Hofbrau Munchen, Oktoberfest

Grade: C
Hofbrau Munchen

Pours completely clear with a white foamy head and a extremely pale, yellow color. I'm really surprised to see how lightly colored this is, without looking closely it could be mistaken for a Bud Light in a glass. Aroma is immediately of sulfur and grain. Some slight toast is in there as well, but mostly it smells like most German lagers that have been sitting in a green bottle: skunky. Mouthfeel is medium light to light, with a lively carbonation on the tongue and a dry finish. The flavor mirrors the aroma; sulfur from the lager yeast and some slight toast and biscuit from the malts. There aren't any real sweet elements to this beer at all. It's quite dry, and has very little to no hop presence. The high level of carbonation lends a slightly acidic and astringent element to the toast and roast from some of the malts. I'm getting some esters from the yeast as it warms, and despite being very dry I can say with certainty there is no corn/sugar/anything else in this beer. This is a German pilsner malt beer all the way, it's just that the pilsner malt has been attenuated so much, there isn't much residual flavor left.

Well, I think that's going to conclude my Oktoberfest tasting flight. Overall, this beer is what many Germans have come to think of when they hear Oktoberfest, a light colored lager that drinks easy and in mass quantity. To call this an Oktoberfest is almost insulting. A German lager it certainly is, to call it a good German lager is even still appropriate. However, to say that this “Oktoberfest” beer is any different than the lagers already mass produced in Germany is just plain wrong. Except maybe for a microscopic malt adjustment, it's the same lager repackaged and sold as a seasonal beer.

It's sad to see that the style of the Marzen, once synonymous with Oktoberfest, has become a subcategory in the German beer scene. Now Marzen is something special, something that the connoisseurs drink, but not the majority of the population. Thankfully the American craft beer movement has saved this style of beer from obscurity, and strives to restore it to it's former glory. While the Americans haven't quite nailed down the style, it at least should serve as a sign to the German brewers that there is still a demand for malty, dry, flavorful lagers and that they should stop following in the footsteps of Budweiser and Becks. Make good beer, and they will come.