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Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Oktoberfest wrap-up


                This past Friday marked the final review in the 2014 Oktoberfest series of reviews. There were certainly a lot of great Wisconsin festbiers, a couple of which nailed the style dead on, and a couple that just barely missed it, one that fell way short, and one that turned the style on its ear, reimagining it as an ale. Each brought with it a unique experience with the fingerprint of the brewery that released it readily visible in both flavor and aroma. For those of you who might not have read the posts in this fall’s Oktoberfest series they were; Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest from Tyranena Brewing Company, Black Husky Brewing’s Jodlerkönig Ale, O’so Brewing’s O-toberfest, Central Waters Oktoberfest, Üfer Bier from Big Bay Brewing Company, Point Oktoberfest from Stevens Point Brewery, Capital Brewery Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest Lager from Lakefront Brewery, and Bull Falls Oktoberfest.


                While that is not an exhaustive list of the festbiers released by Wisconsin breweries, they are the ones I covered this year. There are a few noticeably absent from the list, New Glarus Staghorn, Milwaukee Brewing’s Hop-toberfest, and Leinenkugel’s Über-Oktoberfest, just to name a few. It isn’t so much that I left them out on purpose, or that I don’t have a high opinion of each, they are all very good beers that I usually stock up on this time of year. Staghorn in particular is one of my favorite beers. For this year’s Oktoberfest series I wanted to highlight a few great local breweries which you might not be familiar with. With the exceptions of Black Husky Jodlerkönig and Bull Falls Oktoberfest, each of the beers reviewed have statewide distribution, which was another important factor in choosing the beers for the series. Obviously being based out of Milwaukee, I am going to choose beers that are readily available in my location, or that I can pick up on a trip to another part of the state. Out of the nine beers reviewed, Bull Falls is the only one not available in the Milwaukee market.

                So, now I will move on to the part of this that I really am not looking forward to, a ranking of the nine.  Whenever I attempt to rank my favorite beers, or favorite beers of a style I feel as though I am trying to pick my favorite child.  Sure, some favorites are easy...  Favorite football team? Packers!  Favorite state?  Wisconsin, obviously…  But favorite beer, that takes the discussion to a whole new level.  Regardless, here it goes…

                1)      Black Huskey Jodlerkönig – Call me a sell out who loves almost everything Black Husky releases, or mention that Jodlerkonig is not an Oktoberfest, but this ale interpretation on a traditional festbier is an excellent fall beer that will leave you wanting to try the rest of the Black Husky line-up.

                2)      Bull Falls Oktoberfest – Coming from one of the newest breweries in the list, this festbier was dead on, with the right amount of bready maltiness combined with an appropriate amount of hop bitterness.  The malts refrained from coming across too sweet, while still being prominent and both the hop flavor and bitterness were pleasantly subdued.  It’s only a shame this beer has such a limited distribution.

                3)      Central Waters Oktoberfest - A solid all around festbier with strong bready malt notes in the flavor and aroma.  While it was lighter on the toasted malt notes than many of the other beers in this series, the malty sweetness was right where it should be, and the hop bitterness served to mellow out the malts but didn’t detract from the malty nature of the beer.  For a bready Oktoberfest with a low level of toasted malts you would be hard pressed to find a better festbier.

                4)      O’so O-toberfest  - A touch sweeter than the other beers in this series, O-toberfest has moderately strong biscuity malts, with moderate toasted notes.  The rich maltiness was well balanced by hop bitterness, but there was never any doubt that this was well-balanced, malty beer.

                5)      Capital Oktoberfest – At the time I reviewed it, I was close to calling this beer the best so far in the series if it weren’t for the buttery diacetyl in the beer that I had.  The beer was almost perfect, with an excellent maltiness and a nice restrained hop bitterness.  I would like to believe the bottle I had was the exception, but for this beer at this time, I was disappointed to find a fault in the aroma.

                6)      Tyranena Brewing’s Gemüetlichkeit Oktoberfest – Aside from the caramel notes in this beer, it was right where it needed to be for the style.  The strong malt backbone was balanced out by a moderate hop bitterness, causing the beer to dry out on the back end.  Toasted and nutty malts added malty complexity that went was on par with beers higher up in these rankings, however the caramel notes dropped it further down.  The floral hops were a little pronounced for my taste, but they lingered in the background in the aroma and did not follow through to the flavor, holding to style.

                7)      Lakefront Brewing Oktoberfest Lager – I am a big fan of Lakefront Brewery, and I am kicking myself for ranking their festbier this low, because most of the time they are one of my go to breweries.  The fact they fell so far in the rankings says more about the caliber of the other festbiers in the state than it does about their offering.  That said, I do like my festbiers to have less prominent floral notes, which this beer certainly had in spades.

                8)      Steven’s Point Brewing  Point Oktoberfest – Point Oktoberfest, like Lakefront above it was a very good festbier.  The fruity malts and floral hops in the flavor drop this one further down in the rankings than it otherwise would be.  I really enjoy floral hops and fruity malts in many beers, but they seem out of place in a festbier.

                9)      Big Bay Brewing Üfer bier – I really wanted to like this beer, because I would love to support a local Milwaukee business.  Unfortunately however, this was easily the least enjoyable festbier of the series.  It is not nearly rich enough to be in the festbier category, and while it might pass for a decent Vienna lager, it is so far removed from the festbier category that I was tempted to not even include it in this series.  Then again, the brewery claims it is an Oktoberfest, so there is that.


Okay, so there you have it.  What I really wanted to do was put places 6 through 8 tied at sixth, but I always hate when someone does that.  There is also a fairly large drop off between 8th and 9th places but that’s a bit hard to show in a straight ranking of nine beers because the lowest the last beer can go is last place.  Rankings aside however, the top 8 are all excellent beers and it took me a couple days to figure out how to rank them.  If I spent more time on it I might mix the rankings up a bit more, but eventually this post has to be posted.

                That’s all for tonight, check back again soon to read about some more great beers!


                Ein Prosit!

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