The official Sept. 19 opening of the 182nd Munich Oktoberfest is just a few weeks away. Full disclosure: I'm not a big fan of Oktoberfest brews, at least not most of the handful of German bottlings that make their way here. To be fair, the majority of the lagers we see aren't among the 30-plus brews being offered at this year's festival. With that in mind, I was impressed by the three domestic versions featured here.
Ninkasi Oktoberfest Lager, $1.60-$2
The creamy off-white head on this amber brew has decent staying power. Honeyed pumpernickel and toffee laced malt aromas lead off. Surprisingly soft malt and subdued fruit flavors play against an earthy hop bitterness. It's a bit like a cross between a pilsner and a restrained IPA.
Odell Brewing Oktoberfest Marzen Style Lager, $1.80-$2.20
The two-finger head topping this orange tinged brew leaves a nice lacing. Roasted grain aromas blend with sweet malt and a hit of citrus. The flavors are clean and smooth with creamy, sweet malt and caramel. Just the barest hint of hops, but a refreshing bit of sour citrus comes through on the finish, keeping things in balance.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, $1.40-$1.80
A bright honey gold pour in the glass, it's topped with a thin froth that fades quickly. The nose is lightly sweet with soft hops and biscuit. On the palate, it's beautifully balanced, with all the sweet, fruity malt you'd expect, but with a nice, just bitter hop backbone that's a pleasant surprise. It keeps the brew on an even keel. Very nice take on the style.