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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blue Hills Brewery- 'OktoBrau"

This time of year I am always conflicted by this dilemma- Octoberfest or Pumpkin Ale?

I love Octoberfest beers. The style is one of my all time favorites. Dramatically under appreciated and too limited in production, in my opinion, a good Oktoberfest beer is supremely drinkable, perfectly balanced between the malt and hops, and perfect for those cold fall evenings.

But lately it seems that the pumpkin brews have stolen all the shelf space from the Octoberfests. Now, I love fruit in my beer (yup, a pumpkin is a fruit, I looked it up!), but do pumpkin ales deserve to steal all the spotlight from the long standing king of fall beer styles?

Recently I set out to answer that question. I went to my local liquor store in the hope of purchasing the latest and greatest pumpkin ales, and was prepared to compare them to the undisputed king of all Octoberfest beers- Wachusett Oktoberfest.

However, my local package store was almost totally out of pumpkin ales. What was left was exclusively faux craft ale or pumpklin ales with exceedingly bad reputations, so I needed a new plan.

How about a battle of the Octoberfest beers? But, scanning the shelves again, this style too was woefully low in stock, and unfortunately, so was my wallet. So I decided to economize and grabbed a 22oz bottle of Blue Hills Brewery's Oktobrau. Blue Hills Brewery has given this blog some great beers in the past, so it wasn't a tough call to make.

So the answer of which style reigns supreme- Pumpkin or Octoberfest- will have to wait for now (write in with your thoughts, I'd love to hear them).

For now, lets take a look at....

Oktobrau
Blue Hills Brewery, Canton, MA
5.8 % abv

This beer pours a nice honey brown color, appears slightly cloudy, with a thin, tan head that immediately collapses and leaves a light lacing on the glass and surface.

Smell is malty, yeasty, and bready. It's a modest aroma that doesn't want to leave the glass.

Mouthfeel is thick and substantial, very bubble on the tongue and pallete.

Taste is surprisingly sour and tangy (from the yeast?). Almost Belgian like, but without the fruity sweetness. I'm really missing the depth of flavor from the malts and conditioning you usually get in a marzen style brew. Finish is tangy and harsh. It overwhelms what should have been the wonderful taste of  the Hallertau hops and Munich and Vienna malts.

Overall, this beer really disappoints. A rare swing and miss from a usually strong brewery. I wouldn't consider this an Octoberfest style beer, and maybe its not even meant to be one. It has none of the drink-ability and smoothness you'd expect from the style. I give this a 1.5 on my 1-5 scale. To be fair, I've had many brews from the guys at Blue Hills, and this is the fist one that I'd call less than great, so that's a pretty good track record. 

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