It seems that Goose Island, Revolution, and Half Acre get all the attention in the Chicago brewing scene. This means that various Belgian style brews, pale ales, and stouts tend to be most closely associated with Chicago's craft beer scene. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that another craft brewery down there, Argus, brews Holsteiner Lager. I discovered that, in addition to this beer, a Märzen, Argus also brews a California Common beer and an IPA. (Of course they brew an IPA.) A bit of an odd portfolio but I like it.
The Märzen is also known as the Oktoberfest. "Märzen" means March in German and that's because this style was originally brewed in that month. The lore I've heard is that the style came about during the Middle Ages when brewers would brew a slightly stronger, hoppier beer in the spring to be consumed over the summer months when the making beer was particularly problematic. It was only in the 19th century that the beer became associated with autumnal festivals.
As my photo more or less shows, Holsteiner poured a copper color which was clear. I didn't get much of a head but there was a goodly amount of bubbles making their way up. This beer looked very nice in my pilsener glass.
With the chilly, rainy weather we've been having this spring I wasn't at all surprised to find that I had a stuffy noise after I poured this beer. I guess I just didn't notice that I'd spent my day being a mouth-breather. This perhaps explains why my nose detected a berry smell from this stuff. It was just weird. But there was also was a honey aroma as well which seemed more in line with a Märzen.
Traditionally Märzens are about the malt and Holsteiner begins with malt sweetness that has hints of bread dough and peach. Mouthfeel is a bit on the light side of medium. The hops are easily discernible, though, and probably stronger than the style usually affords, American tweaks like Hoptoberfest
aside. The hops here don't dominate like they do in an IPA but there was certainly more Noble goodness present than you find in local favorites like Capital Oktoberfest or New Glarus Staghorn. Holsteiner has a nice clean taste as lagers should. It finished on a fairly dry note.
Truth be told, I didn't care for my first Holsteiner but I came to appreciate it more as my six pack dwindled. It's basic failing is that the malt presence has very little depth. The Märzens I really enjoy reveal various shades of maltiness as they flow over my tongue. Holsteiner, however, peters out quickly and gives way to the hops. While not a great Märzen, this is still a decent, quaffable lager. It is 6% ABV so be sure to quaff responsibly.
Junk food pairing: Warm soft pretzels with a spicy brown mustard.
Labels: Argus Brewery, Beer, Märzen, Oktoberfest