Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

26 September, 2016

A Surfeit of Festbiers

From Green Bay we now head southwest to Lake Louie Brewing.

Hypothesis: Tom Porter and the gang out in Arena brew a tasty Dortmunder Export and fine, if boozy, helles bock. And so, while they mostly brew ales, they have a proven track record with lagers. Odds were good that the brewery's first Festbier would be a winner.

Experiment: Lake Louie's Oktoberfest went the pale Märzen route with its gold color. The bier was clear revealing a goodly number of bubbles making their way up to a nice bed of white foam. All of that effervescence gave my tongue a firm, yet gentle, carbonic bite. Bread, a mild honeyed sweetness, and a touch of spicy hops came in the initial salvo while a bit of roasted grain and even a tad of toasty, Maillard reacted malt were noticeable upon repeated quaffs.

The lovely malt flavors quietly faded as the spicy hops grew louder as they took on some grassy tones leaving my tongue high'n'dry.

Conclusion: Really good. Easily the best Oktoberfest I've had this year from a Wisconsin brewery. Cheesehead brewers have basically shit the bed this Oktoberfest season sending countless German settlers a-spinning in their graves. Lake Louie's Festbier has a nice bready flavor, which, if it had been fuller, I wouldn't have complained. Plus the hops gave a nice bite on the finish. As a bonus, the Schaumhaftvermoegen was generous and pretty.

Lake Louie's Oktoberfest went well with Late July Bacon & Habenero tortilla chips which have what is likely the best bacon flavor on any chip anywhere, anytime.

Back up north to the Wisconsin interior and Central Waters.

The cicerone cries
Amidst the gadarene rush
To slumgullion

About 90 miles west of Amherst lies Black River Falls and the Sand Creek Brewing Company. They've got a nice little place up there.

Another Wisconsin brewery that specializes in ales. Methinks their Oktoberfest is their only lager. I give them credit for putting a brunette in a dirndl on the label, though, instead of a blonde. Thinking outside the box.

I have to wonder if Sand Creek exists but for the grace of contract brewing. This is not meant as a sleight – simply an observation. Or perhaps Wild Ride Eyepah sells like gangbusters and I am blissfully unaware. It's just that I don't see hordes of Chicagoans crossing the border in search of their beer. Hell, I don't see them around Madison much outside of liquor stores. Oscar's Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, a darn fine beer, used to be seen (by my eyes, anyway) more frequently in taverns and restaurants but is a relative rarity today. I guess not making grapefruit beer has taken its toll.

Onto the Oktoberfest…

Sand Creek apparently took a more traditional route with its Festbier as it was amber. Nice and clear, it was a lovely bier to be sure. The head was a light tan and I got about an inch of the stuff. Inside there were bubbles. Lots and lots of bubbles. It looked like it has having an embolism.

The aroma was, overall, on the mild side. What there was was led by caramel which didn't surprise me given the bier's hue. Just a little roasted grain peeked out from behind some grassy hops.

The taste too was, to put it kindly, mild. Again, a bit of caramel sweetness was most evident but that's not to say the bier was sweet. This was joined by some apricot-like fruitiness as well as grassy-peppery hops. If this bier was a palimpsest, then that would be the bit that got erased yet faintly bled through. On top of all this was a harsh, dry acidic bite from all of that carbonation. It was like Oktoberfest champagne. Zoinks!

As what little malt there was faded, my tongue was hit with a one-two combination of carbonic bite and very peppery hops which made things quite dry and equally as bitter. On the plus side, there was some nice Schaumhaftvermoegen in my glass with a few streaks of foam for decoration.

I get that Festbiers are not supposed to be as malty as doppelbocks. And while I'm not a big fan of Bohemian pilsener levels of hops in them but, if that's your thing, go for it. But for Pete's sake, have a good, firm bready, malty base. Sand Creek joins several other Wisconsin brewers who are putting out Oktoberfests that lack a solid grainy foundation. I had a Paulaner Oktoberfest a few weeks ago at a chain restaurant in the middle of mall Hades and it was great. It was shipped from Bavaria in who knows what kind of container an indeterminate amount of time ago yet it was superior to the Oktoberfests from just down the road a piece.

I am getting paranoid that my tongue is simply giving out. Is my brain malfunctioning? That Paulaner was a symphony of malt tastes in harmony. Bread, Maillard toastiness, a little doughy sweetness, and some roasted grains all played in time and accompanied by a chorus of hops. But it's like the brewers of my state are mired down in fourth grade strings class trying to play some twelve-tone Schoenberg while being led by a conductor doing the St. Vitus dance.

Junk food pairing: spray some Easy Cheese on Smoked Gouda Triscuits to accompany your Oktoberfest.

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|| Palmer, 8:40 AM


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