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Posted in Beer & Brewing, Life
November 17, 2012

Pro Brew: Sprecher Oktoberfest

Sprecher Brewery’s Oktoberfest

I’ve been saving this one for a full-on tasting.  I’ve had a couple of these already, so I know it’s going to fare very well, but now that I have the time to sit and analyze it, it’s even better.

Yes, the time for Oktoberfest and Märzen brews has, technically, come and gone.  But really, they’re meant to celebrate the harvest which also celebrates cooling temperatures.  And with climate change and all, those cooling temperatures are coming later and later, even here in Wisconsin.  So it still works, folks!

This 2009 US Beer Open champion for its style still has its magic three years after its gold-winning run.  Boasting Caramel, Munich, and Pale malts, lightly balanced by Mt. Hood and Hallertau hops, this should be good.

Appearance: (4.5/5) This is a pretty beer, folks.  A good, tall, resilient, cream-colored head sits atop a beautifully amber brew.  It’s a dense head.  And it hangs around very well.    It’s perfectly clear to look through, but darker than your usual Märzen.  Lacing is strong as the beer goes down, leaving dense blobs of bubbles ringing around the glass.

Aroma: (4.5/5) Holy malt bomb, Batman!  You can really pick up on the Caramel and Munich malts.  Very malt forward, especially for a Märzen.  Also a very forward fruitiness, but not citrusy fruitiness like you would normally get from hops.  Sprecher advertises a hop bitterness of only 15 IBUs, so hops are very mild.  This fruitiness is from the yeast.  Think, maybe, bananas with a bit of orange juice splashed over them.

Taste: (4.5/5) The only thing keeping this beer from a perfect 5 in taste is the style it’s brewed in.  A Märzen is meant to be sloshed back after a day in the field.  This one is a little too malt-forward for that.  But, unless you’re spending your days hard at work in the fields, that doesn’t matter.  It’s delicious.  You get a little bit of the banana from the nose into the mouth, but it’s very heavy on the caramel flavor.  Think a light version of Bananas Foster, with a little extra Foster.  But the hops come in at just the right time, in just the right amount, to balance this Oktoberfest out.  Beautifully crafted.  This really is.

Drinkability/Mouthfeel: (4/5) The heavier, very malt-forward character of this brew, combined with the caramel-heavy flavor give this beer a very dense mouthfeel.  And it’s very pleasant.  But it sits heavy, and should, technically  be a little lighter.  If you want something you can drink three or four of (or, given the fact that Sprecher’s Oktoberfest is packaged in 16oz bottles instead of the traditional 12oz, two or three), you may want to venture somewhere else.  You’re going to spoil your dinner.  However, if you chose this as your dinner, you could do much, much worse!

Design: (3/5) This is the Achilles’s Heel of this brew.  It’s not that I don’t like Sprecher’s old-German, blackletter typeface, or its heraldic shield on the label.  It’s that it’s just, overall, uninteresting.  Maybe there’s a method to the madness here, but I’m not getting it.  And since this is a Seasonal brew, it’s packaged in Sprecher’s generic, blue, 4-pack bottle caddy.  The only way to tell what beer this was without pulling it out of the package was by looking at the neck label.  Beyond that, though, I do appreciate the listing of the malts and hops used in the making of this beer.  That, to me, is better than the meaningless platitudes often placed on even craft beer bottles in the place of otherwise useful information.

Yes, they put a screw top on an extra-tasty beer.

But there’s a party-foul here, folks.  Yes…that’s a screw-top.  Maybe it’s because Sprecher also makes a lot of sodas (seems to me they make more soda than beer, but that’s no problem because that’s always been tasty, too), and uses the same bottles from one line to the next, but c’mon guys.  A screw top?  You know those don’t seal as well, and leads to oxidation.  And while I may be getting Sprecher extra fresh since I’m sitting only twenty miles south of their brew kettles in Glendale, Wisconsin, there has to be quality compromises by the time this beer lands in your distributor in, say, Danvers, Massachusetts.

Overall: (20.5/25) Here’s what this fire-brewed beer boils down to.  It’s delicious, it’s pretty, and it smells wonderful.  You can only drink a couple, but after that it’s time to go home anyway.  But Sprecher’s stuck-in-the-80s design approach combined with their inexplicable use of a screw-top bottle keep this Oktoberfest from the near-perfect score it truly deserves.  So if you want to judge a beer solely by how it tastes/smells/looks, get this one.  Get several of this one.  It’s only available through December.

If you’re like me, and like to gripe about things that shouldn’t matter to a beer (but do), then still get several Sprecher Oktoberfests, and then complain a little every time you see that screw top.

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