Locals Versus Nationals USA Oktoberfest Tasting

While living in Germany I was able to partake in all of the major Oktoberfest beers at one point or another. It was always exciting to see them show up on shelves in late July and give me a change of pace. I really love a good Märzen. Unfortunately most German Oktoberfest beers tend to fall closer to a slightly maltier and higher alcohol content Pilsner than a Märzen. Luckily now that I'm back in the US most American brewers who take on the task of pumping out Oktoberfest beers tend to lean more toward the original interpretation of an Oktoberfest how I prefer. This left me one choice.

Locals versus Nationals in a sausage waving standoff pitting the 11 most worthy candidates I could find in a fight for best Lederhosen accessory.


The tasting was a rigorous exercise of five beer lovers, including myself, sampling the eleven different contestants and giving them a rating of 1 to 20 based on how much they enjoyed them. There was little pressure for grand thought required on these straight forward and highly drinkable beers but there were snacks. Each tasters score was combined to find the best of the contestants.

The Locals
Victory Festbier, Flying Dog Dogtoberfest, Sly Fox Oktoberfest, Flying Fish OktoberFish, DuClaw Mad Bishop

The Nationals 
Sam Adams OctoberFest, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Ballast Point Dead Ringer, Left Hand Oktoberfest

The Dark Horse
Yuengling Oktoberfest -  Is it craft? Is it macro? Does it even matter?



The Results

Lowest Tier - These beers just seemed to not stack up to the competition.

Flying Fish OktoberFish
While no one remarked that the beer was fishy, it did do quite poorly with three tasters. Some thoughts from our reviewers were - "sweet finish", "something weird - a little buttery maybe?", "smells like raisins, slightly bitter, unfinished", "bad aftertaste", "tart, I don't like it".


Yuengling Oktoberfest
I had high hopes that Yuengling would be able to shake up the competition. Unfortunately it scored pretty poorly with everyone - "tastes like a slightly sweet regular Yuengling", "maybe a little maltier than the regular, drinkable though", "well it is certainly beer", "little bit sweeter then the original", "tastes like normal Yuengling but sweeter."


DuClaw Mad Bishop
I really had no idea what to expect from this beer, and was surprised to see it didn't score well with any of our reviewers - "sweeter, some alcohol but with a light body", "kind of bland", "smells acidic, lemon rind", "much sweeter, also very light", "charred aftertaste".


Middle Tier - Interestingly Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Brooklyn (the three largest breweries by volume excluding Yuengling) all received the same total score. I guess this is a testament to their ability to produce quality seasonal releases.

Left Hand Oktoberfest
I grouped Left Hand in with the middle tier, because despite not scoring that well, the tasters' opinion showed a clear preference for this beer over any from the lowest tier. It also featured my second favorite label - "close but not there", "biscuity, clean drinkable", "stone fruits, peach tea", "smooth", "okay".


Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
This was the first beer we sampled, and it has to make me wonder if going first put Flying Dog at a disadvantage. With no other beer sampled yet for comparison it made it hard to truly gauge it - "toasty, roasty, decent - could drink it but don't love it", "really bready finish", "smells like raisins, tastes like molasses", "very light", "smells good but nasty aftertaste".


Brooklyn Oktoberfest 
This beer received the widest range of votes of our three tying contestants -  "hoppy, lighter, tastes like a well done lager", "solid, straight forward", "soapy?, bright", "yum, well balanced deliciousness", "straight forward, good".


Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 
I think reviewers palates were getting tired during the Sierra Nevada which was our last beer sampled - "light, hoppy, not really like a Märzen", "light, decent flavor, drinkable", "bready, light, good for a sunny day", "they are all starting to taste similar", "okay".


Samuel Adams OctoberFest
This beer is everywhere, but its scores were consistent - "full bodied, well rounded", "full bodied and drinkable", "easy to drink but a little boring", "pretty good", "solid".



Highest Tier - While these beers didn't score much better than the top performers from the middle tier, they did manage just a few more points to come out on top. Ultimately this tasting showed me how hard it can be to differentiate between beers from a highly drinkable style, and how consistent craft brewers in the US can be.

Victory Festbier
I considered this the largest of the breweries that are "local", and overall it did well with the home crowd - "maltier, tastes like a party", "like Sam Adams, but better", "not a lot going on here but easy to drink", "tasty", "wouldn't drink this regularly".


Sly Fox Oktoberfest
This was the lone can in the contest - "lightest so far?, basic but pretty decent", "light, smells like smarties candy, not bad but pretty bland", "bright, citrus", "probably my favorite", "sweet, refreshing".


Ballast Point Dead Ringer
Out of any contestant's label I definitely like Dead Ringer the best - "great taste and balance", "pretty good, tastes a little spiced?", "heavy, tastes like rum, raisin and warm molasses", "sweet, love it", "smooth, very balanced".



Prost!






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About Colin Smith

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.

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