October is probably my favorite month of the year. When else can you watch a shitload of crappy horror movies, stuff your face with candy, and decorate your house with (fake) corpses and mutilated pumpkins? And then you've got your seasonal beers, usually falling into two broad categories: pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers. I have to admit that I'm not exactly an expert on either style, but both seem to be rather distinctive and there's only one way to learn, right? So last night, during a double feature of cheesy slasher films, I broke out a couple Oktoberfest beers and gave 'em a whirl.
Victory Fesbier - The Victory brewery is right down the road from me and I've enjoyed most everything I've tried from them, so I figured this would be a good place to start. Pours a nice amber color, not much head at all. It's got a good, malty smell, and even though I'm not a big Oktoberfest guy, the nose does seem to represent the distinctive properties of the style. The taste starts malty sweet and ends with a little bit of a dry, nutty character (again, seems pretty distinctive of the style). It's an eminently drinkable beer, though I don't think it's as well balanced as I'd like. Something about the mixture just seems a bit off, so it doesn't really knock my socks off, but it's still quite good. I'll give it a B-.
Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.
After finishing, I cleansed my palate with a slice of pepperoni pizza and popped open the next:
Flying Fish Oktoberfish - I guess NJ is semi-local as well, and this particular beer seems to have a pretty good reputation. Pours a darker amber color than Festbier, but even less in the way of head. Smell is similar, but not as strong. Taste is a little more balanced, though a little less Oktoberfesty. Again sweet and malty to start, but the finish is a little less dry and more caramelly than nutty. Again, very drinkable, but not a beer that has me pining for more either. A slight overall improvement over Festbier, I'd give it a B.
Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.
Neither beer particularly impressed me, but I get the impression that Oktoberfest style beers aren't really like that. They seem more geared towards a session than a single tasting, which I suppose is the point of an Oktoberfest. Don't want to overwhelm you or anything, least it will ruin the party.
Update 10/16/10 - During a trip to an abandoned asylum, we stopped at some weird French bistro where the sign out front had a font usually reserved for Chinese restaurants. I wasn't expecting much, but then they handed me the beer menu. The fact that their selection necessitated a separate menu in itself was promising, and the selection was surprisingly good. If I hadn't just had some last week, I'd have ordered a Russian River Damnation (exceptional beer, though the $12 price tag for a 375 ml mini-magnum bottle is probably a bit much), but instead I sampled two seasonal beers:
Ayinger Oktober Fest Märzen - Now this is an Oktoberfest I can get behind. Smell was not powerful, but still distinctly Oktoberfest. No balance problems here. Starts off sweet, ends a bit dry, making you want to drink more. I could have drank 10 of these (it was a relatively small glass, but I'd finished it off before the meal arrived). It's not an overpowering, blow-you-away type of beer, but again, that's the way this style goes. I'd never actually heard of it when I ordered it, but apparently it has quite the reputation and has only recently made its way to the states (from Germany). If you can find it and you like the style, give it a shot. B+
Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV draft. Drank from a snifter glass (that was entirely too small!)
Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - I've had a few Pumpkin ales recently, and they seem to fall into two camps: sweet, overpowering pumpkin taste (Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a good example of that) and spicy, with little or no pumpkin taste. Semi-local Weyerbacher's take on the style leans more heavily on the spicy side, though there are hints on the pumpkin taste as well. A pretty good blend and a big taste. Overall a solid entry in the style. B
Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.
The haunted asylum as actually pretty awesome. The entire area is pretty creepy - there are dozens of abandoned buildings in the sparsely populated area, and the architecture was... weird. Lots of strange underground tunnels and arches and whatnot. The actual haunted house portion of it was pretty typical, but at one point you end up in the basement, and the creepy atmosphere there is less about the cheesy lighting than it just being a creepy place.