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Beer Review: Zero Gravity’s Madonna IIPA

I’m into IPAs just like the rest of the world, but I like them to be balanced. IPAs that are too aggressively hopped seem like they’re trying to cover something up. It’s easy to hide low qual ingredients or beer flaws with more hops. Anyone can do that. But brewing IPAs that are balanced, where hops play nice with malts and the flavor is big, but not overwhelming? That’s an art….

It’s Oktoberfest Season.

The fall season isn’t only for pumpkin beers – though you may not know it given their abundance on beer market shelves…since August – it’s also for Oktoberfests. Been too focused sipping that P-spice beer to think about this other seasonal? No prob, here’s a quick run down on the style and a few to look for at the store (because sometimes, choosing is the hardest part).

Break it down for me:  

Oktoberfests are a German style lager (remember lagers and ales make up the two main families of beer). Traditionally they were brewed in March (hence the word Marzen on many Oktoberfest labels which means March in German) and were fermented at cooler temps in caves for months until they were ready to be enjoyed in the fall season.

This beer style has a clean refreshing taste with a sweet malty flavor and a dry finish. Often Oktoberfests have a kind of bready/toasty/caramel flavor that gets me thinking of toast with butter and honey (you too?). What you won’t find is much bitterness because the hops in this beer ride in the backseat. Note that while this style has a sweeter backbone, it’s definitely balanced and should not taste cloying at all.

But which brands should I choose?

I stopped by Weggies last week, which has slowly become a favorite beer store of mine, and grabbed 3 Oktoberfests. These were recommended to me by the beer expert on staff, Barnabas Schickling. Side note, if you’re at the Pittsford Wegs, Barnabas is the best person to talk to. If he’s around, you’ll spot him towering over the beer aisle, with lots of knowledge to spare. He’s the best. Based on recs by Barnabas, I left with three Oktoberfests – Sierra Nevada, Two Roads Brewing, and Paulaner Brewing.

The Paulaner was the lightest bodied and cleanest tasting of the three, though it had the darkest color (quick beer fact for ya – beer color comes from the malt used in the brewing process). Paulaner is a German brewery known for making great traditional beers. I’d agree, their beer was solid and I’d drink it again.

Sierra Nevada has been collaborating with another German brewery on an Oktoberfest for the last few years and it was actually really good! For some reason, I’ve started to become a little skeptical of the larger craft breweries beer quality, which is probably a little unwarranted, but this beer was well brewed. It had great balance and was full bodied. I liked the way the flavor took over my mouth. Barnabas mentioned that this was the best batch he’d tried within this collab series and I feel the same.

Finally, I enjoyed Two Roads Brewing’s Oktoberfest as well. This too had a bigger flavor and was certainly malt forward (which is should be), but it had a bit of bitterness that the other two didn’t have. Overall three solid choices I’d recommend.

And, what should I eat it with?

When I sip a beer, I immediately start to think about what type of food I could pair it with. For these Oktoberfests, cheese is a no-brainer, so think about a mild cheddar, or in my case I had a dutch-style cheese made by cheese maker Cooperstown Cheese Company I’m also feeling like a light blue cheese could be nice too.

Outside the cheese arena, you could partner an Oktoberfests with a salty pretzel and mustard or maybe a german style sausage with sautéed cabbage with apples. The simple tip here is pairing the beer’s sweet flavors with some saltiness.

 

Alright, you’re on your own now, but keep us in the loop. Have you tried some Oktoberfests that you enjoyed? What’s your experience with them?

 

P.S. If you’re looking for some local Rochester options to try, here are three: