German blood runs through my veins. Figuratively speaking. Seeing as how blood itself doesn’t technically have a nationality, and the fact that I was born in America, doesn’t exactly help my case. My family’s German lineage stems back to at least the 1800s in South Carolina, so that barely counts. Suffice it to say, I’m going to increase my blood-alcohol content with some German-inspired beers brewed right here in the United States. This is Oktoberfest: red, white, and blue style.
I’ve selected three American Oktoberfest beers on which to pontificate, in keeping with the German-American theme. Those beers are: Victory’s Festbier, Penn Oktoberfest, and Harpoon Octoberfest.
The Festbier from Victory Brewing is a transparent and illustrious copper affair that is topped by nearly three fingers of alabaster head that recedes gradually and leaves about an inch of lace. The aroma is of caramel, from an almost smoky, toasted malt presence. A big noseful of grains that is very robust and tempting.
Much to my surprise, this beer was more subtle than expected, with the aforementioned aromatic notes rather absent on the palate. The cleanness of this lager comes through combined with a big biscuity flavor at the middle. The toasted malt notes come in the finish and begin to dry out. With a creamy, carbonated body, this is a decent enough Oktoberfest sipper.
Next we have the Penn Oktoberfest. This one pours an ambery-goldenrod color with a centimeter of fast-fading, soapy suds forming at the top. Honestly, this one isn’t much to look at, but looks can be deceiving. The bottle’s label, however, is decked out in the light blue and white-checkered pattern of the Bavarian flag. Neck label also indicates 20 years of brewing for Penn. Extra points for the Teutonic-looking gent clad in lederhosen, clutching a stein, and the lovely blonde lass accompanying him whilst carrying eight one-liter glass mugs filled to the brim. Furthermore, the back label indicates they also brew a Märzen.
The beer smells clean and dare I say, soapy. The bouquet exhibits a dull malt sweetness, but with some of that toasted character coming through as well. Not much else, other than maybe a hint of spicy Hallertau hops.
Keeping in mind, the idea is drinkability. That’s one reason they’re not handing out DIPAs at the Munich beer gardens. This seemed much lighter and cleaner than the Victory, as its level of carbonation wasn’t as high and it displayed a thinner mouthfeel. Though much like its counterpart, it did have a soft introduction and let the bready and toasted notes shine toward the center. The aftertaste was cleaner and less dry, but featured the subtle spiciness of the Hallertau, which was a nice aspect of this beer.
Lastly, we have the Harpoon Octoberfest. The beer is a clear, russet-colored hue that looks somewhat like cherry finish on wood, to tell the truth. Two fingers of brilliant, white head on top also resembles soap bubbles, but they seem to stick around longer as it holds to the edge of the glass and retains its colonies of bubbles for quite some time.
As far as the olfactory goes, there’s a little more in the caramel malt department than the other two, but still keeps the bready toffee notes along with that gentle toasted malt scent. Grainy malt comes forth in the beginning of the sip, and seems to last the entire trip from front to back. Hops add an earthy and spicy bitterness, more so than the others, but pulls back before it becomes too much. Aftertaste has lots of bread, and even a noticeable caramel feature. The carbonation is moderate, but the texture is still on the creamy side, and finishes dry like the Victory.
So as the autumn slowly approaches and gains steam, much like Tropical Storm Hanna, it’s great to break out some lower-abv, easy sippers. In an odd homage to my ancestors, it’s good to have some solid Oktoberfest-style beer brewed by some solid American outfits, so that I may enjoy the fruits of their labor. This time of year, it’s nice to be able to find so many of these kinds of beers on the shelves, as the winter can mean only one thing: boozy barleywines and intimidating imperial stouts.