Let’s squeeze in one more Oktoberfest beer before we become inundated with all-things-Christmas the day after Halloween (the upshot is it’ll be Winter Warmer season!). I’ve been favoring German beers lately in honor of this most holy of beer holidays, but I felt like I needed to balance out my selection with some domestic autumnal brews. So, I searched and I drank, but it proved more difficult than I anticipated to find a good domestic Festbier* that would capture the authenticity and elegance of the original Bavarian brews. I found that many of the American variations had strong malt characters and a bit too much sweetness for my taste.
I did finally settle on one I really liked and that was SIERRA NEVADA’s 2017 Oktoberfest Festbier Collaboration Brew. This year’s version was brewed in collaboration with German brewer Brauhaus Miltenberger. Sierra Nevada brews an Oktoberfest beer every year with a different German brewery, so this will be the only year that this particular variation will be available. Too bad. Because this was a terrific example of a German Märzen.
The color reminded me of a fine whiskey—a lovely golden amber. Sniffing the glass gave me hints of sweet fruits, fresh grass and bread. The flavor wasn’t overly complex, but it did seem to hit all the right notes. It was crisp and refreshing but with a malty backbone that held its own and wasn’t too sweet. A pleasant hoppy pop just balanced out the malts so nicely. And sometimes not complex is a good thing, because do you really want a lot of complexity in a liter of beer, assuming you drink your Festbiers out of liter-sized glasses? Nein! You want crisp and refreshing with just enough malt character to keep it interesting and not overwhelm your palate. And that’s what we have here—a tasty, quaffable German-style Märzen that will carry you through any good autumn celebration, regardless of your ethnic heritage.
And you don’t have to drink a liter of this to appreciate its beauty. You can get them in standard 12-ounce bottles and figure out how many go into a liter-sized glass if you’re so inclined. You may be able to find Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest for a few more weeks, but after that, it’ll be gone for good and you’ll have to wait until next year’s collaboration comes out. —J.A.
* Festbier is the German word for celebration or festival beer.
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