Fearful Symmetries

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13 September, 2016

Märzen Ohne K: O-toberfest by O'so Brewing Company



The 2016 Oktoberfest season rolls on today with O'so up in Plover.

I remember when O'so first hit store shelves in Madison and tasting Duzy Piwo. Not only was it a tasty blonde ale but, I, having some Polish blood in me, appreciated how the name paid tribute to the Polish heritage of Portage County. Those days are long gone and O'so is now renowned for its sour beers. This is probably a good thing because had they tried to specialize in, say, barrel aged beers, there would have been mass carnage. I recall drinking one of their early attempts at aging beer in bourbon barrels during the inaugural Madison Craft Beer Week at Jan's Unfriendly or whatever moniker the tavern at Baldwin and E. Washington had at the time. It was barrel aged Night Train (now Night Rain thanks to a trademark dispute) and the emphasis was clearly on the bourbon. That stuff was rocket fuel and the walk to The Malt House did us good, I can tell you.

I'm trying to recall if I've ever had O'so's Oktoberfest, O-toberfest. Odds are that I have at some point but it apparently didn't stick out enough for it have left an impression. O'so is primarily an ale brewery and so I am a bit nervous going in here. Until recently they brewed a pilsner, Memory Lane, which was serviceable, and I believe they continue to make a doppelbock as well as an American pale lager, Doe in Heat, neither of which I've ever had, to my recollection.

It's not that ale breweries cannot make a fine lager, but rather that this is done relatively infrequently, from my experience. So let's find out how O'so fares.

O-toberfest is a deep amber and so falls into the more traditional Oktoberfest realm, at least as far as appearance goes. Oddly, it was just a touch hazy. While this may get you docked points at a competition, I personally don't mind. Unlike the last Oktoberfest I poured, this time I got a good crown of foam – almost an inch of loose, off-white stuff. It lasted a slightly shorter period of time than I think of as average but it had nice effervescence with a fair number of bubbles inside.

Caramel sweetness was at the top of the aroma followed by some toasted grain, a dash of grassy hop, a pinch of vanilla, and even some stone fruit which was closest to plum. That caramel made me even more anxious because I prefer more toasted grain. But I wasn't surprised considering the beer's color and, besides, the sweetness may be toned down in the taste.

Well, no. While not very sweet, toffee and dough were the first footers that crossed my tongue's threshold. The taste was really just like the aroma, at least as far as its constituent parts. Add in some stone fruit, a touch of vanilla, and a light roasted grain flavor. Carbonation and some spicy tasting hops that hovered in the background and tried to corral everything into some kind of order.

Malt sweetness lingered at the finish and was joined by more of the hop spiciness which added only a modicum of bitterness and a hint of dryness. Schaumhaftvermoegen was noticeable by its absence.

I did not care for O-toberfest all that much. It has a nice medium light body but the malt flavor was primarily sweet and lacked fullness. While it didn't taste exactly like wort, it leaned in that direction. The malt tastes were just not very rich and they remained disparate instead of coming together in a gestalt of grainy goodness. I am going to stick with Infectious Groove and Picnic Ants when I need my O'so fix.

Junk food pairing: I paired my O-toberfest with some Ruffles All Dressed potato chips. "All dressed" is a Canadian thing which apparently means everything including the kitchen sink. And so the chips have a little sweetness, some vinegar tang, smokiness, spice – the whole 9 yards.

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|| Palmer, 5:41 AM

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