The relentlessly thirsty Eric Delia posted some interesting thoughts on American brewers preserving European traditions the other day. This was prompted by an article in the New York Times, where the authors sampled 24 “Oktoberfest-style” beers before declaring that the top three were all American. The article makes the point that while the original Munich brewers are producing lighter and lighter beers, the American brewers have kept to a more traditional style and are doing it better.
It’s an interesting tasting, and has some good observations on the nature of festbiers:
“A good Oktoberfest beer is a masterpiece of balance and integration, delicious without being extravagant”
Although I did find it amusing that they considered beer that was 5.5-6% to be “rather mild”!
Certainly the three (German) festbiers we tried last night exemplified this idea of perfect balance. We drank Augustiner, Hofbrau and Spaten. It’s very difficult for us to describe what these beers tasted like, mostly because they’re absurdly drinkable and we gulped them down. The Augustiner probably won, with a more pronounced malt flavour and a crisp, dry finish that made us desperate for the next sip.
The balanced nature of these beers make it hard to identify specific flavours, but that’s not to say they’re flavourless. They’re certainly all much better than the standard lagers by these breweries, despite their relative conservatism.
In contrast, Brookyn’s Oktoberfest beer did not meet the high standards set by their “usual” lager. It ticks all the boxes in the BJCP style guidelines — it’s a gorgeous amber colour, with a tempting caramel aroma. But it doesn’t taste as wonderful as it looks, sadly. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t have the same gulpability as the other three we tried. That could be something to do with relative freshness, of course.