Summit recently started sending their beer to Missouri and the timing couldn't have been better. Well... that makes it sound like I have a well formed opinion toward Summit's beers and that definitely isn't the case. Before a month ago I'd only ever had one Summit offering, it was their Oktoberfest and I really enjoyed it. When Summit announced they'd be sending a good number of their beers to Missouri I hoped it'd be in time for us to seen Oktoberfest on the shelves around town. The timing worked out perfectly and I was able to get my hands on some of these bottles to see if Summit Oktoberfest tasted as good as I remembered.
2010 is the 200th anniversary of the most well known drinking party in history, Oktoberfest. I won't bore you with all the details, because if you're reading a review of an Oktoberfest beer you should really already know the store of Oktoberfest... Suffice it to say, Oktoberfest is the annual remembrance of a wedding that took place on the Theresienwiese in Munich 200 years ago. People have been returning every year to get drunk and ogle dirndl-clad frauleins ever since. Paulaner, one of Munich's big six breweries, is commemorating the bicentennial with a liter sized can of their Wiesn Bier that comes with the iconic Maßkrug. O'zapft is!
The Kaiser has a lot going for it. Not the least of which is its reference to the turn of the century German monarchy. The label is thoroughly Germanic and even has a picture of Wilhelm II donning his favorite Pickelhaube. This beer speaks to me on levels that I'm uncomfortable discussing in public... and yet, I can't quite come to terms with the actual beer inside the bottle. First impressions mean a lot, even when it comes to drinking a specialty beer. The Kaiser does just about everything right, it's got a killer bottle, mouth watering appearance and aroma... but it ends up being all for naught. Well, that may be a little melodramatic, but you get the idea. There's some deceptively awesome packaging here and I really want to like this beer but the flavor falls short. Actually, it falls too far... as in, it's too strong, too alcoholic and too sugary sweet.
Dundee's Oktoberfest has a lot going for it. Just like books and their covers, you shouldn't judge a beer by it's label but sometimes it's hard not to get attached to a great label. This beer, case in point, has a great label and you can't help but think, "I wanna drink this!" You see, this Dundee's label shows a scarecrow who's being picked apart by a crow while eying the frothy beer mug in his left hand. It's a little kitschy but it's fun and fits into the whole Oktoberfest theme. Speaking of which, this is an Oktoberfest Märzen style beer. Märzens are those copper colored lagers that taste like liquid whole grain bread and make you wanna jump in a pile of dry leaves. Dundee's Oktoberfest is a solid Märzen. This beer is copper in color, creamy in texture and roasted in flavor. What more could you ask for?
I'm not real sure about this beer... Spaten is a brand I don't drink too often and I've never really been able to explain why in a meaningful way. I don't hate Spaten, but I don't love their beers either. Generally speaking, their beers are about 80% of the way there. They taste vaguely German, kinda how unsauced sweet and sour chicken pieces taste vaguely like chicken nuggets. All of the ingredients are there but something's just... off. Spaten's Oktoberfest plays right into all of my preconceived notions of what a Spaten is, or isn't. This beer follows the Oktoberfest archetype pretty well, it looks and smells like a Märzen style beer. It tastes, however, like someone was meaning to make an Oktoberfest but cut as many corners as possible to do it.
Ayinger certainly gets bonus points for packaging on this beer. It has nothing to do with their label really, it's all about the bottle cap. I find this bottle cap... hilarious. It depicts a German family sitting down to beers in a field just outside of Aying. The father has a nice Bavarian mustache, wearing what might be a full leg-length pair of lederhosen. Mutti is seated to his left with a beer of her own. Seated on stage right is the young hell raiser of the family, wearing a grey wool suit.... with a beer of his own, of course. The table cloth is a Bavarian blue and white checked pattern, just in case you had any guestion about where this family of three was sitting down to enjoy their liter and a half of beer... It doesn't get much more stereotypically German than this.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest, despite its spelling, is probably my favorite domestic Märzen style beer. Admittedly, I haven't had a huge number of American Oktoberfest beers, but those that I have had just don't taste as well rounded as the Sam Adams. The Octoberfest has a great set of flavors that are rich but not overpowering at all. This is a beer you could certainly drink more than a few of without stripping your taste buds. This beer has a warm toasted malt sweet and salty harmony that finishes with just a bit of hops on the end. This is a nice, well rounded Märzen style lager that most people will enjoy. If you're new to fall seasonal beers, Sam Adams is the perfect jumping on point.