It is now September so I feel more comfortable drinking Oktoberfests
than I do when they appear on stores shelves in July. While singles shelves can be where beers go to die, this time of year they are cornucopias bursting with fresh Oktoberfests from far and wide. Well, there's no guarantee that the bottles from Munich haven't accumulated seniority but surely more local brews are still in the flush of youth.
After admitting my guilt
a couple months ago when it comes to not giving our neighbors to the west, Summit Brewing
, enough love, I jumped at the chance to try their Oktoberfest again
. Besides, it had been a long time since I'd last had one.
While I have not done a large scale survey of American Oktoberfests, the anecdotal evidence I've accumulated thus far shows that they tend to be some shade of amber and have a range of sweetness that goes from "Oh, there's a bit of sweetness in there" to "I think I just got a cavity and developed diabetes to boot." My understanding is that, if you were to actually go to Munich and hit the bier tents during Oktoberfest, you'd be served a paler version of the brew known as Wiesn
Regardless of your Oktoberfest's color, the key is the malt flavor. My preference is for a rich, decocted, Maillard reacted, toasty malt taste with sweetness kept to a minimum. I had some Spaten Oktoberfest recently and, while I am not qualified to determine whether it is the Platonic ideal of the style, it certainly fit the bill for me. American renditions of the style – the ones I've had, anyway – rarely achieve this Überflavor. This is not to say that American brewers who don't decoct cannot concoct a fine Festbier because they do, but rather that they tend to achieve a bready taste that lacks the toasty element to it that German brewers conjure so well.
Summit Oktoberfest pours a lovely amber that is crystal clear. My mini-stein, an Oktoberfest glass from some Kohler festival a few years back, got about ¾" of off-white foam which lasted about 30 seconds. Now, when I see photographs from Oktoberfest, I see a buxom blonde carrying litre steins that have about three times the head. Methinks I need pouring lessons. Anyway, a smattering of bubbles inside helped make this a mighty pretty bier.
The aroma represented perfectly the duality of the Oktoberfest – that Jungian thing, if you will. A lovely bread scent was predominant but there was also a honeyed sweetness there in the background. This boded well to my taste.
Oktoberfest was a bit sweeter than the aroma betrayed with some honey and dough-tasting sweetness but it was far from cloying. Atop this was a really tasty bread flavor. Summit decocts their Pilsener but I do not know if this bier was brewed using that method. The taste here is slightly chewy and like fresh bread as opposed to the more toasted taste of Maillard reacted nectar. The carbonation's firm hand kept the malt from running amok as did a spicy hoppiness that loomed over the proceedings in a very tasty manner.
Malt sweetness came to the fore on the finish but not for long. The Summit webpage indicates that Saaz hops are used here and you could really tell on the finish. Their characteristic sharp, mint-like spiciness rose to the occasion and cleared the sweetness out leaving a trail of bitterness and dryness in their wake. My glass began pretty and ended the same way with some really nice streaks of Schaumhaftvermoegen
I really liked the bready malt flavor here. Unfortunately the taste found itself equaled and occasionally bested by sweetness. It's not that this is a cloyingly sweet bier, I just wish that the balance leaned a bit in the other direction. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Saaz hops as they made for a nice departure from the normal hoppiness of a Festbier. The bier retains the Noble taste but kicks it up a notch for a little sumpin' sumpin' to keep the sweetness honest.
Junk food pairing: I enjoyed pretzel sticks smothered in garlic dip – the stuff you get at Corn Fest in Sun Prairie - with Oktoberfest.
Labels: Beer, Märzen, Oktoberfest, Summit Brewing Company