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We Blind Tasted Oktoberfest Brews To Help You Keep The Fall Party Rolling

I’m pretty sure I’m on record about this, but Oktoberfest is one of my favorite beer styles. I get as excited for Oktoberfest season as basic white girls get for pumpkin spice season in the premises of bad jokes. Anything to not have to drink another god damn IPA. Just give me a little color, please? Take the “pale” out of India Pale Ale and we’re good.

Sorry… I went off on a tangent there.

What technically constitutes an “Oktoberfest” beer gets a little complicated, as Oktoberfest isn’t a specific style, and beers served at the actual festival in Munich have lightened over the years, from a dark lager (dunkel) in the 1800s to a more golden Dortmunder-style lager (dark lager is another style I’d love to see more of, even though it has all but disappeared in the swamp of various IPAs). In the US, it’s usually an amber to reddish Marzen.

I use a simpler definition of an Oktoberfest. It’s: “Beers I can buy at the store that say ‘Oktoberfest’ on them.” Most of them range from the mildly sweet and toasty Marzens to the crisp, golden, more urine-y tasting (I don’t mean that in a bad way, necessarily, but it feels like the best way to describe those pale, crisp, sparkling pilsner-y) German ones. They tend to range in flavor from nutty, sweet, maybe even a little prune-y on the darker side to crisp, bright, bitter… and urine-y. (Fine, I admit it, I love drinking a tall glass of sweet piss. Yum yum, fill my cup.)

For this blind tasting, we used unmarked, 10-ounce plastic cups and tested Ska Brewing, Sam Adams, Hofbrau, Weihenstephaner, Karl Strauss, Sierra Nevada, Paulaner, and Hacker-Schorr (Hofbrau, Paulaner, and Hacker-Schorr make up three of the six breweries that actually serve their beers at the Oktoberfest).

1. Sierra Nevada

Blind tasting notes: Crisp. Yellow to medium amber. Mild malt. Tastes like a German one. Solid middle-of-the-road choice.

2. Karl Strauss

Darker amber than the first, probably an American. On the nuttier side, could probably use a little more bite. Solid B.

3. Hofbrau

Medium color, like hay. Medium malt, mildly uriney, very crisp. Tastes like a solid expression of the German style. B+

4. Ska Brewing

Dark and malty, nice and sweet — definitely an American, and a good version of it. A.

5. Sam Adams

Darker amber, with a sweet malt flavor. Maybe a little less crisp than the last one? Very good though. A-.

6. Weihenstephaner

Hay-colored, definitely a crisper German-style, but solid all the way around. Strong B.

7. Paulaner

Very crisp, but kind of a Pilsner flavor. Not enough malt and kind of uriney, but very easy to drink. Good mouthfeel, could use more flavor. B-

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strong>8. Hacker-Pschorr

Nuttiness forward with medium malt. A little too nutty for my tastes, not enough sweetness or crispness. B-.

My final rankings:

4. Ska Brewing
5. Sam Adams
3. Hofbrau
6. Weihenstephaner
1. Sierra Nevada
2. Karl Strauss
7. Paulaner
8. Hacker-Schorr

I never expected to choose the weird little can with the goofy label. Maybe I was naturally predisposed to it on account of all the Rancid shows I’ve been to. Of the other tasters, at least three other people had Ska and Sam Adams as their top two, but after that everyone’s list was completely different. It should be noted that EVERYTHING affects these tastings, from the time since the beer was poured to the order in which you drink them to the type of glass you drink them out of. (I could’ve sworn some of the bottled ones tasted better than Ska when drunk from the original vessel, but who knows).

Bottom line: Oktoberfest beers are good and I want to drink them all day long, all year round, even on the toilet and in the shower. This is my promise to you.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.

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