JUDGING BY RATINGS from years past, Goose Island’s Oktoberfest Märzen has come a long way. Panned then by many as merely ‘drinkable’, the beer disappeared from bottles for seven years before returning in 2013 with new packaging and a refreshing spunk that belies those meager ‘meh’s of yore. At 6.4% ABV and tanned-leather dark, this is a true Märzen–not a milquetoast pale imitation fit only for guzzling, though its balanced charms may tempt one to do so.
Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter describes the ‘skeleton’ of the recipe as coming from an old German brewing cohort and taps Weihenstephan lager yeast as the magic dust of choice. The results are commendable: complex and malty for a lager with a decidedly medium body brimming with a nutty and slightly toasted caramel sweetness, but still finishing with elegant crispness and mineralic twang. There’s a whiff of cherry stashes somewhere towards the back of the aroma in lieu of hops, almost like a Scotch ale or doppelbock, though carbonation is high enough to maintain an appropriate lightness on the palate.
Admittedly, Goose Island is now complicit in the indefatigable Holiday Creep, but lounging in the breeze across from Wrigley Field, late in this mild summer, Oktoberfest was welcomed with open arms.
Served: 12 oz bottled July 25, 2013