It is simply beyond me why, with all the styles of beers there are in the world, the aptly-titled Oktoberfest seems to be one of the most controversial.
I am not sure why, but because the beer has the word October in the title, people are steadfast in assuming that it can only be consumed in one month and must be completely avoided for the other 11. I have even had people tell me that once October 31st is over, this beer had better be off the taps.
And I don’t understand why.
For starters, the beer is usually a Marzen, an absolutely incredible style. It’s sweet, it’s robust, and infinitely enjoyable by all levels of beer drinkers. Second, there is nothing inherently October about the beer. Heck, Octoberfest itself starts in September, and if I can start getting Christmas commercials weeks before Halloween shows up, then I can enjoy a Marzen in April if I feel like it.
It is currently just a bit outside the traditional time of year for this beer, but I’m going to run down a few that I have been able to try, just to see how they are. This is not a ranking. It’s more of a comparison and a discussion. And to anyone reading this, if you want to know which one of these you can try to get them the best experience, the answer is yes. Choose one and you will not go wrong.
If you can get them, of course.
I start with one that will be easy to get next year, the award-winning Oktoberfest (Marzen, 6.4% ABV, 22 IBU) from my friends at Big Storm Brewing. This is an interesting, slightly darker version of the style, with a solid caramel base, accentuated a little bit with a more roasted characteristic then you would find in other Marzens. It’s not Porter-level roasted, think a skip or so away from a brown ale. It delivers a fantastically mature beer experience that isn’t necessarily seen that often in Florida beers.
In terms of a readily available, caramel forward Marzen, the other packaged and distributed beer I can easily point to would be the Oktoberfest (Marzen, 5.8% ABV) from Coppertail. This is your strictly true-to-style Marzen, a light caramel color with a noticeable sweetness and very little aggression in the Noble Hops. Incredibly enjoyable, and with easily sneak up on you after a few.
This next beer, an Oktoberfest (Marzen, 6.2% ABV, 21 IBU) from 81 Bay Brewing in South Tampa, is only available on draft (or at least it was when I tried it). In terms of color and lightness, this one is a little bit more traditional. They didn’t go all in with overly caramel malt characteristics, which gives the beer an interesting buoyancy. It’s almost as if it were suited specifically for Florida falls, which are basically the same as Florida summers and Florida springs, let’s be honest there’s only one season down here. But I had this at a hot summer day at the Armature Works, one of my new favorite places in Tampa, and my South Tampa friends did a really solid job of crafting a good, drinkable Oktoberfest.
But some people have taken the style and really gone beyond. To that end, I got a sneak preview of High Springs Brewing near Gainesville, and while I was there the owner gave me a pour of his Oktoberfest. With this one, he went very far with the dark roasting malts, coming considerably close to a Porter, while still retaining enough of that dark sugar quality to where it is still unmistakably a Marzen. You’ll have to wait a little bit for this one, but hopefully we can get this one again when it comes around for their eventual opening in downtown High Springs.
There you have it, dear readers. A selection of beers that have, by association with their name and name alone, been unfortunately regulated to the 10th month of the year. There are still some places in Florida where you can find this on tap, and can do so most months out of the year. I recommend you get it, partially to support these trend-bucking brewers, and partially because the style is just so darn good. And I dare someone to write back to me in April telling me that this is a bad month for the style.
If you give me a six pack of a freshly brewed Marzen, I will even listen to your arguments.
Drink Florida Craft,