This week’s beer is the Left Hand Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest Märzen Lager. Somewhat uncharacteristic in its darker color (21 SRM) and higher alcohol content (6.6%), this modern take on a traditional German beer packs a pretty good punch while showcasing the style’s characteristically clean, malty sweetness.
Although Märzen beers came into existence sometime during the 1500s, the style was altered in the mid-19th century through the use of lighter malt, giving rise to what would eventually be called Vienna lager. A few decades later, the style was reformulated again in Munich using what is now known as Munich malt, resulting in Oktoberfest beer as it is known today.
Nowadays, Oktoberfest beer is frequently made using Vienna malt with some Munich and Pils. German noble hops are preferred. The flavor should be malty sweet, sometimes with a toasty aspect, with a moderately dry finish. The hop bitterness should be moderate with little to no hop flavor.
Left Hand’s Oktoberfest is made using Munich and Pilsner malt and CTZ and Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. CTZ (Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus) is a widely used all-purpose variety that is complex (citrusy, herbal, woody, and spicy) and high in alpha acid, providing lots of bitterness. Hallertau Mittelfrüh belongs to the category of German noble hops, and is described as having a mild and pleasant aroma of flower and spice.
Pouring myself a glass, it appears mostly clear with a deep copper body and an off-white head. The aroma is biscuity, toasty, and sweet with a touch of toffee and eventually a flowery and citrusy undertone. There’s plenty of smooth, sweet malt in the flavor, accompanied by spicy, woody, and somewhat citrusy hops. It’s moderately bitter with a mild but noticeable alcohol presence. It’s medium bodied with restrained carbonation and a good amount of crispness.
The aroma and flavor are both pleasant enough, though I can’t help but think the woody bitterness and alcohol interfere with the otherwise smooth, clean malt. This is of course merely a matter of taste; others may find that these aspects provide a strong accent to the fairly uniform malt background. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable brew on the whole.
Taking its name from tribal leader Chief Niwot, whose name means “left hand” in the Arapahoe language, the Left Hand Brewing Company was founded in 1993 and is located in Longmont, Colorado. The brewery has won numerous awards over the course of the last two decades.
Today’s beer was purchased online from Sake Taniguchi through Rakuten Ichiba.