The nose is malt and caramel, spices, and with possibly a bit of raisins in the back. Not bad at all.
The taste is quite nice, if a little muted. Nice and malty, with notes of toffee, caramel and sweet white wine. A lingering pepper finish, and this is where I detect a slight warming alcohol sensation. The flavours work well, but could have been more pronounced. I've had a few bocks from Germany proper, and they tended to be a bit bolder (and stronger in alcohol), but Creemore certainly isn't too far off the mark here.
Mouthfeel is on the lower carbonation, slightly thinner than I'd like.
A damned fine brew, certainly among the better bocks I've encountered this side of the Atlantic. Bocks are not traditionally consumed around Oktoberfest, but considering the frigid rainy night we had at the Concordia, it certainly hit the spot. Considering the horrendous alternatives, holding aloft a bottle of urBock felt much more appropriate for the Oktoberfest season and made the night a great deal more enjoyable. I'll certainly be back for more of this brew come wintertime. (Grade: B+)
As happy as I was with the availability of Creemore's brews, I was still pining for an actual 'Oktoberfest' brew, something that eluded me at both KW festhalls. So what exactly is an 'Oktoberfest' beer? It's a bit tricky, because if you find yourself in Munich, you can enter into any number of festhalls run by the big Munchen brewers, which sell both Oktoberfest brews and regular fare (Lowenbrau being a good example of the latter), so you aren't necessarily restricted to any one type of beer.
Generally, a beer marked as being 'Oktoberfestbier' tends to be of the style known as "märzen". Traditional märzens are lagers that were brewed during the winter months (März = March), and then stored over the course of the summer. Without preservatives, these brews would expire by the following winter, so they were consumed in great quantities in the autumn and early winter - i.e., the Oktoberfest season. Again, the longer storage means a smoother, slightly higher ABV product that was perfect for festival drinking. Märzens aren't really exciting brews, but they weren't designed to be. Flavorful but not overpowering, stronger in alcohol, but not strong enough to really knock you on your ass, märzens are great beers to drink with purpose. Many German and American breweries (and a few Canadian, although not very many) boast an Oktoberfestbier among their lineup, and with good reason - traditionalists (like yours truly) want to savor the experience of Oktoberfest as closely to the original intent as possible. This means the right kind of beer. Unfortunately, the LCBO only had a few brews that could claim to be called 'Oktoberfest' beers, but I did manage to snag a couple, including this wonderful beast:
"It's pretty big....I guess...."
This gem is Paulaner's Oktoberfest, and I managed to spot it hiding near the front of the LCBO, buried for some reason among their other gift set offerings. I'm really digging the bottle image here: normally, your average heterosexual man likes to picture his Oktoberfest beer being served by an attractive, busty lady in a low-cut dirndl (don't believe me? type in 'Oktoberfest' into google and see what most of the first ten images are - go ahead, I'll wait here...) Here, while the girls here are of more...robust stock, it's a cute reminder of what was more likely the case at old Oktoberfest celebrations - big beers being served by big women, because damned if those steins are heavy. Nicely avoids further sexualization of the beer can label. But what really impressed me with this brew was the size. Perhaps a visual comparison is in order:
The nose is satisfactory, but less than exciting. Bready malts, honey sweetness, mild leafy hops, chestnuts. Not entirely unlike a German pilsner.
The taste is not that of a darker, robust märzen, but again rather like a German pils. Slightly sweet, bready, and with a crisp, hop finish. A touch of lemon to the finish as well. Although I'd very happily drink this over the standard Oktoberfest beer in KW (sadly, Molson Canadian), there's nothing overly interesting about this brew, save for the fact that it's called an "Oktoberfestbier" and comes with a giant glass. Still, these things can't be overlooked - in a party atmosphere, a brew like this goes down outrageously well in vast quantities, which is entirely the point.
Mouthfeel is quite impressive; even near the finish of the giant can there's still a steady carbonation. Lighter bodied, but still above average for the style.
Paulaner's put out a great Oktoberfest quaffer - nothing overly exciting in the taste, but damned exciting to drink in such a cool mug in a festive setting. A beer that sets out to do something, and does it well. (Grade: B+)
Brewery: Staatliches Hofbräuhaus (Munich)
Poured into a nonic - just didn't feel right to pour this small beer into my big stein. Back to the classics. Pale golden, with visible carbonation lasting for quite some time. A 1/2 inch head that survives quite well in the form of a ring and thin layer. Some flecks of lacing - decent retention actually. Again, not the robust brew I was hoping for, but it still looks just fine.
The nose is extremely mild and hard to discern. Cereals, malty sweetness, a touch of hop bitterness. Truth be told, there's not much separating this brew's nose from that of the many Eastern European macro lagers that grace the LCBO's shelves (Tyskie, Lezajsk, Zubr, etc.). Not a great sign.
The taste is surprisingly sweet and fruity, with notes of apple and pear. The sweetness is quite overpowering, but eventually diminishes to a tart, peppery hop finish. A touch of warming alcohol here. Drinkable, nothing offensive or artificial, but the sweetness is almost cloying.
Thin, watery (actually a plus for an Oktoberfest brew), but with tart, aggressive carbonation that nips at the back of the tongue.
I had this last year and wasn't that impressed with it; after a year, my tastes haven't changed much on this brew. For me, it struggles with the basic test of an Oktoberfestbier, namely: "Would I want to drink a LOT of this in one sitting?" A big no for me on that one - the sweetness is simply too much, and there isn't much else to distinguish this brew from other Euro lagers to make it worth my while. I can drink this, and a pint isn't bad, but marking for the style, it's not one I'd pick up again. (Grade: C+)
A pretty good festing season all around - two festhalls, a parade, some new brews and a giant stein to top it all off (I also doubled my hat-pin collection too!). Still searching for more of those elusive authentic Oktoberfest brews - like with many things beer-related, it might necessitate a trip to the states. But when the alternative is Molson or Coors, a little hunting will pay off huge dividends in the end.
Next up for the Den: The Great 2010 Pumpkin Ale Taste-Off!