We’re halfway through the first round with both the American and German categories in the books. If you’re just tuning in, notes on these pairings are available at the aforementioned links, and you can also check out Jesse’s commentary over at the Observer.
Otherwise, we now turn our attention to the “Offbeat” category. These beers of greater strength, or uncommon ingredients, are brews that fall somewhat outside the lines of the classic Oktoberfest style.
Offbeat Division, Round 1:
Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest vs. Summit Oktoberfest
First, what qualifies these brews as “offbeat” is their higher than typical ABV. Both register a few ticks higher than 7%, compared to a style guideline which calls for something in the range of 4.8-5.7%.
In the case of Summit’s brew, however, things go downhill from there. Start with a hazy appearance (as opposed to a bright, clear lager), and follow that up with what I can only describe as a caramel apple cider character. In other words, it’s not exactly what one might expect from a beer “brewed in the classic märzen style”.
As for Rahr, their Oktoberfest is a straight forward, malty brew with a layer of bready sweetness that, for whatever reason, seems easier to drink than in year’s past. Although not terribly complex, pitting this brew on home turf against a Summit beer that puts the “off” in offbeat results in a rather lopsided affair. The verdict? Rahr takes this contest in a walk.
Round 1 winner: Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest
Avery The Kaiser vs. Magic Hat Hex
In this match-up of David vs. Goliath the underdog role is assumed by Hex, a beer which builds upon a traditional foundation of Vienna malt with malted rye and cherry wood smoked malt. Goliath is of course The Kaiser, whose ABV of just over 10% makes it far and away the strongest Oktoberfest style brew we see here in the Metroplex.
As expected, The Kaiser comes out swinging with a big, bold malt presence and elements of dark fruit, brown sugar and toffee. It’s full-bodied and somewhat thick, with warming alcohol and a lingering sweetness well into the finish.
Hex holds its own, though, as the flavor of rye toast mingles with light notes of wood, smoke, and perhaps a very subtle hint of cherry. Equally important, the added uniqueness is not so overbearing as to re-shape the underlying beer, acting instead as an intriguing complement to the profile of a traditional Oktoberfest.
In a side-by-side comparison, what separates these brews is how The Kaiser comes across as a bit heavy handed when paired next to the refreshing complexity of Hex. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it cloying, the sweetness of The Kaiser is almost too much to bear. Considering this, and the idea that Oktoberfest is synonymous with sessionable lagers, the one-and-done nature of The Kaiser makes it a tough sell.
Round 1 winner: Magic Hat Hex
Check out the rest of the competition (links will be updated as each round completes):
Round 1 divisional pairings
American Texan German Offbeat(you are here)
Round 2 semi-final pairings
Further out: Final Pour
Note: All beers reviewed above are seasonal releases available for a limited time at better beer stores and gourmet grocers throughout the Metroplex.
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