Beer Review: Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest

Name: Oktoberfest
Brewing Company: Great Lakes Brewing Company
Location: Cleveland, OH
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6.5%

An annual favorite from Great Lakes Brewing is a beer many consider the best American made Oktoberfest/Märzen. I would be hard pressed to argue with that notion.

The mug is the proper glassware for an Oktoberfest. Just look at the label.

From Great Lakes Brewing Company’s page for Oktoberfest:

One of our most celebrated and critically lauded brews has returned! Oktoberfest, our 3-time Gold Medal winner at the World Beer Championships, is back for another season of tailgates, cookouts, and bonfires.

Regarded as a world-class example of a timeless German style, the easy-drinking flavor of Oktoberfest is as hearty as it is approachable. With earthy hops keeping a gentle beat, rich notes of caramel and baked bread waltz together joyously, making Oktoberfest a celebration of all things malt! O’zapft is! Oktoberfest is here!

Oktoberfest will ship to all GLBC distribution markets in 6-pack, 12-pack, and draft beginning Monday, July 29. Oktoberfest is available now in the GLBC gift shop and will be on tap at the brewpub soon. Learn more about Oktoberfest below…

Über smooth with vibrant malt flavors and a festive flourish of noble hops (lederhosen not included).

I’ve mentioned Great Lakes Brewing a few times here on the Tap Takeover, but I figured what better beer from them than their World Class Oktoberfest to feature in a review. Brief disclaimer: I mentioned this beer back in my Oktoberfest 2017 post (before I had the six pack format down), but feel it deserves a full focus since it is often my favorite Oktoberfest/ Märzen every year.

On to the review…

As the beer pours from the bottle to the mug, I see perfection: a golden amber just as I’d want an Oktobefest to look like. The head is a little thinner than I’d expected or remembered, but that’s fine. I get malty sweetness from the aroma. In short, between the aroma and look, this beer is 100% on the right track.

A remembrance of quality, that’s what I feel when the first sip passes through my palate. This is one of the few beers I’ve reviewed here at the Tap Takeover that aren’t new to me for this blog. I’ve been enjoying this beer every year for the past four or five years and the 2019 version lives up to those memories. As good as previous years, but maybe the changes in my palate catch on to the sweetness from the malt more than I can remember. There’s a pleasant evocation of sweet caramel from the malts in the beer. As I have more of the beer and it progresses through my palate, I get some hints of toffee, and maybe, just maybe a little bit of breadiness.

I found this beer to be extremely consistent in its flavor from that first sip to the last at the bottom of the glass. Wonderful malt that makes up the strongest element of the beer and I was surprised at how well it tasted even at the end of the beer. I usually don’t think of lagers as styles whose flavors hold up once the beer isn’t cold out of the tap or refrigerator, but Great Lakes’s Oktoberfest bucked that trend for me – a slight bitterness I caught when I first sipped the beer was gone and the malty sweetness was more deliciously pronounced.

Given the history of German people in the Cleveland area, it should come as no surprise that Great Lakes Brewing produces one of the best Oktoberfest beers in the United States. Great Lakes also has annual Oktobefest Celebration at their brewpub. Further proof of beer’s quality is the fact that it is the #3 ranked German Märzen / Oktoberfest in the world on Beer Advocate.

If you want to try one of the best American interpretation of a classic German style, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest is a must have. I think one thing above all else should speak to my feelings about the quality of this beer: I make sure to get some of it every Oktoberfest season.

Although this is a standard review here at the Tap Takeover, I would consider this American Craft Beer Classic.

Highly Recommended, link to Untappd 4.25-bottle cap rating.

Image courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Web site

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)

Name: Oktoberfest – Weihenstephan (2018)
Brewing Company: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. / Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan

Location: Chico, CA / Freising, BY Germany
Style: Märzen
ABV: 6%

From Sierra Nevada’s page for Oktoberfest: (This will likely change when the next year’s Oktoberfest beer begins to be marketed)

We’ve partnered with Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, the world’s oldest brewery, for this American take on the classic German Oktoberfest. A malt backbone is balanced by subtle hop character in this crisp, clean, and drinkable crowd-pleaser. Nothing captures the spirit of celebration like a beer among friends.

Oktoberfest 2018 is almost here! Get out your lederhose and dirndls, and join us in Chico, or Mills River for an epic party! Or try your hand at the Oktoberfest Game while you wait for the big event!

Since 2015, Sierra Nevada has been collaborating with a German brewery for their annual Oktoberfest offering and if my posts last year about their Beer Camp project was any indication (here and here), few breweries collaborate as often or as well as Sierra Nevada. I’ve enjoyed each of the last three years’ collaborations (Brauhaus Riegele [2015], Mars Bräu [2016], Brauhaus Miltenberger [2017]), so when Sierra Nevada announced they would be collaborating with Weihenstephan, perhaps my favorite German brewery to brew a Hefeweizen (Braupakt, which is a must have Hefeweizen) and an Oktoberfest, I was excited.

As one of the most recognizable styles of beers, Oktoberfests are pretty straightforward. What you should typically expect is an amber, dark golden lager with sweet malty overtones, with some hints of caramel and maybe even a hint of floral.

The beer looks exactly like you’d want an Oktobefest to look – golden amber in color. The head wasn’t too thick, but the aroma gave me exactly what I’d hoped for – a little bit of sweetness and a touch of hops. First sip hit my tongue and it was extremely tasty. I had to go for a large gulp on the second one, let it sit in my mouth to really taste it all. Yep, that caramel and malt are there and the carbonation was perfect. This is one of the better Oktoberfests I’ve had over the last couple of years and a really nice collaboration. In short, this beer lived up to my expectations. As of this writing, I’ve had three different Oktoberfest beers this season and so far this one is the best. Admittedly, that isn’t too large a sample size as I usually try at least a half-dozen Oktoberfest beers in late September and early October. Be that as it may, Sierra Nevada’s 2018 Oktoberfest collaboration with Weihenstephan is the perfect beer to enjoy this time of year and a must have.

A few brief notes about the label. While I like it, and it does evoke the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest banner, I don’t like how it departs from the previous Oktoberfest collaborations. Sierra Nevada has redesigned some of their labels over the past year or so to mixed results. For example, they really need to go back to the classic label for their Narwhal Imperial Stout.

I know I’ve featured Sierra Nevada on The Tap Takeover quite frequently, and I try to vary it up with the beers I review, but with the Oktoberfest season upon us and just how delicious this beer is, I wanted to highlight it. Then again, this is my blog and I can write about whatever I choose.

Sierra Nevada  has a fun little Oktoberfest Game to while away your free time.

Recommended, link to Untappd 4-bottle cap rating.

Draught Diversions: September 2017 Beer Pours

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

In rolls September, what should be a month of slightly cooler weather and darker beers. But what we get is still warm weather, but the beer always flows. I started off the month by hitting up two breweries very close to me, Demented Brewing and Conclave Brewing on the first two days of the month, respectively.

At Demented, I picked up a growler of their Hefeweizen (Rumplestiltskin) and tried their New England IPA, Gallows Hill, which was delicious; Baccara, their second anniversary Imperial Stout, which has wonderful chocolate and cherry flavor additions; and a new Hefeweizen, The First Born which didn’t quite work for me. The next day, I headed to Conclave, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

L->R : Gallows HIll, Baccara, Rumplestiltskin, and The First Born

With Oktoberfest beginning in the middle of the month, Oktoberfest beers began appearing back in August. Every year I try to have at least a couple I haven’t had in the past. One of those was the Sierra Nevada / Miltenberger collaboration, which was excellent. I also really enjoyed Two Roads Ok2berfest, which I brought to a friend’s NFL Kick-off party. That same friend visited Ommegang and brought me back a bottle of Rosetta, a sour-ish Lambic that might be the best Cherry beer I’ve ever head.

 

I already mentioned what is probably my favorite Fall Beer of the year, The Bruery’s ® Autumn Maple. I enjoyed it so much I may need to try the darker take on the beer, Midnight Maple. That same weekend, I slowly enjoyed the indulgent, decadent Wrath from Demented Brewing. This is a delicious Russian Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Some Russian Imperials can be too bitter for my taste buds, but as I say briefly on untappd, letting this one sit in Bourbon Barrels really helped soften that bitterness.

I’ve mentioned Weihenstephaner several times here as a favorite brewery, so when they brew something new, I’m going to want to try the beer. Their new Kristalweizenbock is delicious, interesting beer. Very clear, like a filtered Hefeweizen, but sweet, smooth, and malty like a bock. I tried my second Von Trapp beer at a tasting, the Vermont brewery’s take on the classic German style, Helles Lager. Even though the beer was warm, it still tasted quite good. I may have to get a full six pack of this one at some point in the future.

After missing it in August, I stopped at Lone Eagle for the September Brews and Board Games night. In the past, I’ve only had one or two, but I figured I’d go for a flight. First off was a beer I mentioned wanting to try in my Oktoberfest post, My Favorite Marzen, which was an excellent, malty, caramelly beer. I liked it so much I had a pint once I finished the flight. Rounding out the flight was the Pumpkin Amber Ale, a subtle Pumpkin Ale; Lone Eagle’s anniversary brew, Saison Jubileum, a Saison “aged in wine barrels and fermented on peaches” which made for a tasty sweet n’ sour beer; and finally, Black Out IPA, a roasty, yet bitter Black IPA.

Lone Eagle Flight L->R: My Favorite Marzen, Pumpkin Amber Ale, Saison Jubileum, and Black Out IPA

During the last full weekend in September, we all went up to Mountain Creek for their annual Oktoberfest celebration. The mountain feel gave a decent vibe, but that was completely negated by the near 90-degree temperature. Unfortunately, prices just about doubled since last year, according to the brother-in-law so the beer and food didn’t flow as copiously as it did in past years when he attended. Be that as it may, there were still some good brews to enjoy. One of which was a solid German Oktoberfest from Dinkelacker. The last beer I had there was from the venerable NJ Brewery Ramstein, their newest beer, INK, their take on the Schwarzbeir / Black Lager. This is a roasty, tasty dark brew with hints of coffee. I think this is something I’d like to have again without the beer warming so much from the hot weather.

Dinkelacker Oktoberfestbier

I’ve avoided mentioning of unenjoyable beers in these monthly posts, but I figured to show some balance, I’ll rattle off a few that were not-so-good over the last month. Abita’s gose, To-Gose was very bland, the Louisiana brewery has been hit or miss for me over the years. Bear Republic’s Big Bear Black Stout, was a stout I couldn’t even finish, not smooth enough and too bitter for a standard stout. Luckily I only had one bottle of each from a choose-your-own sixpack. My wife, brother-in-law, his girlfriend, and I (the same crew that went to the Mountain Creek Oktoberfest) went to a great Taco Festival in the middle of the month. They had a very slim offering of brews (despite the advertising leading people to believe there would be a wider selection) which consisted of Bud Light, Coors Light, and two from Lagunitas. I tried was 12th of Never Ale from Lagunitas, an undrinkable pale ale which I didn’t even finish. I’m coming to learn I don’t like much from this brewery. The last “unenjoyable” was a relatively new beer from New Belgium, Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin, which is a pumpkin ale with cinnamon and habanero chili peppers. For all the flavoring elements, I found it to be pretty bland, with a slight kick. I think it may also have been flat.

Best new brews of the month (not reviewed on their owne) are probably Ommegang’s Rosetta and Wehenstephaner’s Kristalweizenbock.

In October, I expect I’ll likely try a few new Pumpkin beers, some new stouts and offerings from local breweries.

Draught Diversions: Seasonally Inappropriate Beers

Draught Diversions is the catchall label for mini-rants, think-pieces, and posts that don’t just focus on one beer here at The Tap Takeover. We hope you don’t grow too weary of the alcohol alliterative names we use…

Time for me to get a little ranty here at the Tap Takeover. Most of my posts have been positive so this is a bit of a heel turn. However, based on some conversations with other hop-heads, I don’t think I’m alone in what I’m about to rant about.

Seasonally appropriate beers. I’ve written quite a bit about summer beers, largely because I began this blog in May. I enjoy all the seasonally appropriate beers – especially Oktoberfest beers (in September and October), as well as the pumpkin beers and Christmas/Winter beers (From September through January, there’s overlap between pumpkins and winter warmers). But what frustrates me is seeing Pumpkin Beers on the shelf in July. Or seeing Summer Beers on shelves in March and April. Hell, my own father had a six pack of Oktoberfest in his fridge this past weekend!

This is just a sad bunch of pumpkins. They know they shouldn’t be in a pool, just like pumpkin beer shouldn’t be on shelves in July & August.

Like I said, I enjoy Pumpkin beers quite a bit. After all, I’ve had close to 50 different Pumpkin beers S.J.U.* But there’s a cognitive dissonance when it comes to sitting in my pool and drinking a pumpkin beer. It just shouldn’t be.

S.J.U.* is my short hand for Since Joining Untappd. I joined in February 2014.

What I’ll call Seasonally Inappropriate Beer is something that’s been going on for years, it seems. Each brewery wants to get their seasonal beers on shelves a little earlier, driving other brewers to push out their seasonal beers earlier. If you look at the release calendars of some brewers, they have July as their Pumpkin release! There are a couple of problems with this, aside from the whole cognitive dissonance issue. It is one thing to do a “Christmas in July” type of thing, a few bars not too far from me did special tappings of Tröeg’s Mad Elf in July. But that is a one-time event.

NO PUMPKIN BEERS BEFORE SEPTEMBER!!!

For starters, this early release creates an excess of one thing drowning out all other varieties. First one brewery puts out a pumpkin beer in July, then in early August another Pumpkin beer will appear. Before Labor Day, a shelf that should still have Summer/warm weather beers*, is half full of pumpkin beers.

*Oh I don’t know it is still warm and people’s pools are open and pumpkin is a fall and post-Labor Day food thing.

Second, by putting out the seasonally inappropriate beer too early, the beers may not last as long on the shelves and saving them until the season syncs up with the beer may allow the beer to taste less fresh. Again, I’ll call out pumpkin beers largely because I think there are too many pumpkin beers now, even though I do enjoy them. Pumpkins aren’t just a fall flavor/food, as far as I and I think many people are concerned. Pumpkin Pie goes just as well on a Christmas dessert table as it does on a Thanksgiving dessert table. As would Pumpkin beer, but with the pumpkin beers being released so early (July!!!), pumpkin fatigue can hit. While I always try to wait until *at least* September to enjoy pumpkin beer, by the time November rolls around, stores and breweries are already pushing Christmas Ales. Oktoberfest beers are a slightly different story, largely because they don’t seem to be quite as prevalent now as pumpkin beers are. I’ll usually pick up several Oktoberfest six packs…when mid September rolls around.

I don’t think this is just one craft beer drinker’s opinions. So, what are we to do? Boycott something we enjoy? Then we’re depriving ourselves. It is a frustrating thing, just like seeing commercials for Summer beers in March was earlier this year. What really set it off for me this year was seeing a 2017 pumpkin beer in my local liquor store a week or two after the Fourth of July.

Right. I know this is a silly thing to be ranting about, because I can (and do) easily reach past the Pumpkin beers to grab other beers I’d rather have that are more seasonally appropriate.

I’ll end this with a confession…as much as I’ve ranted about seeing the pumpkin beers now, writing about these pumpkin beers has me looking forward to trying a few new ones in month and a half and returning to some old favorites. I’m looking at you Southern Tier Warlock, Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, and River Horse Hipp O Lantern.