HERE IS A SMALL CONUNDRUM. Given how American breweries have seized up the Oktoberfest for their own machinations–sometimes retaining German script, flags, and quaint beer paraphernalia for their logos more than actual Märzen style guidelines for their brew–it may be unfair to judge Left Hand’s Oktoberfest too strictly in accordance with precedent. But the point does come when a beer’s name holds it back instead of propping it up, and perhaps we have here such a case.
By all appearances Left Hand’s take on the style is decidedly American: dark coppery hues around 20 SRM, a creamy clump of head, and attractive clarity with some apparent effervescence. The nose is rather clean as well, with clean German malts leading the way and noble hops very much in the background (if present at all). Things begin to go apart a little bit on the palate, though, with a slightly depressed level of carbonation, bready malts bunched up towards the middle, then a precipitous drop towards astringency and almost graininess, and a strange array of tangents in the aftertaste that just don’t seem to match up: some unexpected fruity esters, a little solvent or minty phenol action, and notable yeast texture in the finish along with a bit of fusel heat (6.6% ABV). The body is medium overall, but seems thicker towards the finish where the carbonation peters out.
It’s difficult to say just what this beer from Left Hand should be called if not Oktoberfest, and its diverse layers of flavors are generally pleasing. But they don’t cohabitate well in a lager framework not designed to bear them all at once, and the results are too imbalanced to enjoy unreservedly.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 12/13/13