Oktoberfest, the famous German holiday, does not, of course, take place in October. Originally, the holiday was a celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in mid-October, but since German reunification, the holiday has begun in September, and ended in October. Good enough.
The four tradition Munich breweries are the only beers sold at Oktoberfest–Paulaner, Augustiner, Hacker-Schorr, and Spaten-Franziskaner. In the tents, a blonde wheat-beer is served to patrons. In America, however, beer drinkers looking for a little taste of the fine Bavarian autumn grab a case of Marzen–the Oktoberfest style–and pour the beer into a glass only to discover their beer is a dark amber color. Why the difference?
Well, once upon a time, when German breweries started shipping their Oktoberfest to the US, they were forced to change the recipe a bit. Refrigerated compartments didn’t really exist, and this delicate brew couldn’t stand the long voyage and the dramatic temperature shifts that can occur in the galleys of a ship. This Special Export Marzen, however, became popular wherever it sailed, and as the American craft brew movement started growing in the 1980s and 1990s, breweries inspired by German craftsmen, and attempted to create their own.
Stoudt’s isn’t, necessarily, a German inspired brewery, which is odd, because the brewery resides in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, which possesses an overwhelmingly German population. The brewery, I think, is distinctly American, though it’s influences range from Germany, to Belgium, to England and Scotland, and all the way across the country to the West Coast hop bombers. They’ve made their impression on styles of beer all over the world, and with fantastic success.
That said, I’m not overwhelmed by their Oktoberfest. The beer pours an excellent dark amber color, with a pillowing white head of foam, and smells of sweetness and citrus hops. The latter flavor was unexpected, certainly. The beer feels a bit thin in the mouth, and the citrus tang that follows every sip isn’t for me.
It’s not a bad beer, by any means, but I’m not a fan of it, and I much preferred both of the Marzens I had from Victory (their Festbier and their Wiesen) this fall.