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Beer culture is coming of age. At any store, restaurant, bar, or friend's house you can now find at least a few good brews. In fact, there seem to be so many new beers, breweries and bars it's difficult to separate the good, the bad, and the mediocre.

If you're going spend $10 on one beer, what should you buy? If you're going to drive 2 hours to check out a brewery, what's worth your time? If you're going to plan a Friday night, what has a good selection and friendly atmosphere? We're here to help you answer these questions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Showdown: Oktoberfest Fest Beers

The 201st Oktoberfest has come and gone and I'm sure many of you had a few fest beers to celebrate.

Which were your favorite? There are no shortage of domestic and imported Oktoberfest beers here in Northern California.
The blog decided to sit down and try 6 of the Oktoberfest beers available locally. We picked these up at Raley's, Taylor's Market and BevMo in Sacramento.

Oktoberfest beers are not meant to have big flavors or complex recipes. These beers are meant to be smooth, easy to drink and drank in large quantities. In this showdown we'll be looking closely at the balance of flavor, drinkability, and carbonation. Off carbonation can cause the beers to be too filling.

We divided the 6 beers into two groups; Sudwerk, Paulaner, and Weihenstephaner for the first, and Samuel Adam's, Gordon Biersch and Hacker-Pschorr for the second.

Group 1
Gordon Bieresch Marzen
ABV: 5.7%
Beer Advocate: 3.55 out of 5
Rate Beer: 2.97 out of 5
Pours a burnt orange color. The aroma is mild with caramel and toasted malts. The taste is pretty sweet and has smooth caramel and bread malts with a hint of vanilla or nuttiness. There is a very mild hop finish. The mouthfeel is light bodied and slightly over carbonated.
ABV: 5.8%
Beer Advocate: 3.92 out of 5
Rate Beer: 3.37 out of 5
 Pours a golden brown color. The aroma has sweet bready malts with some nuttiness and earthy hops. The taste is good balance of hops and sweet and toasted malts, the flavor has some depth too it. The moutfhfeel is nice with perfect carbonation and a smooth finish.
ABV: 5.3%
Beer Advocate: 3.67 out of 5
Rate Beer: 3.23 out of 5
Pours a light red or burnt orange color. The aroma is mild with earthy hops and some sweetness. The taste is a muddled mix of sweet and bready malts, the balance is off. There is a slight alcohol astringency taste. The mouthfeel is medium bodied with light carbonation.

Group 2
ABV: 7.5%
Beer Advocate:  3.98 out of 5
Rate Beer: 3.22 out of 5
Pours a clear, copper red. Nice rich malty nose. The taste is a great balance between the Pilsner, Caramel and Munich malts. There is a tame bite from the hops. Nice full, mouthfeel, well carbonated.
ABV: 5.8%
Beer Advocate: 3.89 out of 5
Rate Beer: 3.35 out of 5
Pours a dark amber color. Little to no aroma. Sweet bready pislner malts upfront followed the richer caramel malts and a mild hoppy finish. The mouthfeel is higher in carbonation and a little watery.
ABV: 5.4%
Beer Advocate: 3.65 out of 5
Rate Beer: 2.98 out of 5
Pours a golden yellow color. The aroma is assertive with sweet bready malts and hints of hop fruitiness . The taste has subtle sweet, bready and biscuity malts, with floral hops. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, gentle carbonation, with a crips, dry finish.

We had to take Weihenstephaner out as a competitor. It was a really great beer, but brewed with slightly different style as is evident by its different color. We could be wrong, but this beer felt like it would be better as a summer beer. We think of Oktoberfest beers as darker and heartier.

Our least favorite was Samuel Adam's. The flavor was muddled and the carbonation was a bit off.

Hacker-Pschorr was the winner in group 1 and Sudwerk was the winner in group 2. We couldn't decide which was better was Hacker-Pschorr and Sudwerk. Our taste buds were shot after all that drinking. Sudwerk had a great balance of flavor, was very drinkable and got better as it warmed up. Hacker-Pschorr  was also very drinkable and had a nice complex, smooth balance of flavor and a great finish.

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