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Ja, ist es das Oktoberfestbiers!

As I'd mentioned in my post on Summer Seasonals, the beer industry's take on a temperate climate differs greatly from Mother Nature's. In an effort to not miss the party (and to not be left with unsaleable product) distributors often release their Oktoberfest beers a good three or four weeks before the main event, which this year officially begins at noon on September 20th. Whatever the motive, the beers are here, and considering the unseasonably cool weather we've experienced of late, I figured now an opportune time to sample this year's batch (the things I do for you people, I swear!). Though there are numerous domestic models up for grabs, propriety demands that I first attend to the Germans.

German Oktoberfestbier is typically made in what is known as the "Marzen" style. Before the wonders of modern refrigeration, brewing in Germany was limited to the cooler months, so as to prevent spoilage and facilitate lager production. In the 19th century, large amounts of beer were made in March (Marzen), and laid in cold storage until late September, when it was released upon the country in celebration of the beginning of a new brewing season. This tradition has evolved over the years, and now manifests itself in the incredible climax that is the Munich Oktoberfest, the largest annually occurring festival in the history of the world, which is still fueled by traditional Marzen lager. These beers are often characterized by a rich, golden red color, mild hops, and a slight malty character — though there are many variations on the theme and breakers from the pack. Here is a rundown of the German Oktoberfestbiers I have sampled so far.

Becks Beck's Oktoberfest
Abv: 5.0%

Appearance: A golden red like autumn leaves, with a thin, off-white head.

Aroma: Roasty malt, with a hint of caramel sweetness.

Taste: Relatively subtle notes of nuts and dried leaves, along with the typical Beck's effervescence. Very dry, with a acerbic quality on the finish.

The right choice for...
Someone in a drinkin' mood. Like the ubiquitous Beck's Lager, this beer is dry, low in flavor and high on fizz. Great if you are drinking to forget, but may come off a bit insipid to those looking for anything in the way of depth.

Spaten Spaten Oktoberfest
Abv: 5.9%

Appearance: Burnt umber with red/gold highlights. Practically no head.

Aroma: Sweet malt and a fresh, savory spice note.

Taste: Bitter earth with a sweet edge on the front; full and creamy textured, with enough effervescence to leave a slight tingling sensation on the finish. Savory spice flavors linger for several seconds after swallowing.

The right choice for...
Someone in the market for a relatively rich, hearty lager with a great balance of bitterness and sweetness. This beer would make a great pair with brats cooked in beer and onions!

Paulaner Paulaner Oktoberfest
Abv: 5.8%

Appearance: Dark amber, with gold highlights. Very thin but lingering head.

Aroma: Wheatey, with a light and pleasing floral quality.

Taste: Round and full, with slight flavors of grains and cherries. A short, mellow finish, with elements of forest floor and fruit skins.

The right choice for...
Someone in the market for a more feminine Marzen with wide food pairing capabilities. This beer, while rich in texture for its style, is subtly flavored enough to be ideal with many autumnal favorites, from squash to pecan pie.

Hofbrau Hofbrau Oktoberfest
Abv: 6.0%

Appearance: Straw gold with an orange hue; almost no head.

Aroma: Slightly skunky/sweet aromas, typical of a German pilsener.

Flavor: Slightly malty on the front with sharp, grainy elements. The finish was clean and short, with the just the tiniest lingering flavor of toffee.

The right choice for...
Someone who doesn't really like Oktoberfestbier. Tasted blind, I would have sworn this was a well-made but run-of-the-mill German lager, despite a slightly malty character.

Erdinger Erdinger Oktoberfest Weissbier
Abv: 5.6%

Appearance: Hazy golden brown with a thin, fine bubbled head.

Aroma: Malty and slightly sweet, with a bit of that yeasty spice typical of weissbiers.

Flavor: Dry and spicy on the front, with a full, heavy texture. The finish is long, lingering for several seconds with pleasing notes of spice and toast.

The right choice for...   
Someone in the market for a more serious seasonal drink. Weissbiers are a bit of an acquired taste, so novices beware. However, the Erdinger Oktoberfest is one of the mildest examples of this type, so this might actually be the perfect intro beer for those looking to experience the wider range of German styles.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the beers autumn has to offer. Next week, we'll take a look at what the Americans bring to the table. Later, as autumn begins in earnest, I'll review this year's crop of American pumpkin ales, those most awesome of all seasonal beverages. (Again, the crosses I bear for you guys...)

Comments

rabow

((Ja, da sind die Oktoberfestbieren! Or, you could say Ja, die Oktoberfestbieren sind gekommen! ))

Rob Rutledge

Yeah, thanks rabow. Thats kinda what I was after, but I don't actually know German, and Babelfish wasn't as helpful as I would have liked!

RMichs

Okotberfestbiers are some of my favorites. Look forward to reading more reviews, and buying a few 6's. Drop me a line if you need hand in sampling more. I'll bring the brats.

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