Monday, October 13, 2003

Oktoberfest in Virginia

October 11, 2003
Shirlington, VA.

I may have missed a few but these were the participating breweries at Capitol City Brewing's 5th annual Octoberfest in Shirlington, VA, this past Saturday: Abita, Allagash, Becks, Brewers Alley, Brooklyn Brewery Capitol City Brewing, Chimay, Clipper City, DeGroen's, District Chophouse, Fordham, Founders, Gordon-Biersch, Legends, Old Dominion, Otter Creek, Raven, Richbrau, Rock Bottom, Sam Adams, South Street Brewing, Spaten, St. Georges Brewing, Summit Station, Troegs, and Weeping Radish.

With the wealth of choices to be had, I needed a plan. So initially, I reconnoitered for any cask ale or kellerbier. I failed, knowing that a hop up I-95 to Racer's in Baltimore for its Real Ale Challenge would have solved that problem.

But this was an Octoberfest celebration after all, so my fungible plan became a mission to sample the fest biers, ignoring, unfortunately, many other fine choices. I didn't get to them all but there were a few that really stood out.

Legends (the Richmond brewery, not Legends, Ltd., the Scottish/English beer importer) was pouring a pleasant fest: good color, medium body, and lingering toasty malt sweetness in the finish. There were a lot of hops in the aroma and flavor. That's not a traditional flavor aspect of marzens but definitely a 'New World' interpretation and one that found its way into several of the beers there.

Sam Adams, was one I didn't want to enjoy, but really did. A fairly dark beer for a maerzen, yet pitching a good malty aroma, palate, and finish. A fantastic brew and my favorite of the day. [UPDATE: Great American Beer Festival winner.]

Interbrew's Oktoberfest, err, Spaten, was also delicious. Everything seemed spot-on: nice amber-orange color, good aroma, hint of toastiness, and good finishing malt sweetness. Very clean: there were a few beers that day with strange astringent finishes. This, by the way, was not the beer poured at the real Oktoberfest in Munich, which is lighter in color, flavor, and body. This is brewed specifically for the export market.

I went back for seconds of Richbrau's Oktoberfest. It showed wonderful toasted malt in the nose, flavor, and finish. Malt lingered in the finish without being cloying.

And then there was Victory's Fest. This has proven hard to find in our area this year, so it was pleasure to taste it at the Festival. The flavor was luscious and high-kilned malty, almost like toasted marshmallow. Superb.

The festival was well organized, and ran smoothly. A German-music playing band and dancers (well, they were doing Austrian dances, the leader said) and German food (well, so the sign said).

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