The science of tasting beer can be a hilarious subject. Take a look at members’ reviews over at Beer Advocate, where some brews are hailed as the second coming, while others, for the crime of being produced by companies owned by international corporations are banished to the outer darkness, the unholy ones, as it were. All of this of course, is quite arbitrary, especially when beloved breweries, such as The Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, receive an Anheuser-Busch Inbev offer they could not refuse.
It should be noted that Goose Island chose to discontinue producing their Nut Brown Ale and Oatmeal Stout before the acquisition. Their concentration on the beer connoisseur segment of business, emphasizing expensive, oak barrel aged products, seemed far away, from the Goose Islands I sampled in the last century, which were modestly priced ales of great character. Such is the nature of change, as the old cliché goes. But one thing I do hope for, is that Goose Island returns to bottling their Christmas Ale into 12 ounce bottles, instead of the 22ounce version, given the silly name of bomber, so in vogue with the craft beer crowd. With a few exceptions, most bombers means you are going to spend a lot of money for 22ounces of beer. Three $9 bombers means you are paying $27 for a five and a half pack of beer. I gather that many believe that this leads to a superior drinking experience. Equally, many believe that if a beer is modestly priced, it must not be good, and many a fine recipe is dismissed because it is not expensive enough. Delegating many tasty recipes to condescending terms such as a good gateway beer.
I bring all of this up because of recent tastings of different Oktoberfest beers, which are popping up everywhere. Take Beck’s Oktoberfest from Bremen, Germany. A fest beer given the Oktoberfest designation in the United States, since only the brews within the city limits of Munich are allowed to use the name in Germany. Beck’s, now a part of the Inbev global portfolio, still makes a very tasty Marzen lager for fall, using only the four classic ingredients.
Or take Shiner Oktoberfest, probably the lightest take on Marzen. Where a doughy palate is simple and direct. The 96 Anniversary recipe, called a seasonal ale on the bottle. But this is where geography plays into the picture. The Spoetzl Brewery, being in Shiner, Texas, has to designate any beer above a certain alcohol level as ale, regardless of the fermentation method. The geographic location also helps explain why this recipe has a lighter approach: it gets very hot in Texas. Different parts of the country have different requirements. There is certainly room enough for all to be enjoyed.