Oktoberfest beers, or Marzens, are a beer that I've been working to gain an appreciation for. Marzens are traditionally a Bavarian lager that's brewed in the late stages of winter to spring and tapped in October. The BJCP describes the Oktoberfest beer as having "initial malty sweetness, but finish is moderately dry. Distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a toasted aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and noble hop flavor is low to none. Balance is toward malt, though the finish is not sweet." When I reviewed the Sun King Oktoberfest I was looking for more sweetness, and I was wrong. My bad! Based on Sun King's batch canned this year, it's totally spot on.
Fat Head's is a relatively new brewery to Indiana, that comes from our neighbor to the East, Ohio. I fell in love with their Head Hunter IPA earlier this summer, and when I saw them put out an Oktoberfest, I had to give it a try. The beer pours out a crystal clear amber color with a nice off-white head that lasts until the last drop. The aroma is cereal and caramel with just a hint of sweetness. It tastes like caramel and toffee, but with a crisp clean finish. There is a buttery flavor that goes throughout the beer.
In my last Beer MBA class with Ron Smith we talked about how a lot of German breweries do this on purpose. In the states we consider it a mistake (at least the BJCP does). The buttery flavor comes from the yeast of the beer. Normally it's allowed to be reabsorbed, but to get that buttery flavor you have to stop the brewing early. It's really common in Chardonnay wine. In beer, this also adds to a slippery mouth feel that almost gives it a syrup like feel.
I am really getting on board with this style, at least I'm trying to. I love the cleanness of the beer, and the flavors really do scream fall. Of the four or five that I tried this month, Fat Head's was my favorite. I liked what Sun King put together and Schlaflly's was fine, but a little bit boring. Victory's was pretty mediocre, but was very true to the style. This one by Fat Head's really seemed to hit all the notes that I was looking for. I give it a solid four.