BeerSport: Oktoberfest Edition

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.

Appearance

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

Smell

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.

Winner: Pils

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. 

Winner: Pils

Mouthfeel

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.

Winner: Pils

Overall

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.

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s probably drinking an Oktoberfest.  You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

Inaugural Barley Prose Beersport: Oktoberfest Edition

The name of the game is Beersport – two beers enter, one beer leaves. Beersport.

The return of Beersport! Made famous by J.R. Shirt on BeerGraphs and on the Drinking With Shirt Podcast. Feel free to badger Shirt to reprise either here. This classic beer competition returns with a classic Oktoberfest battle between Von Trapp Oktoberfest and Alementary Oktoberfest. Vermont vs. New Jersey. Go. 

Oktoberfest season is tailing off as October comes to an end, but I assure you these beers are still tasty well into November, and further!

Preconceived Notions:
I’ve had both these of these beers a fair amount. I like them both. The style is not super broad that I can easily say much about them cold, so it’ll still be a good head to head battle. I’m a member of Alementary’s Order of the Atom, which maybe gives this an unconscious bias, but you’re just going to have to live with that. 

Appearance
The Von Trapp had better head retention, otherwise they’re both pretty similar bronze colors typical of an Oktoberfest. The packaging is both appropriately Bavarian blue with the brewery logo. Both in 12oz cans. 

Winner: Von Trapp

Aroma
The Von Trapp has a sweet malt smell with a lot of light biscuity caramel notes. Reminds me some of some dark cherry smells. 

The Alementary has a much stronger smell, and a much richer one. Almost like a fresh loaf of bread with butter wafting into your nose. 

Winner: Alementary

Taste 
It’s a fairly gentle sweetness with the Von Trapp, but with some bitterness/astringency. The malt is not dominating as much as I would like, with some drying taste on my mouth from the hops. Though the malt builds with each sip which is nice, it sort of rounds out into form. 

Alementary’s taste is rich too, with a nice complex malt flavor. It’s sweeter and maltier. A nice sweet glaze on a good loaf of bread. This beer has a vibrant taste and rich malt flavor, but not overbearingly so. There’s a sense of fullness that then fades into a gentle almost honey aftertaste.

Winner: Alementary

Mouthfeel
Von trapp tastes a little airier, a little more carbonated, and a little less full bodied.

Alementary is almost sticky, and hits more tastebuds, is a more fullfilling experience.

Winner: Alementary

Overall 
I like both beers. They both make me happy. The Von Trapp is a little simpler, maybe a little easier to drink in volume, but the Alementary is a more complete beverage and is really wonderful. 

Beersport Winner: Alementary

Alementary takes down the inaugural BarleyProse Beersport. Great beer, check it out.

Ceetar can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he’s pondering starting a Barley Prose podcast. You can also email him at beer@ceetar.com.

The Seasons Change, The Beer Remains Delicious

oktoberfest 2012Is it fall now? Society as a whole basically says Labor Day denotes when summer ends, if not when fall starts. Particularly in the Northeast where schools mostly start right after Labor Day. Back to school, last summer holiday, now it’s fall? Fall is the best season but I steadfastly remain a ‘September is still summer’ member. I went apple picking in mid-September a few years ago and it was 90 degrees and we all melted and my kid had a fever the whole time that we didn’t realize until we got somewhere cooler. No wonder she was dragging her feet.

We know the beer seasons are all screwed up, tied to distribution and seasonal tap space. I read a story a few years ago that basically explained seasonal creep as the bigger guys like Sam Adams making sure Octoberfest was available when Summer Ale ran out so they didn’t lose the tap handle in bars. So we literally drank the summer away..but fall doesn’t really start until the equinox, which is September 23rd at 7:50 UTC. That’s Monday. If you want to say fall starts at noon Munich time, on Saturday the 21st, I’ll allow it. 

Oktoberfest. I have very fond memories of my time there in 2012, and I’ve been a lover of the style for even longer. I mentioned that bought a case of Sierra Nevada’s for an early August birthday party, and you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s long gone. The remains of summer? I spent a lot of September finishing those off. Now, fall for real. 

The Märzen style, which can vary from gold to light copper in color and flavor, is a delicious one. Deliciously malty. Not a hophead? Try Märzenbier! Biscuity and caramely notes are usually prevalent. This is one of those styles that really nails the ‘liquid bread’ moniker. I’ve had just about every different one I can get my hands on. I make a point around this time of year, last Monday this year, to go into a shop that sells singles and buy every Oktoberfest I’ve never had. It gets harder and harder, but there are always a few. Then I load up on old favorites. 

Something I’ve noticed this year is that two of my favorites, Sam Adams Octoberfest and Brooklyn Oktoberfest, came across a little sweeter than I remember. My palate perhaps is changing more than I’d realized, though I have to admit by the time I got to the second, and third, Brooklyn bottle out of the 6-pack I’d bought, It was just as good as I remembered. I’m not sure there’s any beer more appropriate to drink in volume as an Oktoberfest. 

 

To summarize: 

-It’s not really fall until AT LEAST the opening of Oktoberfest in Munich.

-Don’t be afraid to finish off those summer beers.

-Oktoberfests are delicious and you should consume them en masse, or en Maß, the traditional measurement of for the amount of beer in an Oktoberfest mug.