Berkshire Brewing Co., Oktoberfest Lager

Berkshire Brewing Co.
Grade: D+

A white head is slow to form, and what does appear falls to a thin coating very quickly. The color is a nice mahogany, with some amber highlights. Sweet candy, caramel, and toffee come up from the glass. There's a fruity element as well, slightly banana. Mouthfeel is fairly big, a bit viscous with a lower level of carbonation. The flavor is very sweet, caramel and candy. Banana comes through in the flavor as well, and it leaves a sweet coating on the tongue. There are some bread flavors here, but the sweetness makes it read more like banana bread than a dry, toasty flavor.

This beer is an example of what "cloying" sweetness is, that lingering layer of sweet that takes over your palate. A higher level of carbonation might have been able to lift some of that sweetness up off the tongue, countering the caramel flavors with some acidity from the carbonation. However the low level of bubbles makes this beer feel very flat, and a bit syrupy. I'm not sure if this was intended, or if it is a result of poor packaging, but the result is there. I find myself wanting to hook this beer up to my tank of CO2 and giving it a quick burst to liven it up again. Still, I don't think that carbonation is this beer's only fault. The residual sweetness left is completely out of style with an Oktoberfest, which should be dry, bready, and toasty. The point of Oktoberfest beers is to be mass quantity. I have trouble taking another sip of Berkshire's offering, the sweetness is simply too much.

Berkshire is a very local beer, serving only a few states in New England. Their product is not pasteurized, and their labeling warns to keep all their bottles refrigerated at all times. This results in a very fresh, uniquely flavored line of beers, with an identifiable house flavor... when you're in Massachusetts. The farther these beers travel from the brewery, the lower the level of quality. Despite their strict distribution rules (all retail stores MUST keep all of their beers in a refrigerated case) the beers seem to suffer from problems. And these problems seem to stem not from being left on shelves too long, but from the brewery itself.

From recipe formulation to fermentation management, the Oktoberfest Lager is simply not a good beer. It doesn't approach the style of Oktoberfest by a long shot, that can be certain. But it also doesn't drink well. As an example, Otter Creek's Oktoberfest is not at all (stylistically) an Oktoberfest. But it's a drinkable beer, enjoyable, and overall well brewed. I can certainly have a few of them in a row. Berkshire's version is so sweet that my palate is fatigued after one pint. And on my rubric for judging beers, the most important question is this: do I want another pint? The answer for Berkshire? No.