Seasonal beers played a major role in my transition from macro lagers to more flavorful beer, I loved how certain beer styles fit perfectly with the seasons. One of my favorites has always beer the marzen/Oktoberfest, the rich malt flavors pair perfectly with crisp fall weather. One criticism of many American Oktoberfest beers was that they could be overdone, cloyingly sweet and overly boozy. These characteristics cut down on the drinkability of a beer style meant to be enjoyed in large steins. Recently you’ve seen these complaints addressed by some breweries, and a few have even reached out to breweries in Germany to collaborate on their fall seasonal brews. One great example of this is the new Oktoberfest from Otter Creek Brewing Company, brewed in collaboration with Camba Barvaria, a brewery from just outside of Munich. Otter Creek Oktoberfest is brewed with German malts and a solid dose of traditional noble hops, and is available for a limited time on draft and in 12 oz bottles.
Otter Creek Oktoberfest pours clear light yellow with a small white head. The scent is mild, just a little toasted malt. The beer is very malt forward, notes of bread dough, caramel and roasted barley but with minimal residual sweetness. There is some hop character here too, floral, herbal, earthy and spicy. Oktoberfest has a medium body, drinks very easy and isn’t too boozy at 5.5% ABV. There is a crisp and clean lager finish with a very light aftertaste. I really like these American/German collaborations on the marzen style. This beer has the malt flavor you want in the style along with the drinkability you love from lager beers. Grab some before it’s gone! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Otter Creek Reviews:
Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout, Otter Creek Couch Surfer, Jack’s Abby/Otter Creek Joint Custody, Otter Creek Backseat Berner, Otter Creek/Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Dose, Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Otter Creek Citra Mantra, Otter Creek Kind Ryed
When you mention fall seasonals there are usually two styles that come to the forefront, pumpkin beers and marzen/oktoberfests. I am normally not a huge fan of pumpkin beers, although I did a blind tasting hosted by the Mass Brew Brothers last weekend and actually found more than a few that I enjoyed. On the other hand I’ve always enjoyed the marzen style, Sam Adams Octoberfest was one of the beers that facilitated my conversion to craft beer and I’ve never lost a taste for the style. I’m glad that American brewers have mostly stuck to the style guidelines with Oktoberfests, I’m actually a little shocked that some brewers haven’t tried to brew a version of the style loaded with hops and still try and pass it off as a marzen. One Oktoberfest that I’ve heard good things about but hadn’t sampled myself is Ok2berfest by Two Roads Brewing Company. They release this traditional take on the German lager in the late summer every year, it is available on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans, perfect for filling up a drinking stein.
Two Roads Ok2berfest pours deep orange with a small white head. The aroma is rich with toasted malts. The flavor has the full malt flavor that fits the style, notes of caramel, toasted bread and honey along with just a hint of sweetness. This is balanced by a little late hop flavor, herbal and earthy. Ok2berfest is medium bodied and drinks smooth, not too boozy at 5.8% ABV. The finish is clean with some lingering malt flavor. This is a really nice Oktoberfest, a perfect beer for the cooler fall temperatures. Prost! Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Two Roads Reviews:
Two Roads/Evil Twin Geyser Gose, Two Roads Rye 95, Two Roads Route of All Evil, Two Roads Workers Comp Saison
I know that the true German Oktoberfest celebration occurs in September, but in my opinion right now is peak time for fall beers. I’ve cleared most of the summer beers out of my beer fridge and stocked up on some darker and maltier styles. One new-to-me beer that I grabbed was Brocktoberfest, a marzen from Idle Hands Brewery. Idle Hands has had an interesting evolution, first they focused on Belgian inspired styles, then they brewed a number of German lagers, and now they have a mix of the two along with a variety of modern American beers. They were also forced to move out of their original brewery in Everett, but it led to the construction of a beautiful new taproom in Malden. Idle Hands has been killing it recently, putting out a number of delicious beers over a very wide range of styles. I was happy to see some tallboy cans of Brocktoberfest on store shelves, it is available as Idle Hands fall seasonal.
Idle Hands Brocktoberfest pours bright copper with a small white head. The aroma is mild, just a bit of toasted malt. The flavor is malt forward, notes of bread crust roasted nuts and honey. There is plenty of malt flavor but the beer avoids the cloying sweetness that is present in too many American marzens. A bit of floral and grassy hop flavor adds balance. Brocktoberfest is on the light side for the style, refreshingly drinkable and not too boozy at 5.6% ABV. The finish is clean with minimal aftertaste. This is a really nice marzen, it delivers the big malt flavors you expect in the style while keeping the beer light and easy to drink. Grab a big mug and toast the season with this (Br)Oktoberfest! Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Idle Hands Reviews:
Idle Hands Proeme, Idle Hands Thing 1, Idle Hands Heide, Idle Hands Riding Shotgun, Idle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aison, Idle Hands Triplication
I was really glad when I heard that Spencer Brewing, the only Trappist brewery in the US, ditched their plan to brew only one beer style and started branching out. I really enjoyed their Holiday Ale and looked forward to trying some of their new releases. I was a hoping that they would focus on traditional abbey styles, there aren’t enough quality dubbels, tripels and quads brewed locally and I would like to see our local trappist brewery’s take on these beers. Unfortunately they went in a different direction, you can now find Spencer Imperial Stout, IPA and new this fall Festive Lager, their take on an Oktoberfest. I understand that any brewery has to make beers that will sell and that these styles are all popular, but I also believe that good beer will make it’s own market and well done versions of abbey ales would have a solid niche. Still, I feel the need to give these new beers a shot, and I’ve been on a marzen kick, so I grabbed some of the Festive Lager. Spencer Festive Lager is available on draft and in 12 oz bottles this fall.
Spencer Festive Lager pours a deep amber with a minimal white head. The scent is mild, mostly caramel malts. The flavor is malt forward, notes of toffee, roasted nuts and bread dough. This is balanced by noticeable hops, hints of herbs, grass and spice along with a little bitter bite. Festive Lager has a medium body and drinks smooth, but packs some punch at 7.5% ABV. It has the clean finish you expect from a lager with a touch of lingering malt sweetness. While I still wish that the brewery had taken a slightly different direction, this is a solid beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Spencer Reviews:
Spencer Holiday Ale, Spencer Trappist Ale
Now that we are fully into the fall I’ve finally turned over my beer fridge, the lighter summer beers are mostly gone and the fridge is stocked with darker, heavier and maltier offerings. Marzen/Oktoberfest beers aren’t the kind of beers I want to drink year round, but it’s nice to go on a run of malt forward offerings every fall and give my palate a break from hop-bombs I tend towards. Traditional marzens are lager beers, fermented for longer times at lower temperatures resulting in a smooth and clean flavor. This can be a limitation for small breweries, many don’t have the proper equipment to lager their beer or can’t afford to tie up a fermenter for the required amount of time. Castle Island found a creative way around this limitation, designing an malt forward ale that closely resembles the Oktoberfest lagers many older breweries are releasing this fall. Castle Island Festbier is available not on draft and in 16 oz. tallboy cans.
Castle Island Festbier pours deep orange with a small white head. The scent is mild, just a little malt and a hint of old world hops. The first thing you notice when you taste the beer is that it’s on the light side for an Oktoberfest, I usually expect my fest biers to have a pretty full body. At 4.6% ABV it’s also lower in alcohol than most, a session beer by many definitions. Festbier still packs full malt flavor, notes of caramel, biscuits and honey. This is complemented by noticeable hop flavor, earthy and grassy with a crisp finish. The beer is brewed with ale yeast but you wouldn’t know it, it has the crisp and clean flavor you’d expect from a lager. Castle Island Festbier is different from any other Oktoberfest I’ve tried, but that isn’t a bad thing, it’s a well made and flavorful beer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Castle Island Reviews:
Castle Island Keeper IPA
We are into October and I am finally (almost) finished with the backlog of beer reviews that had piled up over some late summer travels. This means I can focus some of my effort on fall beers. As many long-time readers know I am not a fan of pumpkin beers, not an attack on the style just not my preference, but I love a number of other more malt-forward offerings that are perfect for the crisp fall weather. One of the beers that I was excited to finally review was Berkshire Brewing’s Oktoberfest, a traditional take on the German marzen style of lager. I have seen a number of fellow beer geeks rave about this beer on social media, which is usually one of the best places to get suggestions for beers I need to review on Hoppy Boston. As always, if there is a beer you think I need to review feel free to send a message on Twitter or Facebook, and now you can tag @HoppyBoston on Instagram! Berkshire Brewing Oktoberfest is available on draft and in 22 oz. bombers in the late summer and early fall after months of aging.
Berkshire Brewing Oktoberfest pours a clear bright copper with a small white head. The scent is richly malty. The taste is also malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough, roasted nuts and honey along with enough sweetness to notice without becoming cloying. This is balanced by a little hop flavor, touches of grass and herbs, along with a hint of bitter bite at the finish. BBC Oktoberfest is medium bodied and very smooth, but packs some serious punch at 7.5% ABV. It has the clean finish you expect from a lager with just a touch of lingering malty flavor. This is a really good beer, tons of flavor and super drinkable, one of the best marzens I’ve tasted. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous BBC Reviews:
BBC Slue’s Maibock, BBC Steel Rail, BBC Brewer’s Choice Blonde IPA, BBC Coffeehouse Porter
I can’t believe October is almost over. I really can’t believe it is late October and I’ve yet to review an Oktoberfest beer. One of the most popular fall seasonal beers is the marzen, the malty lager that is one of the traditional beers of the German Oktoberfest celebration. Marzen beers used to be a fall staple for small brewers, I was introduced to the concept of seasonal releases by Sam Adams take on the style. The combined popularity of hop bombs and pumpkin beers has slowed the growth of the marzen style. Another issue that American brewers have run into is authenticity, too many American marzens are overly sweet. Sierra Nevada clearly wanted to make their Oktoberfest as authentic as possible, so they decided to brew a marzen as a collaboration with a different brewery in Germany each fall. The first beer in this series was brewed with Brauhaus Riegele in Augsburg and released this fall. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015 is available on draft and in 12 oz. bottles this fall, the beer will be a completely new recipe with a different German brewery next year!
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2015 pours a clear deep orange with a minimal white head. The scent features a solid hit of caramelized malted barley. The beer is clearly malt forward, but not overkill, notes of caramel, fresh baked bread and honey. This is balanced by some mild noble hops, grassy and earthy with some crisp bite in the finish. The beer is medium bodied with a clean lager profile, but packs a little punch at 6% ABV. While many American takes of the marzen/Oktoberfest style are so malt forward that they approach cloying, Sierra Nevada manages to achieve full malt flavor while maintaining balance and drinkability. This is one of the best versions of the marzen style I’ve tried, definitely worth checking out. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Sierra Nevada Reviews:
Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter, Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Hoppy Lager, Sierra Nevada Snow Pack, Sierra Nevada Celebration