Fall is a bittersweet time to live in Honolulu. As the rest of the country transitions into the colder months of the year we’re still stuck dealing with the same heat than has been plaguing us for months. Thankfully, Fall-based cuisine still finds its way out to the island, including one of my favorite styles of beer. No, not pumpkin-spice (although some of them belong in the discussion). I am talking about the hallowed Oktoberfest brews that grace us with their rich tastes this time of year. Every major craft brewery seems to try their hand at the festival-seasonal and I’m such a sucker for them I’m willing to try them all. While most of them don’t make it out to the island, two particular brews have piqued my interest: Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest brew, and a local variation from Honolulu Beerworks. Both are quite good and each have their own unique takes on a very traditional style.
Oktoberfest, also known as Marzen style beers are characteristically brewed as full-bodied beers, rich and toasty in flavor, and dark-copper in color. It’s no surprise that I enjoy them as much as I do considering they share many similarities to other personal favorites such as dunkelweisses and amber ales. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this, but to me an Oktoberfest beer is complete if it is sessionable, rich, and pairs well with brats and kraut. It might not be asking much, but hey, Oktoberfest is a big party and I like to keep my parties as possible.
First let’s talk about our favorite local brewery, Honolulu Beerworks, and their deep copper tinted Vienna Lager. A less seen variation of the Marzen-style, this beer was incredibly smooth. With a crisp yet rich first taste that blended into a rich malt sweetness, I found this rich beer to be the perfect complement to a plate of brats and cole slaw. If you want an excellent example of the type of beer you need to last through a day of Oktoberfest festivities, this is it.
Sierra Nevada’s seasonal brew comes from a collaborative effort with Germany’s Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg. Its initially sharp flavor (typical of many Sierra Nevada beers) opens up to a toasted-maltiness. It’s a bit higher on the ABV scale (6.0%) than I typically enjoy in my sessional beers, but not so much that it detracts from the strong flavor of the beer itself. This beer has been a staple in our fridge for the past few weeks and I plan on keeping it around as long a I can find it.
It’s been quite the festival season for us, and we’re not even halfway through October. There are still many excellent beers out there to enjoy, and festival celebrations to partake in. Expect more Oktoberfest love from Aspen and I here at Games and Grinds as the celebration continues.