Back To The Fest

Over the decades I have sampled thousands of beers and tasted many novel variations of established recipe styles. This is especially true in the United States, where the parameters of what is considered a stout, an India pale ale, saison, etc., are always being experimented with, to push as they say the boundaries  of what those recipe approaches can do. But being an old school beer writer, I have always had a wonderful affection for two styles of beer: bock in the spring, and Oktoberfest at the end of summer.
This year I thought it best to cover first Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2016oktoberfest2016bottlepint The brewery’s collaboration with all things German, that is not only a seasonal. but also a one time only celebratory event. Last year’s work with Brauhaus Riegle in Augsburg, showcased the delicious Steffi barley. This year’s collaboration with Mahrs Brau in Bamberg, draws attention to the nearly forgotten Record hop of Germany used in historic Fest tradition. Like last year’s production, this is a golden coloured Fest beer quite different in emphasis than last year’s, except that both are a pleasure to drink.

Locally Christian Moerlein Das Uber Fest LagerIMG_0157    Is a surprising canned golden lager that is a kind of tribute to the style of Oktoberfest perfected by Paulener in Munich, known as Wiesn Lager. The use of wheat lends this can of beer a delicious drinkable nature. Quite different from their Marzen style Oktoberfest Fifth & Vine.

The American standard for Marzen, Samuel Adams Octoberfest LagerSamuel_Adams_Octoberfest2Remains a classic American seasonal (brewed here in Cincinnati) but their 16 ounce can


is a bit of a departure from my local bottled version.

This seems more malt concentrated, somewhat chalky, perhaps accentuated by its 16 ounce packaging.

The once a year return of Great Lakes Oktoberfestoktoberfest-fixedis always a fun event, with 6.5% strength reminding that good Fest beer is always an occaison to have a party. It is not surprising that I enjoy their year round little brother marzen, Eliot Ness Amber Lager.

The very traditional Bell’s Oktoberfest


Bell's Oktoberfest Beer

keeps everything in balance. After a few years hiatus, the return of the amber lager is solid and real.

For those who think mega brewing incapable of very good beer, I would suggest Molson Coor’s Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfestleineoktober_largeA beautifully tasty recipe that has respect for German tradition, producing a nutty malt profile, that after many years of sampling, I could pick out in a blind taste test.


Flying Double

I was amused to read reviews of Flying Dog’s Double Dog Double IPA where tasters complained about the boozy quality of the production. In this day and age when breweries pop up like unannounced new flowers on a continuous basis, it would be good to remember the wisdom imparted by Fritz Maytag long ago, when he reminded The Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, that breweries have their own personalities.
This is certainly true of the Flying Dog Brewery, whose original roots were set down in Woody Creek, Colorado, where the founder, George Stanahan, befriended the late writer Hunter S. Thompson, who in turn introduced him to the British surrealist illustrator of his published works: Ralph Steadman. It is artwork by Mr. Steadman that graces the covers of Flying Dog beers, often bizarre depictions of dogs to illustrate beers with titles like: Gonzo Imperial Porter, Horn Dog, Dogtoberfest, K-9, The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale, and Raging Bitch.
This tawny coloured pour with a malty nose is a bit of a surprise for what is called a double India pale ale. A big time imperial ale at 11.5%, this has that lupulin warrior niche that many who drink this style, are often not even conscious of. Boozy? Yes, like many examples in the Flying Dog portfolio, but what should you expect from a brewery that embraced Hunter Thompson’s love of drink and firearms: “Good People Drink Good Beer.”
Of course many a state liquor control board could not understand the humor of the labels. With Double Dog, you have the use of copious amount of caramel malt combined with over-the top amounts of hops. Not exactly my cup of beer, but nevertheless, the execution of this recipe is outstanding.

k-9 I first sampled this delicious ale when it was still being produced in Colorado. In those days, the expression “when in doubt, go flat out” was used.It was removed from the label after the Nine Eleven catastrophe.
Raging Bitch is another boozy production of Belgian yeast combined with American hoppy sensibility. Steadman’s notes on this label helps to explain what is going on.
I sampled this just before Cinco de Mayo. Numero Uno is tasty alternative to the one-dimensional  Bud Light Lime. Cactus Juice has proven useful in beer designed for warm weather, whether it is Sierra Nevada Otra Vez or Shiner Prickly Pear.