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Friday, October 24, 2014

Oktoberfest – Capital Brewery

                Five posts into this fall’s Oktoberfest series, it’s about time that I get to a beer brewed by a Wisconsin Brewery that has a strong tradition of brewing German style lagers.  The Oktoberfest release from Capital Brewery is an award winning brew (three medals), and was personally one of my first Oktoberfest releases from a Wisconsin Brewery oh so many years ago. 

Founded on March 14, 1984 by Ed Janus, Capital Brewery was opened in the former Mazomanie Egg Factory.  On the way to converting the building into a brewery, brew kettles from Hoxter Brewery in Germany were installed in 1985.  After renovating the building for almost two years, Capital Brewery released its first two beers, Capital Pilsner and Capital Dark in the spring of 1986.  The two beers have gone on to win a combined 25 medals.  The brewery continued to grow and in 1997 became the first craft brewery to can, releasing cans of Wisconsin Amber.  At the 1998 World Beer Championships, Capital was named the #1 Brewery in the U.S. and 7th in in the world by the Beverage Tasting Institute.  In 2013 Capital was named the Grand National Champion at the US Open Beer Championship, winning six medals.  The most recent news is that Capital Oktoberfest won the gold medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival in the German-style Märzen category. 

In 2012, brewmaster Kirby Nelson who had been with Capital for most of its existence left to formulate plans for his own brewery, handing off the reigns to Brian Destree.  Kirby’s departure turned out to be great for the Wisconsin craft beer scene however because it not only led to Capital branching out into new styles, it also led to the founding of the Wisconsin Brewing Company.

The brewery now produces over 30,000 barrels of beer annually and brews 19 different beers listed on their website, although the excellent Ghost Ship White IPA is noticeably absent from their website so the number could be higher.  With history of producing excellent German-style lagers, it should come as no surprise that Capital Brewery stays true to the strict Reinheitsgebot guidelines for a majority of their beers, which require that only Malts, Hops, and Water be used in the brewing of beer.  Yeast, which is noticeably absent from the original rules was unknown at the time.

            After a bit of background on the brewery, let’s move on to the review.  At Beeradvocate, Capital Oktoberfest currently has a score of 82.  Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 83 overall, with a 98 for style.


They Say:

                OKTOBERFEST - The mother of all seasonal beers has a firey amber hue with rich malty overtones that dominate the flavor.

Available: August-November
MALTS: Brewers, Munich, Caramel & Aromatic 
HOPS: Liberty
ABV: 5.5% 
IBU: 24
OG: 14%


I Say:

                Capital Oktoberfest pours a crystal clear light coppery amber with a thick, creamy off-white head with a slight rocky breakup.  The head holds excellent retention and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  A complex sweet breadiness leads off the aroma, with toasted malts on the backend and the slightest amount of buttery diacetyl lingering throughout.  If it weren’t for slight buttery notes of diacetyl that intertwined with the bready and toasted malt aromas, this would hit the mark for an Oktoberfest perfectly.

                Lightly toasted biscuit malts come to the forefront in the flavor with an underlying malty sweetness that serves to accentuate the toasted malts.  Toasted malts linger on the back end, although not for long necessitating a return to the glass.  Capital Oktoberfest is very smooth with moderately full malts, and a prominent, but moderately low hop bitterness.  This is most definitely a beer defined by the malts, as any good festbier should be.  Coming in as a medium bodied and moderately carbonated beer, this is extremely quaffable and satisfying on a cool fall evening.

                Capital Oktoberfest is a pretty remarkable beer, one that I would be tempted to call the best I have had yet in this series were it not for the hint of buttery diacetyl in the aroma.  Diacetyl, a byproduct of fermentation can get cleaned up by the yeast at the end of the fermentation.  The formation of diacetyl in beer fermentation is a pretty interesting topic, but not being a chemist myself, I will just link you to a great article by Chris White of White Labs.  While diacetyl, always an off aroma/flavor, may blend in better with a bareleywine or English ale, it seems a bit out of place here.  Fortunately the aroma somewhat blended in with the biscuity malts to come across more as buttered toast rather than completely overwhelming the malts as can be the case in an unfortunate batch of homebrew.  The problem however, is that I am unsure whether this bottle is a stand out, or whether it was a batch issue.  I do know however that I have not noticed a buttery aroma in this beer on previous occasions.

                Capital Oktoberfest is a pretty remarkable beer, even given the slight off-aroma that I experienced, and it is a beer that I can whole heartedly recommend to anyone looking for a good festbier!


                That’s all for today, but there are still a couple more Oktoberfests in this fall’s Oktoberfest series, so check back soon!

                Ein Prosit!

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