Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oktoberfest – Bull Falls Brewery

                After reviewing six Oktoberfest brews with statewide distribution, I figured I would focus on an offering from a smaller brewery with a more limited distribution.  A few weeks ago, I was up in Wausau on a business trip and enjoyed the local breweries up there.  However Bull Falls stood head and shoulders above the rest.  Fortunately they had an Oktoberfest available in cans; so I figured what better beer to wrap up this fall’s Oktoberfest Series than with a beer from the brewery that I had just visited.

                Like many great brewery stories, the story of Bull Falls Brewery begins with co-founder and brewmaster receiving his first homebrew kit.  Mike’s kit, a gift from his wife in 1998 soon lead to medals at homebrew competitions and eventually enrolling in an online course from the Siebel Institute of Chicago.  Nine years later, in 2007, Mike and his father Don, founded Bull Farms Brewery on the east side of Wausau, Wisconsin.  Originally opened in a 5,000 square foot space, the Zamzows quickly realized their small setting was going to be unable to keep up with the increasing demand for their product.  A new, $1.5 million, 8,000 square foot expansion, was completed in the summer of 2013.  The expansion brought with it a larger brew system, additional fermentation tanks, a canning line, an expanded tasting room, and a new gift shop.  Early 2013 also brought a major distribution contract with Mid-Wisconsin Beverage, a Pepsi distributor that brought Bull Falls on as its first beer account in generations.  The move signified a shift back to Mid-Wisconsin’s roots and an excellent business opportunity for Bull Falls.

                I will update you all with more information on Bull Falls Brewing as I get it and I am going to set up an interview with co-owner Mike Zamzow soon!  That said, on with the review!

They Say:

The brewery's inaugural beer is brewed with all German ingredients. Golden amber in color with a malty aroma and flavor that contributes to a clean crisp taste.

I Say:

                Bull Falls Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear light copper with a thick, creamy ivory head that holds moderate retention (lasting about a minute and  half), before leaving heavy lacing behind in the glass.  Biscuity malts lead the aroma, while a prominent toasted quality balances out the middle and the back end.  The aroma in this festbier is all about the malts, with no discernable hops.

                Semi-sweet, bready malts serve as a pleasant greeting on the first sip of this Oktoberfest with toasted mingling in the middle to add additional complexity.  The malts definitely are strong in this one, coming across as full and well-rounded.  Balancing out the bready malts is a very slight spicy hop flavor, and moderate level of hop bitterness that serves to dry out the beer on the back end, leading to semi-dry finish with a lingering bitterness.  Bull Falls Oktoberfest is very smooth with a soft, palatable maltiness that makes it especially quaffable.  With a medium body, and moderate level of carbonation, this beer hits the marks perfectly.

                  I know that “drinkability” has been co-opted by the macro-breweries to the point that it has practically become a dirty word.  That said, however, this is a remarkably drinkable beer that should definitely be served by the liter.  Bull Falls Oktoberfest is an exemplary beer that is remarkably malty without lingering into the overt sweetness trap that many other festbiers fall into.  The hop flavor and bitterness likewise are evident without being too prominent, mingling well together to make this a very well-balanced beer.

                Unfortunately distribution too far outside of Wausau is a bit of an issue for Bull Falls, although when I was up at the brewery a couple weeks ago brewmaster Mike Zamzow mentioned that they do distribute into the Minneapolis/St. Paul market, so those of you in north western Wisconsin should have some luck finding this in stores.  If you do live up north, or happen to drive near Wausau, Bull Falls Brewery is definitely worth the stop, and they keep a pretty decent selection of their canned beers on hand at the brewery.

                That’s all for tonight, check back next week for the Oktoberfest Series wrap-up post, and don’t forget Keagan’s weekend posts on Saturday and Sunday!


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