In honor of the close of Oktoberfest, I decided to find a new, American example of a beer style that I haven’t tried before. This was not terribly difficult, as it seems every microbrewery in the U.S. is putting out an Oktoberfest (or Maerzen as the style is properly called) these days. I settled on Brooklyn Brewery’s Oktoberfest, as I have had some solid beers from them in the past, and settled in to enjoy this classic lager style.
Brooklyn Brewery was founded in 1987 by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. Initially they were strictly contract brewed by Matt Brewing Company, and the pair handled the marketing and distribution, but in 1996 they bought an old factory in the Williamsburg neighborhood and converted it into a brewery. Even still, most of their beer was contract brewed due to a lack of capacity. The economic recession allowed them to expand their operation, however, which is on track to quintuple their capacity in 2013.
The beer poured a clear, reddish amber, which faded to honey gold highlights at the edges. The head formed as two fingers of off-white, medium coarse bubbles. The head had fairly decent retention and left respectable lacing, especially for a lager. The aroma was primarily malt focused but not overly sweet at first. What I found interesting was that the malt actually had a bit of a toasty element to it, which I did not expect from an Oktoberfest. The hop aroma was very low, with no fruity esters either. The aroma died down to a low, pleasant malt sweetness after a couple minutes.
The mouthfeel was fairly thin, more so than I expected. The carbonation was also lower than I expected, which was probably due in part to a vigorous pour, but that should not have affected the mouthfeel. Overall, I found the body to be fairly odd, as it was moderately thick up front before thinning out but still left a thick feeling coating my mouth. The taste reminded me of the body, with a nice, light malty sweetness up front, which dried out some but lingered through the finish. The low levels of dark, smoky malts were a bit of a surprise. The malt profile overall had a much bigger, sweeter melanoidin character than I expected. The hop character was moderately low and far more earthy than I expected. Based on the taste profile, these seemed more like Northern Brewer than a noble hop.
I would recommend pairing this beer with something spicy or salty due to its sweetness. Cheddar would be a very good fit, as would other very sharp cheeses. Lighter, sweeter fruits such as pears and oranges will also make a nice complement. This beer should be served in a stein or pint glass.
Overall, this was a pretty good beer, but it was not what I expected. The malt profile was too dark, and the hop profile was too earthy for it to be a correct-to-style Oktoberfest; this is more of an American riff on the style. I would give this beer a try, especially if you want to try something different, but it’s not the amazing Oktoberfest that you have been searching for.