Beer fans in Ontario were disappointed last year when the LCBOs Autumn Ales came and went last year with no sign in stores of the Samuel Adams Octoberfest (Sam for short). The beer never arrived and rumours abounded as to the cause, with most fingers pointed at the LCBO for a screw-up in giving the Octoberfest the same product number as the Sam Adams Summer Ale. But that is all in the past – the groggy, hazy past cause by drinking too much Péché Mortel. The Octoberfest has finally shown up in Ontario as a surprise listing this year, presumably due to the work of someone who wanted to make up for their boo-boo last year. And don’t worry – this isn’t last years stock that has been sitting around in a warehouse for a year. It is a fresh stock of this seasonal American craft beer, now available throughout the province ($13.55 for 6x355mL).
As their name implies, Oktoberfest beers are meant to be consumed in autumn. They typically pack lots of malty weight and counter the crisp air without being high in alcohol (the Sam Adams checks in at 5.5% ABV). They tend not to be big, powerful beers, but help to transition your palate between the disparate beers of summer and winter, much as fall itself is a transitional season. I often find a rather dense quality to them thanks to all the malt packed in, often making the beers a little filling. Looking for something to eat with your Oktoberfest? It matches perfectly with roasted fall flavours, such as your Thanksgiving turkey (leftovers included), or other caramelized foods. And while it may not be a traditional match, Oktoberfests also work well with spicy foods, so bring on the chili and tacos.
There aren’t a lot of examples of Oktoberfest beers available in Ontario, but the Sam Adams Octoberfest is a good introduction to the style. The beer is a rich amber colour, indicative of the five different malts used to make the beer. A hearty aroma reminiscent of fresh dark rye bread rises from the glass, nicely adding layers of depth. All the malts make for a fairly sweet beer, with a lot of caramel, toffee and some molasses at the forefront. The bready quality noted in the aroma is also quite prevalent. Slow sipping will reveal nutty notes and some raisin. I get a slight hit of booze in the end, which actually works for me as it counters the sweetness from the malts. A very faint bitterness at the finish and some earthy tones, but the hops are otherwise fairly absent. The medium-body of the Octoberfest could be a little chewier, but this is still a good example of the Oktoberfest style that will appeal to wide-ranges of beer drinkers.
Recommended if you like: Leaves changing colour, assorted nuts, dark German rye bread, the New England Patriots, butterscotch ice cream, dirndls.