Brew Review

Brewed For Battle: Oktoberfest

At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: Oktoberfest

Oktoberfests are also commonly known as Märzens, and there's good reason for it: Before the advent of the refrigerator, it was damn-near impossible to brew beer in the summer. Yeast aren't big fans of heat, and the sweltering temperatures during summer months increased the risk of bacterial infections and often ruined beer during the important fermentation period. So, most were brewed in March (hence the name Märzen), were stored in cold caves or cellars during the warm summer months and popped open once fall rolled around. This style also happens to be the only served at Germany's Oktoberfest, the world's biggest celebration of beer. Most Oktoberfests are colored a deep auburn, with a light hoppiness and flavors that start caramel-sweet and end dry and nutty.

Zach's Pick: Victory Festbier

I'm usually a fan of big beers -- the higher the alcohol context and more extreme the flavor, the better. But I make an exception for Oktoberfests, and Victory's 5.6 percent ABV Festbier is one of the best I've come across. Combining 100 percent German malts and whole flower European hops, Festbier's a true-to-style lager, and has a gold medal from the 2007 Great American Beer Festival to prove it. With flavors of yeasty sourdough bread, wheat, peanuts and caramel along with a light, massaging carbonation and a dry finish that keeps you thirsting for the next sip, it's all the taste of Munich without the airfare.

Jonathan's Pick: Avery Brewing Co.'s The Kaiser

If Zach's a fan of big beers, I'm a fan of beers that slap you in the face if you look at them wrong. I expect a high alcohol content and I want to notice it. The Kaiser does not disappoint at more than 10 percent ABV. This imperial oktoberfest drinks more like a meal than a lager with a malty sweetness and absolutely no mask on the alcohol flavor. You might call it a sipping beer.

The Layman's Choice: Victory Festbier

This week's layman is actually no layman at all, but Phoenix New Times Food Critic Michele Laudig. What made her choose the Festbier?

"It's not really a fair comparison. The Kaiser is a hardcore beer -- a brew designed for sipping that begs to be paired with rich foods. Festbier is balanced and has a classic, clean flavor that's a lot more palatable. I could have a couple bottles of it over the course of a night. I love crazy-ass beers, and I like The Kaiser for that reason. But what would I want to stock my fridge with? Victory Festbier."

Next week: Tune back in for a battle of wits.

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle