We are well on our way into November at this point and I never got around to posting this article, so without further ado: Oktoberfest 2015.
Last year we were lucky enough to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. This year being state side we were looking for a nice festbier to pass the time. I feel that American Oktoberfest beers tend to miss the mark. The Germans also had a few years to perfect their lagers before us.
For a baseline we started with two German beers. Both were 5.8% but very different beers. The Weihenstephaner was very pale with a light sweet finish, a beer you could easily drink a few liters of without much problem. This was not exactly the fest beer we remembered from our trip, but it wasn't a bad beer.
The Ayinger I had not had before. While it had a smooth full malt flavor, it seemed a bit buttery.
The Victory festbeer was full bodied and malty, almost coffee like. Great amber but not exactly a German Oktoberfest.
The Yuengling was malty but maybe slightly oxidized and a very thin watery mouthfeel. You could probably pound these like normal Yuengling.
The Widmer Brothers Okto had an assertive bitterness. Great malt backbone but has a solid American hop presence.
The Sierra Nevada was actually a collaboration brew with Brauhaus Riegele. A crisp lager, while a little dry was just a solid beer.
The Peak Organic smelled like pumpernickel and drank like an IPA.
The Goose Island was malty but the flavor falls flat then leaves you with a lingering dark roasted flavor.
I'd call the Sierra Nevada the clear winner of this group. It was definitely the most German of the American brewed beers, which isn't surprising when you have a German brewery in collaboration.
After visiting Oktoberfest in person we came home and developed a recipe of our own. We brewed the first version of it last year and thought it turned out phenomenal and true to the German brewing methods.
This year I brewed it twice in preparation of our own Oktoberfest party. Both had the same measured grains and hops. The first OG was 1.071 while the second OG was 1.078. The second was fermented on the yeast cake of the first and they both finished at 1.015. I think the main difference was how they were milled, I believe I hand cranked the first one while the second was powered with a drill. We seem to be consistently hitting 85+% efficiency which is why our calculations were off from the original recipe. These are also decoction mashed so the efficiency should be a little above the 70% average. (Is that the average? I though that's what most calculators default to)
All that said, we weren't super happy with our Oktoberfest beers. We missed our mark flavor-wise, and they really didn't want to drop clear. I think our yeast was the major defect, aside from milling consistency, and next time I'll spring for a fresh batch of Bavarian Lager yeast. Mistakes were made but I stand by this recipe and will continue to try and perfect it.
Annibeersary 2: Marzen Boogaloo
Wyeast Bavarian lager 2206
1 Hallertau 2.7AA
1 tettnang 2.4AA
.5oz hersbrucker 4.3AA
3 step decoction mash
Dough in 130 for 20min
Pull 12qts thick mash, bring to boil
Add back to main mash to reach 146
Rest 30min at 146, pull 2nd thick mash bring to boil
Add to hit 158 for 60min
Pull thin mash, boil, add to main mash to hit 167+
Add all hops at beginning of boil, boil for 90min.
Target OG: 1.060
Target FG: 1.015
Calculated ABV: 5.8
Use a large starter, Primary for 2 weeks, Diacetyl rest for 3-5 days, cold crash/lager a week before kegging/bottling.