The name of the game is BeerSport – two beers enter, one beer leaves. Beersport.
I meant to make BeerSport a regular feature here on Barley Prose, reborn from the glory Beergraphs days, but alas, it’s been nearly two years since I last did it. Time flies, and apparently Oktoberfests make me want to drink two.
If you’re not familiar, I drink two beers at the same time, and compare and contrast them in the five tradition categories of Appearance, Smell, Taste, Mouthfeel and Overall, and declare a winner in each. Today’s contestants are two beers out of Saranac’s 12 Beers of Octoberfest Variety pack, the Hoptoberfest IPA and the Festival Pils.
Oktoberfest is a special time for me–I got married in October, and my wife’s family is German, though Northern Germany which is actual quite different. More Prussian versus Holy Roman Empire stuff, but nonetheless, passion for beer. We visited Munich in 2012 for Oktoberfest, and it was absolutely amazing. Delicious roasted macadamia nuts, half-meter bratwurst, and beers as far as the eye could see.
None of these beers are as good as those, but let’s get to it.
Both lighter beers, clean looking. The pils is golden, and very pretty. The hoptoberfest is a little more of a bronze, clearly with some slightly darker malts. Head pretty similar. Labels are both pretty neat, the Pils features steins of beer in front of a beer hall, lots of Bavarian blue and white. Hoptoberfest is more of a green and white hop theme, with clinking glasses. Since this is a fall BeerSport, I’m gonna give the slight nod to the more traditional Pils.
Winner: Festival Pils
The Pils has some malt though. It’s got some sulfury aroma, spicy german hops? Reminds me of biergartens, though not Munich’s.
Hoptoberfest smells like an ‘old school’ east coast IPA. one with plenty of malt backbone. Not surprising for a NE brewery trying to make a “hoppy oktoberfest” light hints of caramel, maybe some pine? Gonna go for the Pils on this one, just a little bit more appealing. I like the sulfur smell more than the taste.
That’s a pilsner. It’s nice. Pilsners aren’t really my favorite, but they’re inherently drinkable regardless. The sulfur taste is there, but muted. Some light sucking candy sweetness, but it’s balanced nicely by some hop bitterness to make it just crisp enough to want another sip.
The Hoptoberfest? Yeah, that’s a East Coast IPA circa like 2002. It’s got some caramel sweetness, probably typical of a Märzen grain bill, but plenty of sticky pine hops to bitter. It’s not cloying or anything, but there’s an ever present sweetness to it that just doesn’t jibe with the hops. We’ve come a long way and learned a lot about IPAs and the malt/hop balance and we’re better for it. This beer is fine, but I didn’t miss it.
The Pils is crisp on the tongue at first, acid like, and then you get some of the sweetness, that fades into a little bit of like, resiny stickiness, just a hint of it. Coming in at 5.2%, it feels nice.
6% on the Hoptoberfest. It’s got some of that sweetness that lingers, before the pine puckers your mouth a little.
Well, I didn’t expect this one to be such a runaway. The pils is a nice solid easy drinking beer, perfect for a festival or a party or just a night outside by the fire.
The hoptoberfest is..meh. It’s fine, but it didn’t need to be like this. The oktoberfest style is a great beer, and this basically tried to add hops on top of that and it just doesn’t work that well.
Winner: Festival Pils in a landslide!
So there you have it. Stay tuned for round two of the Saranac battle, as I pit the 1888 Octoberfest up against the Black Forest Schwarzbier.