- Mike Riedel
Last week, I talked about Oktoberfest beers. And this week, I'm also talking about Oktoberfest beers. The difference is the style. While many fall beer-centric celebrations utilize a wide array of pale lagers for merriment, the Marzen is the undisputed traditional lager. Once upon a time, Marzens would be made in late March and would undergo a summer-long fermentation for their debuts in the autumn. Nowadays, these can be lagered in as little as five weeks. Marzens are rich, malty lagers full of caramel and vanilla flavors with complementary hop bitterness.
Desert Edge Oktoberfest: This is the first time that Desert Edge has made a "to-style" Marzen, and head brewer Chad Krussel hit this one out of the park. It has a gorgeous copper body and full head. The smell is sweet and malty, with honey and caramel dominating, plus cracker malt and hints of floral hops and spice. The taste is more of that caramel, and wonderful sweet honey; nice floral hops pop up in there, too, as well as a bit of spice. It all adds up to one of my new favorite Oktoberfest beers. A variety of malt profiles are balanced by the hops on the finish, plus a nice 6% alcohol warmth, too.
TF Oktoberfest Marzen: In SLC, the Templin Family Brewery has become the central city's favorite place for craft lagers. I guess it's because patrons understand that owner/head brewer Kevin Templin is a complete nerd for lagers. TF's pours a deep copper color with a small white head. It smells faintly of caramel malts and slight undertones of molasses, while the taste emphasizes golden-brown biscuits, caramel and molasses, complemented by slightly floral hops with a nice balancing bitterness. This beer goes down incredibly smoothly, as the carbonation consists of small bubbles that pleasantly coat your mouth and tongue. I could drink this pretty much all day because it's one of the easiest-drinking beers I've ever had.
Bohemian Oktoberfest: This is one of the oldest Marzens made in our market from Utah's original craft lager haus. This widely available beer pours a clear amber, with two fingers of off-white head and lots of visible carbonation. The nose is balanced between light toffee, slightly sweet malts and earthy, spicy hops. Light sweetness appears on the palate, with toasted malts and brown bread plus mild earthy bitterness from hops; overall, a bit more delicate in terms of flavor than other Marzens. The mouthfeel is a bit crisper as well, with some sharp carbonation. Less robust, but more quenching than others.
Talisman Oktoberfest: This is Talisman's first attempt at a Marzen, and they nailed it. The beer pours a dark amber, with a finger of white head which falls slowly. Malt predominates the aroma, with rich notes of raisin bread and toast—a nice, clean fermentation character with no additional esters or aromatics. Hops are not detectable. Initial malt sweetness on the tongue sets the stage with bready goodness, but the finish is dry. Very low hop bitterness detected, balancing the sweet malt. Other than the bitterness, there's really not any hop character, except for slight, pleasant floral notes. Aftertaste has rich, malt characteristics which follow throughout the dry finish.
Epic Munich Mathem: At a time when hazy IPAs rule supreme, Epic reminds its customers that this is also a place for lagers. As one of the first Marzens I've been able to swig this season—and as the epitome of a smooth, clear festbier—it's the antithesis of our increasingly cloudy IPAs. It maintains a small lacy head in your glass for five minutes and tastes of caramel and brown sugar. The mouthfeel is like spring water, and the finish is the clean taste of freshly baked brown bread. In its genre, this one is a winner.
Remember: Not all "Oktoberfest" beers are Marzens, but all Marzens are Oktoberfest beers.
As always, prost!