As Matt posted last week in his Friday Links (which spawned a brief discussion in the comments section), it did seem as though the Oktoberfest beers were out on shelves and on-tap in our favorite bars earlier than ever this year. Maybe it was just the late summer heat clouding our memories and confusing our internal calendars. Either way, Oktoberfests are here to stay for the next couple of months as a favorite fall seasonal in the German heritage-heavy Upper Midwest. Wisconsin brewers do a predictably good job with the style in general with New Glarus' Staghorn (currently The Old Fashioned's $2.50/pint beer of the month for September), Capital's Oktoberfest, Tyranena's Gemuetlichkeit(Gesundheit?!), and Central Waters' Octoberfest some of my favorite local examples year in and year out.
A new (re-)entry into the Madison market this year, Green Bay Brewing Company's Hinterland brand has made impressive in-roads with its novel packaging (German-style 16-ounce pints in 4-packs) and tap-lines, creating an admirable line-up including its much-beloved Luna Stout as well as Pale Ale, Amber, Cherry Wheat and Maple Bock. Oktoberfest debuts as their fall seasonal, a fitting tribute to its German roots. As the days get noticeably shorter, the air catches a chill and weekend mornings and afternoons become dominated by football, the rich maltiness and smooth drinkability of Oktoberfestbier can hardly be beat.
Hinterland OktoberfestStyle: Oktoberfest/Märzen
Vitals: n/a; Hinterland's beers are woefully underdocumented on the innerwebs.
Company line: "Lightly filtered, deep golden brown, very malty and lightly hopped. Velvet smooth mouthfeel with rich grainy flavor -hinterlandbeer.com"
My take: pours a light golden amber under a loose, foamy head that quickly fizzles to a spotty film. Aroma is rich with caramel and bready malts, lightly nutty, with a dash of herbal hops and a faint metallic whiff. Palate is malt-heavy, per the style with layers of caramel, biscuit, and grain husk on the mid-palate offset by an apt touch of slightly grassy hops that carry through on the finish. Starts off full-bodied and finishes light and crisp, encouraging sessionability.
Another fine example of the venerable style to add to a solid Wisconsin roster. Hinterland is quickly becoming a welcome addition to the local beer scene with a growing line-up of well-made beers that do the Fox Valley and Wisconsin as a whole proud. Whether you can boast German heritage or not (REINke in the house, y'all!), the beers of Oktoberfest make the impending deep freeze all the more bearable and are one more reason why autumn, however brief an appearance it makes 'round these parts, is my favorite season in Wisconsin.