Fearful Symmetries

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11 October, 2016

Brewing and Nothingness: Festbier by Victory Brewing Company



I am taking a break from native Oktoberfests because it was getting to be dolorous and drinking beer shouldn't be that way. Quaffing a Märzen should be a mirthful experience, one that highlights the brief periods of joy that punctuate our time on this earth before we return to the soil. And so I look to suburban Philadelphia wherein lies Victory Brewing to address my existential ennui.

My previous encounters with Victory beers were all positive and mostly very fine indeed. But I've been afflicted with a case of microbrew angst this past month or so as various other breweries with good reputations offered Oktoberfests of a less than tasteful nature. Perhaps now that our state Department of Natural Resources is run like a business, there truly is something in the air or in the water which afflicts our brewmasters, rendering them maladroit and consigning them to produce Oktoberfests which would have made Gabriel Sedlmayr cry.

It is my hope that by looking to the east, to the city where John Wagner brewed the first lager on these shores (well, a suburb of that city) that I may find some hope that all is not lost.

Victory Festbier pours a lovely amber and was suitably clear. While I only managed to produce only a meager head of light tan foam which went away quite quickly, the bier was rather effervescent with a fair number of bubbles inside.

The aroma smelled strongly of bread, which as a good sign. But there was also a little caramel and some roasted malt scent too. It was surprised at how restrained the sweetness was here considering the bier's color. So far, so good.

Things got even better upon tasting the brew. A shiver went down my spine as luscious Maillard reacted malt taste swirled and eddied on my tongue. It was a wonderful toasty flavor that had a deep vein of nuttiness as well. The malt also tasted of fresh bread along with just a hint of toffee sweetness. Peppery hops hovered in the background and paired with a healthy dose of carbonation to add crispness.

For the final act, the malt faded allowing the hops to step into the limelight. They became spicier – almost minty – and gave a nice cleansing bitterness. Dry but not overly so. Schaumhaftvermoegen was limited to a few shorts streaks and the odd speck of foam.

Eureka! Victory proved, well, victorious. While it may not provide a definitive answer, Festbier certainly comes down on the affirmative side when it comes to decoction mashing. Those toasty Maillard flavors run deep and full here and I just love the nutty taste to it. They are given pride of place but complemented by other malty flavors while some really tasty hops offer contrast and balance. The malt is rich instead of being watery. Sweetness bows before savory. Everything in its place. There is yet hope for Oktoberfests.

Junk food pairing: Pair your Victory Festbier with some Mature Cheddar and Chive crisps, er, potato chips. They have a rich heartiness that other cheddar chips don't and thusly go very well with savory malt taste of the bier.

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|| Palmer, 6:12 AM

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