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Just in time for November…..Oktoberfest!!!

9 November 2008
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Before we get into the froth of this post, I must first admit that the idea for our Oktoberfest beer tasting was copied from a New York Times article. So don’t go thinking that we’re clever or innovative, because we’re not. All our best work is copied from truly clever and creative people (we’re just mildly drunk coattail-riders).

Inspired by those aforementioned visionary types, MC and I decided to do an Oktoberfest-style beer tasting during the Ohio State vs. Wisconsin football game a few weeks ago. We figured that would be a fitting football game for a beer tasting, given the penchant for beer consumption among supporters of the two schools and the Germanic heritage of Wisconsin in general. So that afternoon, during halftime of the 12pm games (or 11am here since we’re on stupid Central Time) we trekked over to the giant, beautiful warehouse of liquor about a mile down the road to stock up. Walking among aisles and aisles of every style of beer imaginable from every corner of the world, we flagged down a store employee (or possibly just a guy with a name tag who really, really liked beer—we’re still not sure) who helped us choose 10 Oktoberfest styles from Germany and the US. We then ran home, drank a bottle of each and proceeded to pass out before the game even started. The End.

Ha! Just kidding! What? You think we’re lushes? Oh no, my friends, we are beer connoisseurs (or common sewers, depending). We tasted each beer and wrote down our thoughts before drinking all ten bottles and THEN passing out. And we definitely waited until after the football game to pass out. Because there’s only one thing in life that’s more important than beer: football. 

Since the primary goal of this blog is education, however, and not documentation of our drunken exploits (at least not exclusively), we decided to share our thoughts on our beer tasting, in the hopes that it will help all four of our readers make more informed decisions the next time they decide to purchase an Oktoberfest beer. Although, to be fair, the aforementioned four readers are our parents and only one of them actually drinks beer, so really this blog will just sit in cyberspace not being of help to anyone, merely an online repository of our own notes for later reference. Ah, well, here are our notes anyway…

First, some loose background: the purpose of the Oktoberfest style is to be a slightly flavorful beer suited to pounding in mass quantities, as is the habit in Munich around this time of year. The beers can’t be so heavy that one or two knocks you out (Oktoberfest is generally a multi-week event), but since we’re talking Germans here, it can’t be Bud Light, cause, well, that’s just insulting to the palate. Using this as our rubric, we evaluated the following brews, carefully sipping, then swallowing (not spitting—this isn’t wine snobbery here), then cleansing with water and repeating, making notes along the way. The last few thoughts are only projected translations, however, as our handwriting became…difficult to read… The brews sampled are mostly more microbrews, as a) we were following the Times list, and b) you can get the mega brews anywhere (though we do love us some Sammy Octoberfest). Additionally, research indicates that the American beers resemble more closely the original German Oktoberfest style, which, in Germany, has become more thin and lighter in recent years. Weird.

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The Contenders

First the American beers:

1) Victory (PA) - Festbier 
A little bland, a little watery. Not too exciting. At the end of the sip, there is some hops flavor.

2) Flying Dog (MD) – Dogtoberfest
Very ale-like, more flavorful than Victory, definitely a hoppy kick at the end, a little sweetness.

3) Leinenkugel (WI) – Oktoberfest
Easy-drinking, good subtle flavors, a poundable beer

4) Sprecher (WI) - Oktoberfest
Nice hop finish, definitely a smoky flavor, a little too heavy to be poundable, but still enjoyable.

5) Harpoon (MA) – Octoberfest
A lot of flavor at the front but a little bland at the finish, poundable, nice blend of flavors without being too hoppy.

6) Three Floyds (IN) – Munsterfest
A little sweet and fruity – not really poundable. Somewhat pleasing but lingers on the palate a little too long.

7) Mendocino (CA) – Oktoberfest
Bitterness at end of sip lingers a little too long. Sweet in the middle of sip.

 

And now, the German beers:

1) Ayinger (Munich) – Oktoberfest-Märzen
Lighter in color than the American beers and a different flavor. Still a little bitter, but in a different way. Definitely poundable. A satisfying beer.

2) Spaten (Munich) – Oktoberfest
Thin and light but packs a good flavor without overpowering. Nice balance from start to finish. Very drinkable, very poundable.

3) Hofbräu (Munich) – Oktoberfest
Very bitter. Reminds us of Heineken and we do NOT like Heineken. Very bland underneath the bitterness. (Does that make sense? We were on our tenth taste by this point. And believe me, we were not spitting out our sips. We might not be creative, but we’re not stupid either).

After much thought and deliberation—and a couple more tastes—we awarded Spaten with Gold, Leinenkugel with Silver, and Harpoon with Bronze.

 

The Medal Ceremony

The Medal Ceremony

 

 

Now, I know I may have fooled you with words and phrases like “palate”, “hoppy” and “subtle flavors”, but MC and I are actually not experts in beer or beer tasting. I think you have to do more than just drink a lot of it to gain expert status. So take our advice with a grain of salt (one preferably attached to a big Bavarian pretzel). In fact, maybe you should do your own Oktoberfest tasting and let us know what you think!

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