Introduce me to a beer writer who likes Oktoberfest, and I'll challenge them to a stein-holding competition. I'll get the last laugh, though, because I won't show up. They'll be left hefting a warming flagon of pisswasser, feebly smiling.

I'll admit it: I write about Oktoberfest because I am obligated to [Ed. We did not tell Seth to write about Oktoberfest.]. It's an entire celebration dedicated to drinking liters of beer, so I can't not write about it. But, the very flavors and traditions Oktoberfest celebrates make me loathe it. Rather than pounding liters of insipid lager, I'll be gathered with friends, enjoying a flavorful ale. Instead of choking down a mouthful of pretzel batter, I'll pair my hoppy ale with some local Thai food. Oom-pah? Really? We may be on the same page that the sound of a flatulent tuba drives you to drink, by I much prefer a chalice of Chimay, accompanied by the smooth sounds of Steely Dan. (Okay, maybe I lost you on the Dan, but you get the point.)

I'm a beer writer that doesn't like Oktoberfest. Help me drown the contraction of this column by tasting some local Oktoberfest beers. Blah!

 

Gretel

Foundation Gretel (Portland, ME)
Format Sampled: 16 oz. can
ABV: 5.5%
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market
Tasting Notes: Pours a glow-y copper with a thin, dense, off-white head. The aroma has the metallic tang of a penny, and the sweetness of caramel. The first sip is, I'll admit, not bad for an Oktoberfest. The Gretel is a solo album starring the malt. Toasty, biscuit-crisp malt, slathered in treacle and served up sweetly steaming. It's rich with carbohydrate delight without the cloying reek of sugar. A dusty, granite-like mineral flavor braces the malt, adding some depth and maturity. The hops are in the deep background, adding some spicy frills around the edges of this toasted malt-bomb. The balance is a nod to German precision, though the exuberant malt is pure American boasting. I hate Oktoberfest, but I like this beer!

 

Banded Brewing Oktoberfest Lager Marzenbier (Biddeford, ME)

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can
ABV: 5.2%
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market
Tasting Notes: Pours deep brownish red, with a rocky, tan head. Aroma has notes of warm soil, mulled spices and citrus. The first sip is a pleasant fusion of malt and hops — in nearly equal proportion. I'm shocked enough to dribble a bit. This balance is about as discordant as an Old Port bar blaring Beethoven. The malt is like pumpernickel, off-sweet and spiced with rye and tannic chaff. The hops are a subdued blend of herbal flavors, dried orange peel, and grape must. The end result is a remarkably easy-drinking beer.

 

Woodland Farms Brewery Festbier (Kittery, ME)

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can
ABV: 5.1 %
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market
Tasting Notes: Pours a rich copper with almost no head. Aroma has warm pennies and a whiff of sulfur. The first sip is broadly malty, and slightly sour. The sweet, stodgy malt spreads across my palate in a thick, pudding-like wave. It's a toasty, pleasant flavor, offset with a metallic tang, like brushing your tongue against the exposed terminals of a battery. The hops, such as they are, are on deep background, contributing a slight spice before flitting out of sight entirely. A pleasant, malt-forward, totally acceptable Oktoberfest-style beer.

Seth is a beer writer, outdoor enthusiast and non-profit consultant.

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