Double Feature: Shoktoberfest!

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October is probably my favorite month of the year.  When else can you watch a shitload of crappy horror movies, stuff your face with candy, and decorate your house with (fake) corpses and mutilated pumpkins?  And then you've got your seasonal beers, usually falling into two broad categories: pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers.  I have to admit that I'm not exactly an expert on either style, but both seem to be rather distinctive and there's only one way to learn, right?  So last night, during a double feature of cheesy slasher films, I broke out a couple Oktoberfest beers and gave 'em a whirl.

Victory Fesbier - The Victory brewery is right down the road from me and I've enjoyed most everything I've tried from them, so I figured this would be a good place to start. Pours a nice amber color, not much head at all. It's got a good, malty smell, and even though I'm not a big Oktoberfest guy, the nose does seem to represent the distinctive properties of the style.   The taste starts malty sweet and ends with a little bit of a dry, nutty character (again, seems pretty distinctive of the style). It's an eminently drinkable beer, though I don't think it's as well balanced as I'd like. Something about the mixture just seems a bit off, so it doesn't really knock my socks off, but it's still quite good. I'll give it a B-.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.6% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

After finishing, I cleansed my palate with a slice of pepperoni pizza and popped open the next:

Flying Fish Oktoberfish - I guess NJ is semi-local as well, and this particular beer seems to have a pretty good reputation. Pours a darker amber color than Festbier, but even less in the way of head. Smell is similar, but not as strong. Taste is a little more balanced, though a little less Oktoberfesty. Again sweet and malty to start, but the finish is a little less dry and more caramelly than nutty. Again, very drinkable, but not a beer that has me pining for more either. A slight overall improvement over Festbier, I'd give it a B.

Beer Nerd Details: 5.5% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

Neither beer particularly impressed me, but I get the impression that Oktoberfest style beers aren't really like that. They seem more geared towards a session than a single tasting, which I suppose is the point of an Oktoberfest. Don't want to overwhelm you or anything, least it will ruin the party.

Update 10/16/10 - During a trip to an abandoned asylum, we stopped at some weird French bistro where the sign out front had a font usually reserved for Chinese restaurants. I wasn't expecting much, but then they handed me the beer menu. The fact that their selection necessitated a separate menu in itself was promising, and the selection was surprisingly good. If I hadn't just had some last week, I'd have ordered a Russian River Damnation (exceptional beer, though the $12 price tag for a 375 ml mini-magnum bottle is probably a bit much), but instead I sampled two seasonal beers:

Ayinger Oktober Fest Märzen - Now this is an Oktoberfest I can get behind. Smell was not powerful, but still distinctly Oktoberfest. No balance problems here. Starts off sweet, ends a bit dry, making you want to drink more. I could have drank 10 of these (it was a relatively small glass, but I'd finished it off before the meal arrived). It's not an overpowering, blow-you-away type of beer, but again, that's the way this style goes. I'd never actually heard of it when I ordered it, but apparently it has quite the reputation and has only recently made its way to the states (from Germany). If you can find it and you like the style, give it a shot. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.8% ABV draft. Drank from a snifter glass (that was entirely too small!)

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale - I've had a few Pumpkin ales recently, and they seem to fall into two camps: sweet, overpowering pumpkin taste (Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is a good example of that) and spicy, with little or no pumpkin taste. Semi-local Weyerbacher's take on the style leans more heavily on the spicy side, though there are hints on the pumpkin taste as well. A pretty good blend and a big taste. Overall a solid entry in the style. B

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

The haunted asylum as actually pretty awesome. The entire area is pretty creepy - there are dozens of abandoned buildings in the sparsely populated area, and the architecture was... weird. Lots of strange underground tunnels and arches and whatnot. The actual haunted house portion of it was pretty typical, but at one point you end up in the basement, and the creepy atmosphere there is less about the cheesy lighting than it just being a creepy place.

Introduction

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Greetings.  My name is Mark, and I like beer.  I've always liked beer, but only recently have I begun to really plumb the depths of the beer world.  Sure, I had some craft brews here and there over the years, but living in PA means I have to deal with PLCB, which means the only places I can really experiment at are bars, and most bars around here have crappy selection (especially out here in the suburbs - it would be nice to live near a Monk's or a Eulogy, but I have to make do with what I've got).  Otherwise, experimentation means buying a ridiculously expensive case of beer that I'm not even sure I'll like.

In any case, I've recently become acquainted with the joys of violating the US Constitution (Amendment XXI, Section 2) by purchasing beer across state lines and bringing it back to PA (thank you, Delaware, for having awesome liquor stores with great beer selections).  I started my little interstate crimewave earlier this year and have burned through a pretty large selection of beers. I've even discovered a place relatively close in PA that has a great beer selection, but I kinda like being a scofflaw in this respect.

Of course, I'm having trouble keeping track of what I'm drinking and how well I like it. I've kinda been spamming my forum with posts on the subject, just in an attempt to keep up, but I don't want to bore my friends with it if they're not too interested. I've been blogging for over 10 years at this point, but it's always been something of a generalist endeavor, so I figured I could give a niche blog a chance. I'm not that familiar with the rest of the beer blogs, but I'm starting to read around and I figure a niche blog will have a better chance fitting in than if I rolled the occasional beer post out on my other blog.

At this point, I should inform you that I'm pretty unsophisticated about my beer consumption. I like to think that I have pretty good taste, but my palate is nowhere near as attuned as some others seem to be. I read the reviews on Beer Advocate and wonder where on earth these people are getting these smells/tastes from. Speaking of which, I hope this blog never gets that dry and boring. BA is a wonderful resource, but it also kinda sucks (a topic for another post) and a lot of the stuff there seems to take the joy out of drinking beer. It's like they think I should drink a beer whilst sitting in a dark isolation chamber, cleansing my palate after every sip, and writing pages of notes in some sort of formal code.

So look, I'm going to drink beer in less than ideal conditions. Sometimes I'm going to be out at a bar and in no condition (read: drunk) to accurately convey my thoughts. Sometimes I'll smoke a cigar whilst imbibing. Most of the time I'm going to be drinking while consuming salty snacks and watching bad horror movies. I'm almost always going to compare a beer to others of a similar style. I don't know why, but I almost never see that in reviews anywhere - comparative reviews should be more common. Context matters, but that's a problem easily solved through acknowledgement (and it's another big reason why the reviews at BA kinda suck).

All of which is to say that I'm most likely going to make an ass of myself on this blog, but that's kinda why I blog in the first place. I blog to learn, and a big part of that will be making mistakes. I'm not pretending to be an expert here, I just want to gain a better understanding of the subject by describing what I'm drinking and how it's making me feel. Writing has always been a good way to accomplish this sort of thing, so here we are. At some point, I'll probably be trying my hand at homebrewing, which I'll most likely be documenting here as well.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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