Pretzels and Things: We Taste Test Oktoberfest Brews

click to enlarge Pretzels and Things: We Taste Test Oktoberfest Brews
Jess Elizarraras

For the first time in recent memory, Oktoberfest celebrations came early this year: Ranger Creek unleashed their canned Oktoberfest on September 15, and our fall issue landed less than a week after the Munich-based celebration of all things beer got started. But no matter. We tasted Oktoberfest brews out now for you to pair with your favorite lederhosen.

Real Ale Oktoberfest // A personal favorite, Real Ale’s Bavarian-style lager is perfect for sipping alongside a thick bratwurst and bright sauerkraut. Using Munich and Vienna malts, Real Ale has delivered a copper, medium-bodied beer with few hops and lots of breadiness on the palate that can be enjoyed way past Oktoberfest.

Shiner Oktoberfest // This Marzen-style take from the Spoetzl Brewery has honored tradition since 1996 when the Oktoberfest was first brewing in Shiner, Texas. And it’s a winner — it took gold in 2012’s Great American Beer Festival — with its low IBUs and is sessionable with a relatively low ABV. Drink it with or without the dirndl but definitely with a hot pretzel.

Southern Star Oktoberfest // The Conroe-based brewery delivered an early favorite that takes Weyermann Munich, Weyerman Vienna and Rahr Two Row malts, pairs them with Perle Hallertau Mittlefrueh hops and delivers a slightly nutty Festbier with a crisp and smooth sourdough aftertaste.

Ghost Cow Oktoberfest // Listen, they’re not all winners. And we really wanted to like this one. They warmed us up with a great can design and even better story: “On the darkest night, on a desolate back road in South Texas, the ghost cow comes out to graze and make its stand smack dab in the middle of the road – a full-blown apparition on the center stripe.” But the Marzen-style description fell flat with a sour cream and onion chips taste that missed any of the rich maltiness we were expecting. I hit a cow with my car once, but still couldn’t connect to this beer.

Ranger Creek Oktoberfest // The brewery’s answer to a Vienna Lager tastes like a locally made Negra Modelo. Now available in cans, the Oktoberfest is a dark amber hue, with a smooth and thick malt to it. Drink it with a Reuben or warm potato salad.

OktoberFiesta // The highest IBUs in our batch come via Freetail Brewing’s OktoberFiesta, described as a “working class brew with a strong malt backbone … a noble hop finish … [for] backyard barbecues, rowdy tailgates and swanky soirees.” Its Belgian yeast strain deviates from tradition but produces a bright and fruity flavor that pairs nicely with the malts and hops. Drink it through the rest of the year.

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