AS AMERICAN BREWERIES continue to go dark and sweet with their Oktoberfests, it’s worth recalling what the inventors of the style actually serve at its namesake festival in Bavaria each fall. And as the state-sanctioned brewery of Bayern, Hofbräu’s Oktoberfestbier is a likely benchmark: lighter in color than American versions, considerably cleaner in grain character with a focus on Munich malts almost exclusively (eschewing the crystal malts some Americans are using), and more lager tang in the finish. Alcohol levels tend to be comparable (between 5-7%), but are almost always less discernible in archetypal than American varieties. Indeed, at first blush these days the Hofbräu Oktoberfest and its peers almost have more in common with a Helles lager while the darkest American versions are tilting towards English browns. Almost.
Hofbräu’s Oktoberfestbier does still have a noticeably chunkier midsection, though; the melanoidins of its Munich malt have a texture evocative of honey while retaining a crisp finish and uncomplicated aroma. It’s neatly accomplished, but perhaps all that tightrope-walking slows its momentum too much, for it altogether comes out a little drab. Sometimes those restless Americans have the right idea.
Served: 33 cl bottle