Oktoberfest in Amerika

I can’t stress it enough. I am all about Oktoberfest. I was raised by a Bavarian mother. Hell, until I was ten, I thought the German word for ‘four’ was ‘G’suffa!’ I love both the festival and the festival’s beer.

One great thing about Oktoberfest is its influence on craft beer here in the USA. Each fall, a flood of Munich-inspired malty wonderfulness gushes forth from breweries all across the country. Some are very traditional, striving to match the Munich greats as closely as possible. Others benefit from the iconoclasm for which American craft brewers are becoming famous, resulting in beers that, while identifiable as Oktoberfest beers, take on characteristics all their own.

There are simply too many for one beer guy to try them all. Here are a couple favorites you can find on draft, in the Northeast, anyway:

Victory Festbier
Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown, PA
Festbier pays homage to the great brewing houses of Munich. It’s heavy on the malt, with noticeable caramel flavor, but not cloying. I got a touch of dryness in the finish, but very minor, certainly not verging on bitterness. This copper-colored, lightly foamy brew offers a substantial body without being too heavy. You can enjoy glass after glass, and isn’t that what a festival beer is for?

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest
Boston Beer Company, Boston, MA
Sam Adam’s mainline lager is a bit lacking (although it’s getting better), but they pull out the stops for this beer. Amber colored and luscious, Sam’s interpretation of Octoberfest beer has a toasty “liquid bread” quality imparted by the malt. It’s also slightly sweeter than the German Oktoberfest beers I’ve had. There’s enough of an alcoholic bite for this beer to match well with the cooling autumn air. Sam Adams’ excellent distribution means you can get a case of this practically anywhere where the majority of homes don’t have wheels. It’s a great grab to take to a Halloween party.

Saranac Octoberfest
F.X. Matt Brewery, Utica, NY
My wife and I stayed in and watched the movie Beerfest the other evening. I hadn’t intended to drink anything that night, but it proved impossible to watch without pounding beers. 7 Saranac Octoberfests later, the Americans had won.

I find Saranac Octoberfest a bit crisper and lighter in malt character than its counterparts from Victory and Sam Adams. You get some clove-like flavors along with the expected caramel. You also get a noticeably lighter body than the aforementioned, as well as a little more hop bitterness in the finish.

Incidentally, Hunahpu from the excellent homebrewing blog “The All-Grain Evangelist,” did not like the movie Beerfest as much as I did. What can I say? I love it when anyone takes the piss out of the Germans.



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