By Julia Burke
Oktoberfests, pumpkin ales, harvest ales, bocks…the styles brewed during this time of year are some of the most delicious and exciting in the beer world. I tasted two Oktoberfest beers of note this week: one from Buffalo’s recently reopened brewery Flying Bison Brewing Company, the other made across the state at Brooklyn Brewery.
I enjoyed both beers outside, in the crisp fall weather, with an appropriately large sweater and snacks involving obscene amounts of peanut butter and pretzels.
Flying Bison specializes in traditional German beers, and this may be their strongest offering. Only offered on draught, I enjoyed this beer from a growler filled at the brewery and again a few days later at Buffalo Brewpub.
Poured into a pint glass it shows lovely two-finger head atop a beautiful russet-brown body, with a light web of lacing. The nose of roasted Heath bar and peanut butter malt, along with hints of apricot and nutmeg, gives way to a full, chewy mouthfeel with delicate carbonation and only a whisper of hops.
An extremely pleasurable quaffer, this would be a great match for any bratwurst entrée, but I enjoyed it thoroughly with peanut butter pretzel sandwiches.
Brooklyn’s Oktoberfest, sampled from a 12 oz. bottle, is another fall treat. A deep brown color with an attractive three-finger head poured into a pint glass, the nose shows toasty hazelnut, cinnamon and freshly baked bread.
On the palate it’s slightly more assertive than the Flying Bison: a little more carbonation, a little sweeter, and most notably a little more hoppy. It’s the crisp subtlety of noble hops though, no resin or greenness, and the acidity of the hops and carbonation makes this beer a great pairing for a hearty sauerbraten or wiener schnitzel.
Oktoberfest is about sessionability and an ode to the beginning of fall. It should taste of big sweaters, pick-up football games in a backyard slowly filling up with leaves, jeans and high boots (the last if you're a girl; the enjoyment of such if you're a guy), picking out the perfect pumpkin, and the prospect of a winning season for your favorite team. (If you're a Bills fan, it's the taste of raw, innocent hope soon to be followed by inevitable agony, but that's another story.)
These beers are packed with that feeling, and light enough (both under 6% ABV) to drink all afternoon while tailgating, camping or rewarding yourself for a leaf-raking blitz. Two brews with a sense of occasion and a gorgeously old-world sensibility.