Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Of Minnesota Oktoberfests

 At the beginning of this month, Minneapolis based writer Jerard Fagerberg started work at the same organisation as myself. The subject of beer pretty quickly came up and lo and behold we have another person on the team that writes about the world's favourite barley based beverage. Having suitably followed each other on Twitter, I got a message from Jerry offering to send some Minnesota festbiers and märzens to add to my ongoing mass Oktoberfest tasting. A few days later and my fridge had 7 beers from the far north chilling down. Come Sunday they were ready to drink...and so I did.


The beers were, as you can see in the picture:

I decided to subject them to the same approach as I have been doing with all the beers in this year's tasting, which is exactly the same as last year:
  • Sight - 3 points
  • Smell - 10 points
  • Taste - 15 points
  • Balance of sweet to bitter - 2 points
  • Personal opinion - 10 points
So without further ado, let's jump into my Cyclopsesque tasting notes, I didn't take pictures for each beer as I was too busy drinking the beer, you understand that right?

Summit Oktoberfest - 6.5%
  • Sight - recently polished copper, inch of ivory head, excellent clarity
  • Smell - fresh crusty bread, rich malt complexity, no hops
  • Taste - beautiful Munich malt sweetness, rich bready notes, herbal hop bite in the finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
What a lovely start to the tasting, a beautifully complex lager that has everything you need to make it dangerously drinkable. The hops were evident without intruding, and the clean lager fermentation gave it the right amount of snap to keep me coming back for more. There was also an intriguing slight coconut note in the mix.

Schell's Oktoberfest - 5.8%
  • Sight - orange, almost Irn-Bru orange in the light, persistent off white head, beautiful clarity
  • Smell - toasted crusty bread, a touch of toffee, no hops
  • Taste - toasted bread, and also classic pilsner malt cereal character noticeable, clean herbal hops
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I have to admit that I was really please to see this one on the box. My last beer from Schell's was a decade ago when they brewed a tmavé that I very much enjoyed, and here was another that, were Schell's available in Virginia, I would be buying regularly. Medium bodied, with a fantastic balance, and eminently drinkable.

Bauhaus Schwandtoberfest - 5.7%
  • Sight - deep amber, quarter inch white foam, good clarity
  • Smell - fresh bread from the oven, little if any hop aroma, clean
  • Taste - bready malts again, toasty with a slight caramel note, clean hop bitterness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
The head sank into a schmeer of bubbles pretty quickly. This was a decent, malt forward, clean lager, with just enough hop bite to stop that hefty body from being cloying.

Beaver Island Oktoberfest - 6%
  • Sight - deep copper, red highlights, thin white head, excellent clarity
  • Smell - Honey on toast, no hops
  • Taste - slightly doughy, underbaked bread, maybe a touch of burnt sugar
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
In lots of ways this had things right. It was medium bodied, quite complex, and the bitterness from the hops was enough to just stop it being too sickly, but there was something of an odd after taste which was a distraction trying to nail down.

Indeed Oktoberfest - 5.8%
  • Sight - amber, quarter inch of white head, good clarity
  • Smell - pilsner malt cereal, sweetness of Maillard reactions
  • Taste - toasted malt, rich malt sweetness, floral hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Oh I liked this one. Lots of malt complexity, toasted Vienna, toffee like Munich, yum, yum, yum, to top it all there was the crisp (still fuck off with your crispy shite people) lager characteristic that brings everything in to sharp relief for another mouthful.

Fair State Cooperative Festbier - 5.7%
  • Sight - golden, half inch of persistent white foam, good clarity
  • Smell - rich pilsner malt grain character (decoction mash?), nice bready character, subtle herbal hop note
  • Taste - solid cereal grain character, lots of Pilsner malt, traces of honey, spicy hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
This was bloody marvellous, absolutely bloody marvellous. Like a stronger Czech style lager, packing a wallop bit still with a firm bitterness and clean finish. Could happily drink this all day long.

Utepils Receptional Festbier - 5.9%
  • Sight - deep gold, quarter inch white head, superb clarity
  • Smell - dollops of lightly honeyed pilsner malt, light bready note, some subtle lemongrass
  • Taste - more honeyed pilsner malt, floral hops with a slight spicy edge
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Another lovely festbier, perfectly balanced, refreshingly clean in the finish. Reminded me of the Primátor Exklusiv 16° strong pale lager from Czechia which was once declared the world's best lager. Again a beer I could imagine drinking maß after maß of in an autumnal biergarten.


So there we have it, 5 märzens and 2 festbiers that do Minnesota proud. In terms of a mini-league on my point system they ended up as:
  1. Utepils Receptional (32/40, wins on personal preference)
  2. Summit Oktoberfest (32/40)
  3. Fair State Festbier (31/40, third on personal preference)
  4. Indeed Oktoberfest (31/40)
  5. Schell's Oktoberfest (30/40)
  6. Beaver Island Oktoberfest (28/40)
  7. Bauhaus Schwandtoberfest (26/40)
Utepils for the win it is then, and clear evidence based on these numbers that the pale festbier style is still my preferred version of the annual autumnal lagerfest...


Thanks again to Jerry for sending the beers down, and I am in the process of curating a selection of fine Virginia beers to send back north for his drinking pleasure.

After the Fest

In 2018 I had this notion to try all the Virginian Oktoberfest lagers I could lay my hands on at the time, a grand total of 6 beers, 4 of w...