Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oktoberfest Lager – Lakefront Brewery

                With the 2014 fall Oktoberfest series beginning to wrap up, we are now on the second to last review, Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery.  Lakefront has long been a Milwaukee favorite, and holds the distinction of being the first Milwaukee Craft Brewery to grow to the point of being a Regional Craft Brewery (an annual production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels of beer).  Lakefront Brewery currently distributes to thirty-five states, although around 80% of their beer is sold in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.  It is great to see a Wisconsin craft brewery distribute outside of the state and be so successful doing so.  Before moving on to the review, let’s cover a quick history of Lakefront Brewery, and what brought them to being one of the most successful breweries in the state.

Founded in 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch, Lakefront Brewery is one of Milwaukee’s oldest breweries.  After developing a rivalry, constantly competing to see who could brew a better batch of homebrew, and having their brews win multiple homebrew contests; the brothers choose a building for their new brewery, a former bakery in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee.  Starting with used dairy equipment and 55 gallon steel drums, they were up and running.  December 2, 1987 marked a turning point for the brewery, when the first barrel of beer was sold to the Gordon Park Pub.

It didn’t take long for Lakefront to become a local favorite with the brewery selling 72 barrels of beer in 1988 and 125 in 1989 before growth really took off, nearly doubling in each subsequent year.  With the growing popularity of Lakefront Beer, Russ Klisch built a bottling machine in 1990 so the brewery could distribute bottles.  As the brewery continued to grow, the brothers brought more equipment into the brewery.  By 1998, with production just under 3,000 barrels a year, it became apparent that the original 3,600 square foot bakery was getting a little too crowded, so Lakefront went on the lookout for a new location.  The new and current location of Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce Street, originally housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant.  As luck would have it, the City of Milwaukee was considering tearing the building down until the brewery purchased the building.

In 2000, Russ Klisch replaced the homemade brewing equipment that the brewery had used for the previous 12 years and installed a professional brew house.  Production continued to increase, reaching 33,268 barrels in 2012.  Earlier this fall Lakefront broke ground on a new expansion adjacent to the current location.  The additional space means Lakefront can continue to grow and expand their barrel aging program as well.  An expanded barrel aging program would be great for Lakefront Brewery, but that’s a topic for another post, and another beer.  As for this post, how about we move on to the review section.

                At Beeradvocate, Lakefront Oktoberfest Lager currently has a score of 79, with an 83 from the Bros.  At ratebeer, it currently has a score of 33 Overall with a 40 for style.  Again with the low ratebeer score, then again there is a reason I take the scores from these two sites with a grail of salt.

They Say:

The radiant copper-orange hue and rocky, off-white head of our traditional Märzen-style lager comes from generous amounts of Munich malt. Caramel malt aromas compliment the German lager yeast’s slightly floral aroma. Mt. Hood hops balance the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety to the flavor, making this a great rendition of a classic German lager.

A good pairing for the hearty German fare served at Oktoberfest parties in Munich: rich sausages and pretzels, buttery spaetzle or creamy soups.

5.8% ABV
10–14 IBUs

Cases: 4/6/12 oz bottles (355 mL)
Half Barrels (15.5 gal)
Quarter Barrels (7.75 gal – WI only)
Sixth Barrels (5.16 gal)

I Say:

                Lakefront Oktoberfest lager pours a very clear copper with a thick, creamy, off-white head.  The head holds very good retention, lasting just under a minute, and leaves a moderate amount of lacing behind in the glass.  Low level sweet bready malts serve as a pleasant greeting to the beer out of the bottle.  The bready malts take on more complexity as the beer warms, becoming biscuity with lingering toasted malt notes.  The aroma is right about where it should be for a festbier.

                Toasted and biscuit malts lead the flavor with an excellent complex malt profile up front.  Floral hops (or yeast according to Lakefront) assert themselves midway through the experience, ushering in a relatively firm hop bitterness.  The finish is malty and slightly floral with notes of biscuit, toasted malt, and a hint of hops.  With a moderate hop flavor and a moderately low hop bitterness, Lakefront Oktoberfest is almost on target.  With a medium body, and a moderate level of carbonation, this beer is holding true to the guidelines of a festbier.

                The floral hop notes are a touch too prominent in Lakefront Oktoberfest for my taste, but they are still well within the bounds for the style, so it is hard to find a reason to hold that against this otherwise remarkable festbier.  There is a lot to like with this beer, with its wonderful malt backbone, and its drying finish, and it’s certainly one of the best festbiers this state has to offer.

                That’s all for today, check back later this week for the last Oktoberfest review before the Oktoberfest wrap up post early next week.



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