Oktoberfest in a Mexican joint? Yes, and it’s called Oktober-Fiesta.
The plan was to take a look at the history of the Munich festival and the history of the beer, while sipping our way through three German versions of the style, and three Iowan versions. While I’d had the Iowa beers pretty well lined up, a glitch at Raccoon River made one of our planned Oktoberfests disappear. Our consolation prize was a growler of Django, a tasty bier de garde that served as our welcome beer as we waited for everyone to arrive for the formal tasting and “class.”
To replace Raccoon River, I picked up a sixer of Sam Adams Octoberfest to maintain my promised six beers. Our second glitch came as we tucked into Beer #5, which was supposed to be an Oktoberfest from the Rock Bottom in West Des Moines. However, it was clear from the get-go that the server had given us the wrong beer. This was a hoppy amber ale of some sort. A good beer, but not an O-fest.
So, the beers: Oktoberfests from Warsteiner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Sam Adams, Millstream and (supposedly) Rock Bottom.
While our first tasting was a lesson in the brewing process and a walk through a variety of beer styles, this one was designed to tease out the differences among beers in a single style. I knew I’d enjoy it, and was pleased that even the least beer savvy attendee could easily notice the inflections of the various beers, to say nothing of the vast stylistic change with the mystery Rock Bottom brew.
The Warsteiner was the lightest in color and dealt out a very Vienna, toasted character. Spaten and Hacker-Pschorr both brought in a more substantial malt nuance and a little sweetness, the latter quite honey-ish as it warmed. The Sam Adams brought in noticeable hop flavor and aroma, while the Millstream had a heavier bittering dose.
For my part, I was partial to the Hacker-Pschorr, then the Spaten, but just by a touch. Then the Warsteiner. The Sam beat out the Millstream as a drinkable beer, but did it resemble a Munich Oktoberfest? I shrug my shoulders, because of the hop profile. Good beers all, I should say. Great style for the weather, for the fall, for the changing leaves.
And a great educational evening of comeraderie.