October/November 2007


Here we are, back into Oktoberfest season. I'm sure I'm not the only one thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It goes double for me! It has now been a year that I have been writing this column for The Brewing News, and I can't believe how time has flown.

Once again, I've assembled a myriad of tasters, all with previous Beacon experience. So it was nice to sit down in our “private suite” in Laughlin's Restaurant in Buffalo and get down to business. I can't thank the staff enough for their impromptu super-setup for the gang and myself.

Oktoberfest beer, also referred to as Marzen, is one of the most popular beer styles among consumers. Darker in color and stronger in taste, it can range from sweet and malty to rich and hearty. We also lucked out in that some Pumpkin beers were submitted as well. These were a real treat, as we can all use a little more spice in our lives. (Except for Evil. His disclaimer is that he does not like pumpkin beers - he is spicy enough!) Pumpkin beers will also be a darker brown color, and possess strong pumpkin-spice flavors.

The Place:
Laughlin's Restaurant, Buffalo, NY

The Tasters:
All returning customers - Vinny, Hop Jack, The Magistrate, Herr Evil (In honor of the style),
Gerg, Jen the Chem. teacher, and Marvin (who had a loooong day)

The Beers:

Otter Creek Oktoberfest Autumn Ale
793 Exchange Street, Middlebury, Vermont 05753

Avg Rating: 5

Marvin was feeling better after tasting this beer. “It's nice to have a cold beer after a long day of running around!” However, the rest of the tasters weren't too impressed. Evil thought the color to be more of a “dark yellow” - as opposed to the usual amber and brown you'd expect. Jen thought it was a little “soapy.” Over all the flavor and body were light, but had the usual malty/sweet characteristics. A few tasters detected some nut and toffee flavors as well.

Upland Oktoberfest
350 W. 11th Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47404

Avg Rating: 5.5

This beer would be too much for some, but great for others. It was rather sweet, and Gerg called it “honey-like.” It had a bit more “booziness” to it both in flavor and in smell and Evil commented it coated his tongue. Hop Jack felt the malts lacked the nutty character he was looking for, but Vinny felt it was certainly a contender. It was stronger in flavor, but definitely sweet flavor.

Lakefront Oktoberfest
1872 Commerce Street, Milaukee, Wisconsin 53212

Avg Rating: 3.3

“Ick.” - Jen. This beer had more Belgian qualities than marzen. Some cheese and what Vinny called “skunk and cardboard” in the nose. Gerg said the smell was like a “Belgian farmhouse.” Marvin noted it was
almost like a malt liquor - “Oktober 45!” - and Evil thought it tasted
like “popcorn kernels.” The Magistrate said it most diplomatically when
he said it was “problematic.”

Grand Teton Fest Beer
430 Old Jackson Hwy. Victor, Idaho 83455

Avg Rating: 6.4

“Prost! Tastes like a real Oktoberfest,” exclaimed Herr Evil. “Now, this is good beer,” declared Hop Jack and the Magistrate felt this one was the best in character so far. Marvin detected a lot of nutmeg and Jen was getting some bread/yeasty flavors.

Summit Oktoberfest
910 Montreal Circle, St. Paul, Minnesota 55102

Avg Rating: 5.9

Vinny said this beer tasted better than it smelled; so don't let the nose hang you up. Jen noted the “pretty colooor,” but also didn't appreciate the smell. Marvin got a little bit of an orange rind flavor and the Magistrate felt it was an “astringent finish.” Gerg was confused by the hint of melon he tasted, and Evil felt it was “strictly for fraulings.”

Southern Tier Harvest Ale
2051A Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, New York 14750

Avg Rating: 8

This was the only Harvest Ale in the tasting, and Hop Jack explained
this is a very difficult beer to make. It should be hoppier than an Oktoberfest with more crispness and much less spice and malt. He
was pleasantly surprised - “it couldn't get much better than this!” This
beer was a crowd pleaser all around. Even Jen who doesn't like hops thought it smelled “yummy and refreshing.” She also tasted some yellow grapefruit. Gerg “fell in love at first whiff.” Vinny noted the “green,
fresh piney flavors” and Evil said it “rolled across my tongue like a babbling brook (not Shields).”


Anheuser Busch Pumpkin
One Busch Place. St. Louis, Missouri 63118

Avg Rating: 5.2

This was the first time I had a mass production brewery of this size in one of my tastings. Marvin was “really feeling” the taste of this beer. He got some cinnamon, but also thought it tasted a bit like “Choward's Violets” candy. The panel detected more spice than anything else, and Gerg commented that it seemed “spiced for the sake of spice.” Jen felt it had a thinner flavor than she expected of the nose.

Lakefront Pumpkin
1872 Commerce Street, Milaukee, Wisconsin 53212

Avg Rating: 6.1

The Magistrate thought this was great to taste, but he wouldn't drink a lot. Jen and Hop Jack thought it smelled like vinaigrette with a slight maple hint. Vinny called it a “pungent, pickled pumpkin nose” and said it needed a bit more “beer balls.” Gerg thought it was well balanced though and said he'd have a few. Evil thought it had the candied quality usually reserved for apples at the county fair. “Candied Pumpkin.”

New Holland Ichabod
66 East 8th Street, Holland, Michigan 49423

Avg Rating: 4.5

The Magistrate called this one a “pumpkin wit without the wheat.” Jen thought it was thin, but Marvin thought it would go great with a ham or a cedar plank. Gerg, who acknowledges that smoking has affected his taste buds, wants to but this one in a pumpkin beer bong. “Not much to compliment, but not much to complain about either”

Southern Tier PumpKing
2051A Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, New York 14750

Avg Rating: 7.2

The folks at Southerntier definitely named this one appropriately, as it was the King of this tasting. There was even a comment from Random Beer Tasting Bystander “this one is my favorite!” The Magistrate called it “incredible” and Marvin said it was “AMAZING and flavorful.” “Hello, pumpkin spice nose, where have you been?' asked Vinny and declared, “This is the Great Pumpkin!” Hop Jack called it pumpkin custard and Jen backed it up by calling it pumpkin ice cream. With strong flavors of ginger and nutmeg, the pumpkin came out with a creamier, bread-like flavor. Balanced spices allowed for flavor without heat. “Finally, my mom's cookies in alcohol form!” cried Gerg, as he faded off into his memories. Most agreed it was good for one, but wouldn't drink too much.

Two Oktoberfests arrived past the deadline. Below are the tasting notes.

New Glarus Staghorn Oktoberfest Beer
Cty Trk W & Hwy. 69, New Glarus, Wisconsin 53574

Clear copper color; malty, Oktoberfest aroma; malty and clean lager; dry finish; slightly biscuity flavor pushed to the backround by clean dry finish; spicy hop flavor; nice and drinkable.

Penn Oktoberfest
800 Vinial Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15212

Clear copper color; good malty lagerish aroma; up front malt with a little less smoothness, perhaps roughened by a significant up front hoppy bitterness; clean dry finish; a little less malty that it seems to need for the style; a good, drinkable beer.


--- by Kelly Kroese, Beer Beacon columnist

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