Sight - rich golden, thin white head
  • Smell - orange citrus, bready, toffee, floral hops
  • Taste - toasted muffin, flower meadow hops, some subtle spice, very nicely balanced
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
A surprise here in Goose Island winning over Port City, but it had more going on, especially in the aroma department, and the balance in the finish was very good.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest vs Devils Backbone O'Fest


Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Sight - deep orange, tight ivory head, excellent retention
  • Smell - toasted cereal, light cinnamon, bready malt
  • Taste - brown sugar, juicy sweet malt, citrus hops, subtle lemon and lime, clean finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
Devils Backbone O'Fest
  • Sight - amber, large fluffy head, excellent retention
  • Smell - English toffee, toasted biscuits, light lemon
  • Taste - rich toast, honey, bit thin in the finish
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Sierra Nevada takes the tie here as a far more complex and flavourful beer, O'Fest is good, but not up to Sierra Nevada.

Hofbrau Oktoberfestbier vs Ayinger Oktoberfest-M?rzen


Hofbr?u
  • Sight - deep gold, solid white head, good retention
  • Smell - weetabix, light citrus
  • Taste - boiled grain, metallic hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Ayinger Oktoberfest-M?rzen
  • Sight - rich amber, firm white head, superb retention
  • Smell - crusty bread, toast, subtle spice
  • Taste - honeyed malt, sweet bread, toffee, lovely clean finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
Ayinger was in a league of its own here, like a proper homemade fruitcake compared to the sweet confection that masquerades as fruit cake come Christmas time.

And so we have our final four, and I have to admit a couple of surprises here, I really didn't think Goose Island and Samuel Adams would make it this far. How did they fair? Come back Friday...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Oktoberfest Taste Off - Round 1

I am not entirely sure I thought this one through.

Sitting watching the idiot box with a glass of Von Trapp Oktoberfest in my hand, I decided it would be a fun idea to get my grubby mitts on every Oktoberfest I could in the Charlottesville area and try to decide which was the best one.

I ended up with 18 beers, it would have been 19 but Beer Run have been out of Von Trapp Oktoberfest ever since the notion popped into my head. The 18 were:
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Port City Oktoberfest
  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-M?rzen
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest
  • Devils Backbone O'Fest
  • Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest
  • Goose Island Oktoberfest
  • Schlafly Oktoberfest
  • Paulaner Oktoberfest M?rzen
  • Paulander Oktoberfest Wiesn
  • Hofbr?u Oktoberfestbier
  • Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest
  • Weihenstephaner Festbier
  • Benediktiner Festbier
  • Brothers Craft Festbier
  • Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  • Brooklyn Oktoberfest
  • Legend Oktoberfest
To whittle this down to 16 beers for a knock out style first round, I gave the beers each a number and had Mrs V give me 4 numbers at random for a pair of qualifying ties, which ended up being:
  • Great Lakes Oktoberfest vs Schlafly Oktoberfest
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest vs Brothers Craft Festbier
Rather than taking notes for the qualifying round, I drank each beer blind and made my decision as a pure beauty contest, figuring that I would pay more attention to the beers themselves in the competition proper. Thus Sierra Nevada and Schlafly made it through. Despite Great Lakes and Brothers Craft being sent home early, both were perfectly decent beers, though Great Lakes was sweetener than I like for a lager beer. With capricious whimsy completing the first round, we made the draw:
  • Ayinger vs Blue Mountain Brewery
  • Benediktiner vs Port City Brewing
  • Hacker-Pschorr vs Devils Backbone Brewing
  • Hofbr?u vs Brooklyn Brewery
  • Paulaner M?rzen vs Legend Brewing
  • Paulaner Wiesn vs Goose Island
  • Weihenstephan vs Samuel Adams
  • Sierra Nevada vs Schlafly
To keep this as blind as possible, the inestimable Mrs V randomly picked the ties to pour and didn't tell me which beer was which for each pair. I did take some notes for round 1 but outcomes were heavily influenced by which beer I preferred, so rather than bore you to death with my tasting notes (and honestly how many times do you want to read "malty"?), here are the pictures, with the victorious beer in bold.

Hofbr?u vs Brooklyn Brewery


Weihenstephaner vs Samuel Adams


Paulaner Wiesn vs Goose Island


Paulaner M?rzen vs Legend


Benediktiner vs Port City


Hacker-Pschorr vs Devils Backbone


Ayinger vs Blue Mountain


Schlafly vs Sierra Nevada


A couple of takeaways from these results. I was really surprised that Samuel Adams made it past the first round as normally I find it way too sweet for my tastes. There were some seriously difficult decisions here, had I been doing this with friends fisticuffs may have ensued, it was that close, in particular the Ayinger vs Blue Mountain and Schlafly vs Sierra Nevada ties.

This weekend I will do the quarter and semi finals, having bought extra bottles of any of the beers that I need. Tempted to run a poll on what people think will win...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A Virginian Oktoberfest

This weekend sees the culmination of the ur-beerfest in many people's minds, Oktoberfest. While I have never been to the only Oktoberfest worthy of the name, nor actually do I have any ambition to go - beer festivals being generally not my thing - I do enjoy the Oktoberfest style lagers that are practically de rigueur at this time of the year.

Last year I bought myself a load of examples of the style to do a comparative tasting, only one of which though was from Virginia. Seeing as though our local Wegman's has a reasonable selection of beer, and customers can build their own 6 pack, I did just that, but with only Virginia brewed Oktoberfest lagers this time. The chosen six being:
In the fine tradition of Teutonic efficiency, I will dispense with the waffle and dive on in to my modified Cyclops tasting notes...


Devils Backbone O'Fest
  • Sight - amber, burnt orange, full inch of ivory foam that lingers
  • Smell - bready malts, a touch of hay, spicy hops, traces of cinnamon
  • Taste - bready again, think the crust of a Stollen, muted hop bitterness that fades, clean finish
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1.5/5
Not a bad start to the tasting for sure, and I have to admit to bashing a fair few pints of this on Wednesday night in DC whilst at the conference. The body is medium to full, with a slightly slick finish that the hop bite just manages to overcome and make this a really easy lager to drink. As ever, Devils Backbone know how to make a good lager.


Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest
  • Sight - light amber, half inch off white foam, little visible carbonation
  • Smell - subtle breadiness, some floral hops, traces of graininess
  • Taste - sweet malts, not caramelly just sweet, like brown sugar, floral hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1.5/5
Fuller bodied than the Devils Backbone, almost voluptuous. The sweetness flirts with the idea of being cloying but the hops bring it back into focus. As it warms though is starts to get a bit flabby around the edges, but still a fine beer.


Legend Oktoberfest
  • Sight - deep amber, light red highlights, thin off white head
  • Smell - cocoa, milk chocolate, toasty notes
  • Taste - toasty, cocoa, nutty, like nutella.
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
Not a particularly interesting beer to be honest. The cocoa/chocolate thing was really distracting, and the body was lacking, even veering toward an unpleasant thinness. Lurking in the background was an ickiness that I found really difficult to ignore. Blah.


Brothers Fest Bier
  • Sight - dark golden, light orange, inch of off white head
  • Smell - grassy hop aroma, suggesting Saaz or Tettnang, some light toast
  • Taste - juicy malt sweetness, brown sugar, herbal hop bite
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Again a medium bodied beer, though with a slick mouthfeel that the clean finish just about managed to scrape away. Not one that I would hunt out but decent enough in a pinch.


Smartmouth The Princess
  • Sight - light amber, thin white head
  • Smell - sweet Munichy malts, floral hops, touch of lemongrass, slight hint of corn
  • Taste - well done toast, dulce de leche, floral hop bite
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 1.5/5
Medium bodied with a noticeably slick finish, really lacking a good hefty hop bite and clean lager finish to improve the drinkability, an odd vegetal note became more prominent as it warmed. Nope, not doing that again.


Port City Oktoberfest
  • Sight - amber, light orange, half inch off white head that dissipates quickly
  • Smell - light toast, floral hops, brown sugar
  • Taste - biscuity, touch of crackers, subtle honey
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
And a good beer to round out the selection. Rich rather than sweet and thankfully with a nice clean lagery finish that refreshes the palette. In the background were some nice subtle orange flavours going on that added to the complexity of a very nice beer. Yay for Port City!


The aim of this tasting was not to rank the beers, but I have to admit that I would only actively chose 3 of the 6 to drink again, the Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, and Port City ones. So as Oktoberfest proper winds down this weekend, grab a six pack of one of them, a packet of proper German bratwurst, a tub of Dusseldorf mustard and go to town...prost!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Session 127 - Oktoberfest Round-up


The real thing is just a few days away now, so what better time to do the traditional round up of posts for the Session? The theme I asked folks to write about this month was 'Oktoberfest lagers'.

Jack over at Deep Beer wondered whether Oktoberfest lagers come out too soon, and offered a theory that the russets of many an Oktoberfest lager make it worth waiting for the leaves to turn before tucking in.

The Beer Nut managed to find a couple of examples of the style to write about, including an obligatory ma? sized can of Eichbaum Festbier - and referred to me as 'His Royal Lageriness', which I rather like.

Other than being two of my favourite blogs to read, Alan at A Better Beer Blog, and the dynamic duo of Boak and Bailey both find themselves underserved locally when it comes to Oktoberfest lagers, and thus ponder the question what would festbier be in an English speaking context? I have to admit when I saw the themes for both posts I was hoping for a treatise on historical 'October beer'.

Closer to home. Tom Cizauskus waxes lyrical about the delights of this year's Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest in collaboration with Brauhaus Miltenberger. Stan compares the Cannstatter Volkfest in Stuttgart to Munich's Oktoberfest, noting that they happen around the same time, and that he has never actually been to Oktoberfest, which neither have I, and I am not overly vexed by that fact, and Jon at The Brew Site reveals Deschutes' hybrid autumnal IPA, Hopzeit.

Thanks again to everyone that took part, and if I failed to mention anyone's posts, just leave a message in the contents and I'll update this post.

UPDATE 1: a really fascinating post from Andreas Krennmair about what was served at the real Oktoberfest in the 19th century, including a surprising visitor from Bohemia.

UPDATE 2: as Thom poins out, I forgot to mention my own post, so here is a link.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Session 127: A Feast of Oktober


This month's Session is hosted by, well, me. My theme for this month is Oktoberfest lager, and I have had a few well meaning people ask me why I chose the theme of Oktoberferst for the September Session. It's quite simple really, Oktoberfest begins in the middle of September, that and the fact that given the weirdness that is American brewing's obsession with having season beers in the shops well before a season actually starts, the shelves of supermarkets and bottle shops are already groaning with Oktoberfest style lagers, so why not drink a load of them?

In my original announcement of the theme I said:

"Feel free to dress up for your tasting, dirndls, lederhosen, that Australian backpacker outfit you keep in the back of your wardrobe for special occasions. Hire yourself an oompah band, play the birdy song, and generally get into the spirit of celebrating for the 117th time the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Whip out the grill and buy all the bratwurst you can find, proper bratwurst that is, from Germany. Shout "O'zapft is!" at the top of your lungs...you get the idea."
Well, sadly I don't have any lederhosen, or an Australian backpacker outfit, nor to I have a thing for the birdy song. I do however love German sausages and mustard, so I gleefully paired my tasting of Oktoberfest lagers with a plate of bockwurst, fried potatoes, and Dusseldorf mustard...


This though is a beer blog, so on to the beers themselves, of which there were 5, said 5 being:
  • Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest
  • Blue Mountain 13.5 Oktoberfest
  • Great lakes Oktoberfest
  • Otter Creek/Brauerei CAmba Oktoberfest
  • Sierra Nevada/Brauerei Miltenburger Oktoberfest
How were they? Let's find out shall we?


Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest
  • Sight - copper, small white head that vanishes quickly
  • Smell - some bready malt, lightly spicy in the background
  • Taste - very lightly toasted bread, slightly grassy, crisp finish
  • Sweet - 1.5/5
  • Bitter - 1/5
So yes, Leinenkugel's is a MillerCoors owned brewery, but I really couldn't give a rat's arse about that, this is a beer blog not a corporate structure blog. The beer is pretty light bodied, but not thin, it just lacks the heft I have come to expect from American Oktoberfests. It's a pretty inoffensive, perfectly well made beer, something that would be fine to drink on a night out, though the lingering sweetness in the finish would get tired after a while, I like my beer bitter and my lagers clean.


Blue Mountain 13.5 Oktoberfest
  • Sight - deep burnished copper, half inch of linger white foam
  • Smell - noticeable noble hop character, floral, citrus, some toffee
  • Taste - lightly toasted bread, a very subtle smokiness, bit of a metallic tang
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
The local beer in my selection, Blue Mountain being about 20 miles from my house here in Central Virginia. 13.5, the number of degrees Plato that is the starting gravity for this beer, is very much the archetypal American made Oktoberfest lager. It has a nice smooth finish that isn't so sweet as to be cloying, but I find it has a slightly odd bite right at the end and lacks the clean snap I would expect from a Central European lager. Still, a decent beer for an afternoon in their brewpub, preferably in the rain, but I am weird that way.


Great Lakes Oktoberfest
  • Sight - dark honey (thanks Mrs V for that description!), voluminous slightly off white head that lingers for the duration
  • Smell - fresh scones and a floral meadow in the height of summer
  • Taste - caramel and toffee up front, bready backbone, malts definitely the star of the show
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 1.5/5
I quite like Great Lakes beers, in particular their porter, but this beer just didn't do it for me. It has a distinct lack of bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the malt, and the finish was oily sweet, not the clean snappy bite I expect from a lager beer. Not so much bad as misguided.


Otter Creek/Brauerei Camba Oktoberfest
  • Sight - rich golden, white head that disappears pretty quickly
  • Smell - saltine crackers, floral hops, lemongrass
  • Taste - fresh bread, some yeastinessm abd a good hop bite in the finish
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2.5/5
I don't recall having an Otter Creek beer before, but this collaboration was one I really enjoyed. It has the expected lager snap that I love, and it very nicely balanced so that drinking it is an absolute pleasure. I may have mentioned this before, but I find myself liking the more modern paler interpretations of Oktoberfest lager than the darker sweeter efforts that seem to be the norm over here. More breweries should work with German/Central European breweries for their collaborations.


Sierra Nevada/Brauerei Miltenburger Oktoberfest
  • Sight - golden honey, firm white head
  • Smell - black tea, bread, and hay
  • Taste - sweet doughy malt, floral hops, quite grassy, juicy (not in a ridiculous NE "IPA" way though)
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 3/5
I really am biased toward this beer, I am sorry, but these annual collaborations are becoming the highlight of my drinking year. This year has a fantastic firm bitterness that scrapes the palette and makes you want another mouthful. The beer is hefty enough to be interesting without being overwhelming, and it has that perfect clean finish that I want, it is delish. End of story. Keep on doing this Sierra Nevada!

So there we go, five Oktoberfest lagers, all of which worked fine with my bockwurst, kartoffeln, und senf...and I am pretty sure it won't be the last time this autumn that I pull a package of German sausages from the freezer, fill up my 1 litre glass with lager, let's be honest it'll be Sierra Nevada's until the shops run out, and pay homage to my Germany ancestors and my own Germanophilia. Prost!

Monday, August 14, 2017

#TheSession - 127 Announcement

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. (You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin).

Tis the season!! Right about now breweries and beer shops are groaning under the weight of their autumnal offerings, and so for this month's Session, the 127th of it's ilk, we turn to one of those autumnal offerings, Oktoberfest lagers.

"Oktoberfest, in September?!" I hear you exclaim, but as I am sure you know, Oktoberfest begins every year in the middle of September, this year on the 16th, and finishes in the eponymous month. So what better way to start the month it all begins in Bavaria than to hunt down a load of beers labelled as 'Oktoberfest' or 'Festbier', or in some cases both, and have a little mix and match tasting session?

Feel free to dress up for your tasting, dirndls, lederhosen, that Australian backpacker outfit you keep in the back of your wardrobe for special occasions. Hire yourself an oompah band, play the birdy song, and generally get into the spirit of celebrating for the 117th time the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. Whip out the grill and buy all the bratwurst you can find, proper bratwurst that is, from Germany. Shout "O'zapft is!" at the top of your lungs...you get the idea.

I look forward to reading your posts on Friday September 1st.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Feast of Oktober

It seems at the moment that every brewer and his uncle is having an Oktoberfest celebration, whether or not said brewer regularly makes bottom fermented beers in the German style (and they say craft beer isn't marketing driven!).

Being a fan of the lager arts, and not wanting to limit my Oktoberfest drinking to Sierra Nevada, I gathered together 7 bottles of American made versions of the 'style' to try in a blind tasting. As ever I was ably assisted by the lovely Mrs V, and her willingness to traipse up the stairs when I had finished each glass of beer is much appreciated.

The beers for this little taste off were:
Such a delightful little lineup...


Using, as ever, a slightly modified version the Cyclops beer evaluation method, here's my findings.


Beer A
  • Sight: rich copper, ivory head, dissipates quickly
  • Smell: general sweetness, touch corny, wood and spice
  • Taste: bready, touch of burnt toast, clean finish
  • Bitter: 2.5/5
  • Sweet: 2/5
Overall well balanced though on the thin side, nothing to really hunt out.


Beer B
  • Sight: orange, large off-white head, slight haze
  • Smell: some toffee, baking bread, floral
  • Taste: sweet juicy malt, herbal hob bite
  • Bitter: 2/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Ever so slightly boozy/hot, mouthfeel was nice and full, and slightly creamy, a bit on the too sweet side.


Beer C
  • Sight: rich golden, white head
  • Smell: bready, biscuits, trace of spice
  • Taste: sweet toffee, pretzels, earthy hops
  • Bitter: 3/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Nicely balanced, good clean dry finish, clearly well made and nicely integrated.


Beer D
  • Sight: gold, voluminous white head that lingers
  • Smell: grainy, light lemon and herbal hops, almost like autumn leaves
  • Taste: bready malt, sweet but not in a caramel way, firm bitterness
  • Bitter: 3/5
  • Sweet: 2.5/5
Slightly creamy mouthfeel, but firm bitterness cleans that right up, very nice beer.


Beer E
  • Sight: light red, smallish off white head
  • Smell: syrupy caramel
  • Taste: heavy caramel, dark toast
  • Bitter: 2/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Full bodied and a touch cloying, really needs a hop bite, finish not as clean as expected.


Beer F
  • Sight: deep orange, off white lingering head
  • Smell: raw wort, weetabix topped with caramel sauce
  • Taste: Very sweet, sickly caramel/syrup dominates
  • Bitter: 1/5
  • Sweet: 3/5
Tasted undercooked, like the raw dough in the middle of an underdone loaf, barely any noticeable hops.


Beer G
  • Sight: rich copper, small, stable, white head
  • Smell: lots of toffee and bread, spicy hop notes
  • Taste: cereal, caramel, like dulce de leche on toast
  • Bitter: 1.5/5
  • Sweet: 2.5/5
Sweet, warming, and overall nicely balanced, bit too sweet though for my tastes.

Having drunk all seven beers, I ended up with the following rankings:
  1. Beer D
  2. Beer C
  3. Beer B, G
  4. Beer A, E
  5. Beer F
My favourite beer, and here I wasn't actually surprised, was Sierra Nevada's Oktoberfest, with the Ninkasi right on it's coat tails, a sign perhaps that I prefer the more modern pale Oktoberfest style to the older, darker, sweeter variant.

The other beers were:
  • Beer A - Brooklyn
  • Beer B - Port City
  • Beer E - Sam Adams
  • Beer F - Shiner
  • Beer G - Blue Mountain
So there we have it, 7 beers, all bar one that I would drink a pint of, 1 that I would happily drink plenty of, and one that I have been drinking ma?e of.

Friday, September 18, 2015

High Oktane Ale

Usually when I am working on a collaboration beer with one of the local breweries the process is something like this:
  1. Come up with idea
  2. Flurry of emails
  3. Brew trial batch
  4. Review trial batch, make tweaks
  5. Brew production batch
  6. A few weeks later, drink it
My most recent beer creation project though is somewhat different.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Trader Joe's Oktoberfest lager which I have been enjoying greatly of late. A couple of days later, Ted from Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge, OR, emailed me to see if I had any ideas for an Oktoberfest beer as he had been asked to provide a cask for a festival at a beer bar near him. It was funny he should ask....

I have been playing with the idea of vaguely 'Central European' pale ale for a while now but had never really found a formula which appealed to me all that much, though I had considered a paler version of altbier as a contender. Ted's question pushed my thinking into overdrive and that coupled with a comment from Tom Cizauskas on that post made me think about doing a 'to style' Oktoberfest lager, but using a nice clean top fermenting ale yeast for fermentation.

The recipe ended up like this:
  • 60% Dark Munich
  • 40% Vienna
  • 16 IBU Tettnang for 60 minutes
  • 8 IBU Tettnang for 15 minutes
  • Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
The predicted numbers are:
  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.014
  • IBU: 24
  • SRM: 12
  • ABV: 5.5%
I am brewing my version tomorrow, though Ted brewed his last week and it is already casked up and will be ready to rock at the brewpub in Oakridge in about a week. A cask will be making its way to The Beer Garden, in Eugene, and to Machine House Brewery in Seattle.

From what Ted has told me, his version had an original gravity a tad bit lower than planned, at 1.051, but the final gravity was fine, so the beer is 4.6% abv, and to use Ted's phrase had 'a high drinkability factor right out of the fermenter'. The name for Ted's brew is 180 Oktane, so if your in the area over the next few weeks, keep an eye out for it!

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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