The first round of Oktoberfest beer sessions continues with American, German and the wild-card “Offbeat” style divisions narrowing into tighter contests. You can catch up with Brian Brown’s choices as well as commentary from Jesse Hughey on their respective sites. The beers on-deck at the moment are the Texas-brewed Oktoberfests.
This division has proven to be the most difficult to judge so far because all of the included brewers produce some excellent versions. None of these stray too far from the traditional guidelines or have any major flaws that might easily drop them from competition. Craft beer Texans should be proud their home breweries are producing such quality products.
Round 2: Texas Division
Saint Arnold Oktoberfest vs. Humperdinks Über Brau
Two lighter versions match up first, both seasonal products from Houston’s Saint Arnold and Dallas’ Humperdinks, respectively. Saint Arnold’s Oktoberfest is a consistent perennial fave, their fall seasonal rotator (and award-winner) that is clear and clean with a light nutty sweetness and malty tang that ensures you can drink this one all fest long.
Humperdink’s unnecessarily named “Über Brau” has always been among my personal favorites for this style each year. Now brewing independently of the Ram Brewery, Dinks’ beers are largely mediocre but with a true seasonal gem appearing every once in a while. The Über Brau is very comparable to Saint Arnold’s version but with a slightly sharper hop bite to cut some of the malty sweetness, possibly owing to the fresher brewpub serving. Whatever the reason, it is enough to just edge out the Saint Arnold beer.
Division 3 Winner: Humperdinks Über Brau
Live Oak Oaktoberfest vs. Real Ale Oktoberfest
This is the choice one hopes we never have to make, with both these senior Texas breweries very much dear to our hearts and palates. Austin’s Live Oak is legendary in the Texas craft beer scene and their dedication to brewing traditional German lagers is evident in their Oaktoberfest. It is perfectly balanced with its flavors, mildly malty and spicy and highly drinkable (and one of my personal favorites for this style).
Blanco’s Real Ale has only been brewing an Oktoberfest (their first lager ever) for just a couple of years now, and it arrives with plenty of character. It is bready and malt-forward, just slightly darker than the rest of this division with a hint of roast that takes it right to the edge of the style guidelines. However, it remains interesting and satisfying long after most festbiers have become cloying, meaning its high marks for drinkability and popularity with local craft beer drinkers cannot be ignored.
Division 4 Winner: Real Ale Oktoberfest
Some beers that just didn’t make the cut:
Shiner Oktoberfest– Spoetzl’s version is the lightest of the Texas beers and is a perfectly mild, clean and refreshing lager—ideal characteristics for a festbier but possibly difficult to hold one’s interest for too long drinking in a pub or patio.
Franconia Oktoberfest – McKinney’s own German brewer can usually nail any Bavarian style perfectly but their Oktoberfest this season was a bit ordinary and difficult to compare with more individualized versions. Incidental quality issues and limited availability also keep this beer only at arm’s length this year.
Where is Rahr & Son’s Oktoberfest?
Next up: The Divisions Narrow