Clipper City Brewing Company's Balto MarzHon is the nation's best Vienna Lager, as selected by the professional judging panel of the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. Think of a Vienna Lager as the drier version of an Oktoberfestbier.
From the Baltimore Sun, 4 October 2006:[UPDATE: Balto MärzHon selected as best, for second year in a row, at 2007 Great American Beer Festival.]
A crop of suds that go down well
by Rob Kasper
The 15 bottles of American-made Oktoberfest beers were covered in brown bags and known to us only as D1 through D15. The American-made favorite was D-9. When the bag came off the bottle, D-9 turned out to be Clipper City's Balto MarzHon. It had a balance of a juicy malt body, a touch of toffee, and a solid, bitter finish. It was a lager that made you happy that the autumn leaves were turning, even if you might have to rake them. [In September 2006] this beer won a silver medal for Vienna-style lager at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. [No gold medal was awarded in the category.]
Another among my favorite domestically produced Oktoberfests is Victory Brewing Company's Festbier.
Deep amber/copper color, it pours with along-lived, slightly off-white head of foam.The aroma is fresh dough, caramel, and with a touch of fruit (do I imagine watermelon?) and a malt sweetness that I can only describe as toasted marshmallow.
The taste follows through with all this wrapped in the firm crisp structure of a lager. Toss in spicy German hops, and just a finishing hint of dark toast.
I think I may be sounding like Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways.
But like that film's Sandra Oh, Victory's Festbier is simply gorgeous!
[UPDATE: Victory's Festbier wins the gold medal at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival.]
Note that the Balto MärzHon is 5.8% alcohol by volume, while the Victory Festbier is 5.6%. The MärzHon is drier.
In the US, I generally prefer well-made US Oktoberfests to the imports - even the classics from Munich. Over there, the German Fests are fresh and wonderful. But to get here from there takes several weeks of shipping and warehousing, and sometimes even a couple of months. Imports are, thus by definition, not fresh.
I'm often told: the beer in Europe is not what is shipped here. I respond, no, it is the same beer. It's just that it is fresh over there.
Think globally, drink locally. Now, if I could only convince DC bar owners of that!