Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Oktoberfests of Virginia

Okotberfest would have finished on Sunday, so it seemed like an apt cut off point to my own endeavour to try as many festbiers and märzens as I could lay my hands on. The final total was 46 individual beers, and while I won't be taking any more notes and assigned scores, I may have another few if I see any from breweries that I trust to make great lagers, looking mostly at you Schilling.

Of those 46 beers, 11 were from Virginia. I know for a fact there are more than 11 breweries in Virginia making lagers broadly in the realm of Oktoberfest, but I had criteria for picking, the main one being did my local bottles shops sell them as singles? Sorry brewing companies, but I am not going to splunk north of $10 on a 4-pack or 6-pack of beer when I am not confident in the quality of the product. Even those breweries that I know and trust rarely had me buying more than a single as I didn't want my fridge to overflow, at which I failed utterly anyway.

Of those 11 beers, only one was a festbier, Devils Backbone O'Fest, while the spread of scores ranged from 19/40 to 34/40, with an average of 28/40, which is also the overall average score of the 46 beers. Just a reminder that my scoring criteria are as follows:

  • Appearance - 3 points
  • Aroma - 10 points
  • Taste - 15 points
  • Balance of bitter to sweet - 2 points
  • Personal preference - 10 points

I am not going to bore you with endless tasting notes, especially as 10 märzens would mean excessive repetition of "bready", so here are the final rankings and scores for the Virginia Oktoberfests

1. Beltway Fest! - 34/40
2. Port City Oktoberfest - 33/40
3. Blue Mountain 13.Five Oktoberfest - 32/40
4. Beale's Oktoberfest - 31/40
5. Devils Backbone O'Fest - 30/40
5. Starr Hill Festie - 30/40
6. Reason Märzen - 29/40
7. Smartmouth The Princess - 27/40
8. New Realm Bavarian Prince - 24/40
9. Brothers Festbier - 21/40
10. Solace Gute Nacht - 19/40

I have to admit to being slightly surprised by the results here, in particular with the New Realm Bavarian Prince score given that last year it was the overall winner of my tasting with 34/40. I am not sure if I got a bum can, but I felt that it wouldn't be fair to give them a redo on the basis of last year's results. Perhaps more dramatic is the score for Solace's Gute Nacht, which last year scored a paltry 10/40 and was one of only 2 drain pours, but at least this year was much better and I finished the pint.

I have to confess to being slightly torn on the overall winner though. I had Beltway's lovely Fest! at Kardinal Hall last Friday, and it was a really excellent märzen, rich, complex, and yes bready in all the right places, with a lingering dry finish that was crisp, clean, and never left me feeling overwhelmed with sweetness. My very next beer was Port City's Oktoberfest, again a superb example of the märzen style, though lighter than the Beltway being 5.2% to 5.8% and not quite as rich. When I had finished that pint of Port City, I had another, then another. That extra richness being a hallmark of the style is why Beltway wins overall though, especially as both beers scored 8/10 for personal preference.

So congratulations to Beltway Brewing of Sterling for being the Virginia Oktoberfest Lager of 2021! If you are stilling drinking märzens and festbiers and see it available, I highly recommend it, as I do with anything that scored 30/40 and above, especially with Devils Backbone O'Fest if you are more of a modern festbier drinker.

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