Frosty Beverage Report

Oktoberfest (And Then Some) Roundup

Sipping our way through the craft beer renaissance—one brew at a time.

We'll be enjoying Oktoberfest as much as the Griswold's.

The upcoming weekend is the last hurrah for Munich’s official Oktoberfest, with the festivities closing out on Monday. But, in a distinct break from our Bavarian brethren, we’re just getting started: shelves around the States are started to bow under the weight of the massive collection of autumnal brews inspired by the annual festival. So with the celebration proper coming to an end and the phalanx of American brews in its honor just hitting their stride, it seemed best to round up a few options and give ‘em a try. All in the name of public service, of course.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest:
Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes for Sam’s märzen. But it impressed, pouring out a deep, clear amber with loads of ruby red undertones. The small head and lightly malty smell didn’t overwhelm, but that first sip had me reevaluating my unfounded snobbery. Round and full of roasted malts, the subtle nuttiness and sweetness were balanced very well by just the right amount of hops. With a full—but not heavy—mouthfeel, I could see myself happily downing a few of these.

Magic Hat Hex:
Vermont’s Magic Hat is best known for an apricot pale ale that I’m not huge on, but this seasonal amber ale is a solid brew. It’s a deep amber (of course), with just a hint of red undertone. The smell isn’t overpowering, but there’s no mistaking the sweetness of the malt and a bit of caramel as well. Take a sip, and you’re hit with a wall of sweet, roasted malts—in a good way. Be warned though: With a full, creamy body, you’re going to start filling up quick. An evening starter, not a finisher.

Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest:
I love Brooklyn Lager, so I was pretty geared up for this one. And the dark, ruby-soaked amber color and the great lacing didn’t hurt matters. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to expectations. The smell is clean, with a little sweet caramel, but not much else. Ditto for the taste. Sweet, malty, but somewhat lacking in the rich roasted flavor that makes a proper märzen so good. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not bad. In fact it’s pretty decent. But it doesn’t stack up to the other brews here.

Peak Organic Fall Summit Ale:
This one’s a bit of a cheat—a heavily hopped ale that’s somewhat out of synch with the sweet, malty brews that generally get the “autumn” designation. You see it first in the color, which is less amber or ruby, more burnt ocher. When it comes to the smell and taste, it’s all about the piney, citrusy hops, but that’s rooted by a dose of roasted malt that sweetens the deal and balances things out nicely. It’s a fall beer that’s almost not a fall beer, and that’s exactly why I thought it deserved a spot in this roundup.

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