Comparing a pair of Oktoberfests

Hey y’all, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post that’s not just my columns that get published in The Advocate newspaper. So here we go.

Oktoberfest starts in Munich, Germany in a week, and the Oktoberfest beers have been hitting the shelves steadily over the past month. One that I really loved last year was Sierra Nevada’s version which was a collaboration with Germany’s Brauhaus Miltenberger. It was a true festbier, and was absolutely delicious.

Side note: The official Oktoberfest beer style in Munich is a festbier. Most American breweries for some reason haven’t yet figured this out, as they continue to brew marzens and call them Oktoberfest. Marzens are malty, amber and full of rich bready notes with almost no hops. Festbiers, on the other hand, are a bright golden colored lager, with a pronounced floral hop aroma. The finish is crisp and it’s a perfect beer for drinking lots of. While I don’t dislike marzens, I really like festbiers a lot more.

Anyway, last year’s offering from Sierra Nevada was great, as an American brewery finally brewed an Oktoberfest that was a festbier and not a marzen. So I was excited to hear that in 2018 Sierra Nevada was collaborating with Bavaria’s Weihenstephan, who brews a fantastic festbier of their own. So naturally, I had to try them side by side to see how they compared.

Take a look at the picture below, and you can see there’s quite a difference in the color of each. Weihenstephaner’s version is bright golden, while Sierra Nevada’s version is several shades darker, encroaching on copper colored.

Oktoberfest

Tasting the two side-by-side, the differences are apparent as well. The floral hops are immediately noticeable in the Weihenstephaner version, yet the aroma is muted in the Sierra Nevada one. The taste is similar. Weihenstephaner is more doughy and crisp, while the Sierra Nevada one leans more bready with a smoother finish.

To me, the best description of Sierra Nevada’s 2018 Oktoberfest is if you blended a festbier and a marzen, yet instead of getting the best of both, it’s just kinda meh. I really liked the 2017 Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest a lot more than this year’s version. Hopefully in 2019, they’ll go back to a festbier style. In the meantime, I will drink up the Weihenstephaner version, as it’s really, really good.

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