Upland Oktoberfest Lager

Upland Oktoberfest: Like white shoes after Labor Day

Upland Oktoberfest: Like white shoes after Labor Day

Today I committed a beer-drinking faux pas tantamount to wearing white shoes after Labor Day: I consumed a Marzen in January. You see, Marzen, often known as Oktoberfest, was developed in response to an embarrassing problem facing German brewers during the Middle Ages: skunky beer. The culprit was heat; during much of the year it was too warm for proper fermentation. As a remedy, those brewing sticklers in Bavaria drafted an ordinance limiting beer brewing to the days between Sept. 29 and April 23.

To ensure an adequately-preserved supply through the summer months, alcohol content was increased and beer was stored in mountain caves. This new style, a malty, aged lager, became known as Marzenbier or “March beer.” As some stories go, barrels used to store Marzen needed to be emptied in time for the brewing season; this mass draining of beer barrels in late September set a precedence for the modern Oktoberfest.

According to that 1553 brewing ordinance, today’s beer, an Oktoberfest from Bloomington, Indiana’s Upland Brewing Co., should be in a cave somewhere in the Bavarian Alps, stored safely for future consumption. Thanks to the miracles of modern refrigeration, however, I was able to enjoy this fairly decent example of one of my favorite beer styles.

Call me dull, but I love a good Oktoberfest. With a perfect balance of malt and hops, combined with a clean finish and nice alcohol kick, Oktoberfest strikes me as a quintessential example of good, hearty beer. So deep is my affection for this style that, when I went on a solo hike this fall that started as a 2-hour jaunt and ended as a 6-hour misguided wandering with no food and little water, all I could think about was making it to the nearest beverage purveyor for a generous serving of Oktoberfest.

As for today’s beer, all the Marzen-banter up to this point was really just an attempt to compensate for the fact that Upland’s Oktoberfest is not particularly interesting. While it embodies all of the requisite Marzen characteristics – rich, malty flavor with a slightly hoppy bitterness on the finish that dissipates quickly – it lacks the savory notes that my favorite Oktoberfests possess. To summarize:

Upland Oktoberfest Lager

Style: Marzen/Oktoberfest
Availability: Seasonal
ABV: 6.5%
Hops: Identified only as “rare German” hops
Notes: Classic Marzen – malty, with a hint of hoppy bitterness and a very clean finish.
More Info: http://uplandbeer.com/upland-brewery/upland-beers/brew-detail/oktober/
My Take: Perfectly decent, but I’d choose New Glarus Staghorn or Tyranena Gemuetlichkeit over it any day.

Wondering where I get my info? I’m a librarian, silly, I know everything. In case you doubt, a few sources:
Beer savant Michael Jackson: http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000255.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A4rzen

Woodman Popcorn Lager

Woodman Popcorn Lager Eruption

Mount Brew-suvio

Holy flaming fright. While it would be foolish to expect anything good from a beer “brewed with popcorn and butter,” I could not have predicted how unspeakably dreadful this would be. Concocted by Woodman Brewery, apparently the only business located in miniscule Woodman, WI (and also its post office), this Popcorn Lager was an epic failure. In fact, due to serious concerns about the risk of great bodily harm, I couldn’t even bring myself to ingest it.

When I opened the bottle, it erupted like a 6th grade science project, spewing foam and beer across the counter and onto the floor. Once the fervor subsided, I mopped up the mess and poured the remains into tasting glasses. That’s when I noticed the chunks. While particulate and sediment are to be expected in an unfiltered, bottle conditioned beer, the substantial helping of grayish-brown globs floating in each glass seemed well beyond reasonable.

The brewmate and I speculated that the globs might be popcorn or yeast remnants, but we weren’t able to make a positive identification. In either case, they looked pretty suspicious. Then there was the smell. Reminiscent of PBR gone bad, the noxious sweet and sour aroma emanating from this beer seemed an ominous warning.

Popcorn Lager Floating Chunks

Not fit for human consumption.

I couldn’t decide whether consuming this shady substance was worth the risk, so I turned to the Internets for help. Only three search results seemed to involve living subjects, and they all included the word “horrible.” I can only suppose that any others who sampled this beer are now deceased. In the end, I decided to pitch the Popcorn Lager and hope for better luck tomorrow.

Woodman Popcorn Lager

Style: Lager
Availability: Not specified. Hopefully never again.
ABV: Not specified
Hops: Not specified
Notes: Foul-smelling and riddled with unexplained gray globs
More Info: http://woodmanwi.com/brewerybeer.html
My Take: Unfit for human consumption.