So I was ready to do the obligatory Oktoberfest column. I had decided to wait till, you know, Oc/ktober, despite the fact that some of these beers have been in stores since August (and then it was 80 degrees this weekend and too hot for lederhosen). I've tried a slew of them the last few weeks (and have sipped too many pumpkin entries); these were the standouts:
• Victory Festbier — Built on German malts and hops, this Märzen is a subtle, not-too-sweet classic, and eminently sessionable at 5.6% ABV.
• Sixpoint's Autumnation — OK, there is some pumpkin in here, along with ginger and white pepper. It's wet-hopped with fresh Citra, which tilts the balance away from the typical Oktobrew. But Sixpoint's latest creation is a unique and winning entry in the seasonal sweepstakes.
• Hacker-Pschorr's and Paulaner's Oktoberfest-Märzens — The two best Märzens I sampled are from Germany. They're both sweet, relatively light, and worth having year-round (which you can with the Paulaner). And though it's not a Märzen, October offers a great excuse to hoist a Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier (or three), the extraordinary wheat/yeast/fruit bomb from the world's oldest brewery (since 1040, y'all!).
BEERVANA (THE AFTERGLOW) It came, it poured, it conquered. Were you there? Wanna compare notes? These were my faves: Lagunitas&sdquo; Old GnarlyWine ('09 and '10); Mikkeller Nelson Sauvignon; Newport Storm '11 (watch for the blue bottles in a month or so); Firestone Walker Parabola Russian Imperial Stout; Troubadour Magma; Samuel Smith's Stingo; Anchorage Brewing Co.'s Love Buzz Saison; Trinity Brewhouse's redrum; Smuttynose's 2005 S'muttonator and Finestkind IPA on cask with calypso hops; and Thornbridge Bracia (hard-earned at the B. United table). I sampled about 25 brews, 50 ounces (more or less) of liquid gold, heard countless exclamations of "this is really good" throughout the 3-1/2 hours at Rhodes-On-the-Pawtuxet, and have a list to tackle of the beers that didn't get tasted. Can't wait till next year . . . .
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BREWERY? At Beervana, my first stop was the Lagunitas table, where I declared that the brewery tops my list. And it was true . . . for a minute or three (mmm, GnarlyWine; and yay for their Little Sumpin' Sumpin' and Hop Stoopid and Lucky 13 and Brown Shugga' andandand), but then I slipped a few tables over to Victory and had visions of Yakima Glory and HopDevil and Prima Pils dancing in my head while sipping a Storm King Stout. A few paces away, the reliable offerings from Sierra Nevada were making their case (I tried the Dogfish Head collab Life and Limb; Torpedo Extra IPA is a staple in my fridge — and the stellar Celebration should hit stores 'round November 1), then Stone started flexing and spewing its "you are not worthy!" invective. I was torn, to say the least.
So let's have an informal poll re: favorite brewers. Send your choices to firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll tally the votes, and we'll honor the winner in a future column.