2019 Imported Oktoberfests Blind Tasting

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by WesMantooth, Sep 2, 2019.

  1. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    Having been inspired by @invertalon ‘s blind tasting last year, I decided to put the (available) imports to the test. Without getting too nerdy, I did decide to pretend I was qualified to judge them by the BJCP guidelines rather than personal preference.
    [​IMG]
    Tasting Perimeters: I had my underage daughter pour them into glasses that I marked on the bottom (she said “this one smells really bad”. I did not look). They were all in shaker pints, and I used pretzel thins in between each beer over the course of about 45-50 minutes.


    The contenders:
    [​IMG]
    The initial pour:
    [​IMG]
    The midway point:
    [​IMG]

    The results:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The notes:
    I went back and forth on 1vs 2 and 4 vs 5 quite a bit, so either could be “best” or “worst” easily. And there isn’t a huge separation from 1-5.

    I took notes on all of them. Without giving full reviews of each, I noted that the Paulaner was the best nose, a little maltier, and had a crisp/dry finish.
    The Spaten was the most skunky, with a darker toasted bread, and was very full/creamy, but had a dry finish.
    The Hofbrau had sweeter grains and was more skunky in taste than aroma, and had a lingering floral flavor.
    The Hacker had the weakest nose, good creamy body and flavor, but fell really flat in the finish.
    The Ayinger to me was the “most American” (pretty sure I don’t have to quote myself at this point since they are all quotes, but wanted emphasis here) with a rich, toffee like aroma, nuttiness (nice), and baking spice.

    The summary:
    I was surprised by this, but not in the way I thought I would be. I have been disappointed in a Ayinger the last couple years, and thought to myself, “Yes. It’s back. 1 or 2 is definitely Ayinger” (quoting my thoughts again. Nice.) I was wrong. It still drinks more like most American versions. Even if the better ones. Too sweet/rich, with a caramel like flavor.
    The Hofbrau was obviously a dead giveaway knowing it was a pale/blonde/Fest because I didn’t have another, but even though it was probably my favorite overall last year, it would fall in the same place whether to style, or overall enjoyment.
    The Paulaner has been one of my least favorites the last few years, so to see it as a top 2 was one of the most surprising aspects.

    Prost!
     
  2. CanConPhilly

    CanConPhilly Poo-Bah (2,509) May 17, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Well shit, based on your results I gotta track down that Spaten.
     
  3. MacMalt

    MacMalt Poo-Bah (3,500) Jan 28, 2015 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Great comparison!
     
  4. cheeseheadinMinneapolis

    cheeseheadinMinneapolis Aspirant (212) Sep 20, 2017 Minnesota

    I have drank so many Ofest beers in the last 30 days that I am burned out on them........My taste buds can hardly tell the difference from one or the other now.
     
  5. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I was kind of pissed because I grabbed a single in KY before a Reds game, and it is usually the hardest to find.
     
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    @WesMantooth, thank you for your effort here and reporting on your results.

    You clearly caveated that: “I did decide to pretend I was qualified to judge them by the BJCP guidelines…”

    My interpretation of your results is that you ‘dinged’ the Ayinger since you perceived some caramel flavor, is that correct?

    Given that the BJCP style guidelines dictate:

    · “Caramel aroma is inappropriate”

    · “Noticeable caramel…flavors are inappropriate

    I can understand why you would ‘ding’ Ayinger.

    If instead the Brewers Association style guideline were utilized, the below is stated:

    “Low level caramel character is acceptable.”

    If one were to evaluate Ayinger per the Brewers Association style guideline then the aspect of a caramel aroma/flavor would not be “inappropriate” (using the BJCP language). Of course if the judge deemed the level to be above the “low level” threshold then some points could be ‘knocked off’.

    Cheers!
     
  7. cjgiant

    cjgiant Poo-Bah (4,753) Jul 13, 2013 District of Columbia
    Society

    Just to be clear, the results were based on BJCP as best you admittedly could, and the results ended up mirroring your personal enjoyment as well?
     
  8. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    True. It was more of a subtle toffee that was a little more noticeable in aroma than flavor to me, and not necessarily off-putting. Only in direct comparison to the others.
     
    LeperJim likes this.
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Was it consistent with the verbiage of the Brewers Association style guideline (“Low level caramel character is acceptable.”)?

    Cheers!
     
  10. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    That was one of the more surprising results to me. I always been objective enough to separate to style vs to taste, but these happened to fall in line accordingly.
     
    cjgiant likes this.
  11. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I would say so.
     
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    You might be interested in knowing that for the European Beer Star Award categories there is similar verbiage to that of the Brewers Association style guidelines (emphasis in bold by me):

    “Malt character: slightly roasted rather than strongly caramel (though a low level of light caramel is acceptable)”

    Again, thanks for your effort here.

    Cheers!
     
    Scrapss, officerbill and WesMantooth like this.
  13. cheeseheadinMinneapolis

    cheeseheadinMinneapolis Aspirant (212) Sep 20, 2017 Minnesota

    Roast? well so far this year the only two Ofest beers that I have noticed any roast flavor is Schells and Stevens Point. The roast note is faint but there. On the Schells its there towards the finish and it comes out more when it's rather warm.
    https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/786/38224/
     
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  14. SABERG

    SABERG Poo-Bah (2,108) Sep 16, 2007 Massachusetts
    Society

    Thanks for the great work
    Cheers
     
    readyski and WesMantooth like this.
  15. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,318) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    I'm easily confused. It sounds like you ranked these beers, but how did you rank them? Am I missing the obvious?
     
  16. officerbill

    officerbill Disciple (332) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society

    Couldn't find The Hacker anywhere, but I've had the other four and I agree that Hofbrau is the better beer.
    It's too bad you didn't include Benediktiner. The Hofbrau is slightly ahead on flavor while the Benediktiner is slightly ahead on “spend the whole day with”.
     
    jglenn73, Jacobier10 and TongoRad like this.
  17. Tilley4

    Tilley4 Poo-Bah (2,110) Nov 13, 2007 Tennessee
    Society Trader

    The Hofbrau and Ayinger are much different but amazing in their own way... depends of my mood.. everyday drinker? HB...deep malty richness? Ayinger....
     
  18. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,233) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    On my fourth six-pack myself, and was lucky to have pulled them from closed cases.
     
  19. Zorro

    Zorro Poo-Bah (4,446) Dec 25, 2003 California

    Doesn't see any bad beer there.
     
    alucard6679 and SFACRKnight like this.
  20. ATL6245

    ATL6245 Initiate (87) Aug 16, 2018 Georgia

    Thanks for posting this. I like to do these kinds of blind tastings to test myself and they are never as easy as it sounds. To me, it's hard to compare Festbier to Marzen because they are two different styles. And seeing Festbier visually different, makes it really hard to not have some level of bias. On the enjoyments side, I prefer the Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen myself.
     
  21. invertalon

    invertalon Crusader (773) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio
    Society Trader

    Awesome! Not surprised on your winner, it's fantastic! Curious where it places when I get mine done soon.

    The skunkiness hinders the Spaten for me. Last year was the same deal. I didn't pick up any skunk in this years Hofbrau. Spaten is the only one thus far I have noticed it. I got very anal this year when I bought my bottles at the store, protecting in paper bags to/from the car and all that. I think Spaten just arrives like that, though.

    Planning on doing mine soon... This year, I am splitting up between Festbier and Marzen (as best I can) and picking my favorite out of each lineup over two days. Will be done completely blind (blindfold, same glassware between all). Instead of a bracket system though, will just pick my favorite out of the lineup and try to pick/rank them.

    My bottles this year for my blind are below... Might be another few in there if any new ones hit... M for Marzen, F for Festbier lineup. Note, some are 'somewhere inbetween so based on my enjoyment of them this year, tried to more accurately place some of them based on their maltiness and such.

    Sierra Nevada (F)
    Columbus (F)
    Paulaner Wiesn (F)
    Paulaner Marzen (M)
    Spaten (F)
    Sam Adams (M)
    Weihenstephaner (F)
    Bell's (F)
    Fat Head's (F)
    Ayinger (M)
    Market Garden (M)
    Thirsty Dog (M)
    Three Floyds (M)
    Hofbrau (F)
    Great Lakes (M)

    (Have not found Hacker, yet...)

    I will say this, the overall lineup from these breweries overall has been amazing this year. Thirsty Dog for example has been stunning... Bell's and Fat Head's... Even Three Floyd's really surprised me the other day when I tried one out. Of course for imports, both Paulaners and Hobrau of course. Wasn't a big Spaten fan again, Weihenstephaner is good but didn't stand out. Ayinger kind of the same deal, but I dig it still.

    Time will tell!
     
  22. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    1 through 5 L to R and these were my medalists
    [​IMG]
     
  23. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I was disappointed to not find the Weihenstephaner at the store. Especially to help separate the Hofbrau.
    I thought I would do an American versions comparison too, but I may have too many.
     
  24. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Thanks for that clarification. Since the Hofbrau was in the foreground I thought that beer was number 1.

    Cheers!
     
  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Just to make sure, you are classifying the lighter colored (i.e., Pale) beers as Festbier and the darker colored (i.e., Amber) as Marzen?

    The photos I have seen of the SN Oktoberfest beers have the appearance of being amber to my eyes but you are classifying this beer as being a Festbier?

    Cheers!
     
    AlcahueteJ and officerbill like this.
  26. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,318) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Oh OK. Thanks. Yeah, it does seem obvious now. I didn't even notice those plastic platforms while looking on my phone. :slight_smile:
     
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  27. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I didn’t stage them correctly. The Olympic officials would be shaking their heads. But in my defense, I’d been drinking.
     
  28. cheeseheadinMinneapolis

    cheeseheadinMinneapolis Aspirant (212) Sep 20, 2017 Minnesota

    LOL I was confused on the ranking too. Ayinger took last place.. I had it on tap a few days ago. My thoughts were the same as previous years: It's ok but not the top of the line.

    I have come to the conclusion that I prefer the American caramel toffee sweet malty style over the present day German style. But Variety is good
     
  29. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,318) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    All Oktoberfestbiers are Festbiers. :grin:
     
  30. invertalon

    invertalon Crusader (773) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio
    Society Trader

    That is where my own discretion is coming in. The SN example is very delicate, it's not a rich, malty lager like some of the other marzens. I felt it was appropriate to throw it in my "festbier" category, simply to line it up better taste wise with comparable examples. If anything, I'd need a "hybrid" category as well for beers such as this, but I won't be doing that. "Hybrid" meaning those examples straddling the line between the Festbier and Marzen extremes.
     
  31. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,318) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    Please don't take this the wrong way, because it is more of a philosophical position and not in any way a challenge to your methods or tasting. Personally, I think that an Oktoberfest tasting like this is ultimately about preference rather than about how Oktoberfesty the beers are. I would think that the brewers involved can define what a Festbier is more than the BJCP. The ranking would be a tie. :wink: Know what I mean? :slight_smile:
     
  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,128) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    I haven't tasted this year's SN beer but given what you state here I can see why you would classify it as a Festbier for your tasting.

    Are any of the other beers like this (i.e., amber in color but tasting more like a Pale Oktoberfest)?

    Cheers!
     
    nc41 and WesMantooth like this.
  33. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    Definitely. After all, they did line up along with preferences as well. (Although Ayinger probably would have been my personal favorite 5-6 years ago) Like I said. The separation from first to last was very minimal. I was actually taken back by how many times I had to eat a pretzel and smell and try one again. I wasn’t planning on drinking as much as I did before calling for a vote. I also was looking for German/European guidelines like Jack found for comparison.
     
    officerbill, AlcahueteJ and zid like this.
  34. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I was just thinking, I didn’t consider the skunkiness much at the time because they were in glasses, but the Spaten screamed Lowenbrau. Hard to deny the green glass. Even though this one was in a walk in cooler. Hard to deny the effects, and equally hard to anticipate the results otherwise. I also realized that I should have noted that all of them were pretty much equal as far as head retention and lacing goes.
     
    AlcahueteJ and invertalon like this.
  35. mngermanshepherd

    mngermanshepherd Disciple (335) Jun 4, 2018 Minnesota

    Thanks for taking one for the team!!

    I, too, have tried Ayinger (the store down the street carries every Oktoberfest ever known to man) and thought I was drinking liquid caramel. Very sweet and it sat and sat while I slowly rotated it out.
     
  36. defunksta

    defunksta Zealot (546) Jan 18, 2019 Illinois
    Trader

    Enjoying the Oktoberfest discussion. I like the idea of classifying them as Festbiers vs Marzens when blind taste testing. Instead, I've been blind tasting them compared to similar styles such as Vienna lagers, Maibocks, American amber, Altbier. I am often humbly poor at identifying them properly, but as another person mentioned, that's what keeps it fun and interesting.
     
  37. cmiller4642

    cmiller4642 Aspirant (294) Aug 17, 2013 West Virginia

    Paulaner is my favorite Oktoberfest for sure

    You should have thrown in Weihenstephaner as well
     
    officerbill and AlcahueteJ like this.
  38. PatrickCT

    PatrickCT Poo-Bah (1,977) Feb 18, 2015 Connecticut
    Trader

    You got the order wrong but you were close.
     
    GrumpyGas and WesMantooth like this.
  39. WesMantooth

    WesMantooth Poo-Bah (2,632) Jan 8, 2014 Ohio
    Trader

    I’m sorry to inform you that your opinion is wrong.
     
    GrumpyGas, SABERG, tzieser and 3 others like this.
  40. PatrickCT

    PatrickCT Poo-Bah (1,977) Feb 18, 2015 Connecticut
    Trader

    I'm not the one who didn't like Paulaner but now does. I always liked that one so I am right.
     
    Premo88, zid and WesMantooth like this.