The real Oktoberfest started on Saturday in Bavaria.
In Germany, Oktoberfest is typically enjoyed with a frothy stein of its namesake beer -- what’s known as the festbier/marzen style. But in America, we’re not so picky. Nor do we have to be. As seen in last year’s roundup of local Oktoberfests, the style can feature great variety of flavors and colors from sickly saccharine and caramel-colored to crisp and dry and straw clear.
But it’s far from the only fall beer that springs into life as the sweaters unpack. Fall is also fresh hop season. Vegetable beer season. Brown ale season. Autumn is such a capricious month, it calls for a capricious palate.
You won’t find a marzen in this month’s roundup of local beers, but that’s not to say it’s not the time to crack a good ‘Fest after raking a pile of leaves. Just consider diversifying your definition of seasonal brew offerings to include some of these.
Kentucky common ale, 4.8% ABV, 25 IBU
The Kentucky common is sort of a “lost style” that originated in Louisville and went out of fashion with Prohibition. But since Bauhaus Brew Labs entered into a relationship with Revival at US Bank Stadium, it only made sense for the Schwandt family to, erm, revive something to pair with Minnesota’s best fried chicken.
The Slawhammer is a roasty but easy-drinkin’ beer that comes in a smooth retro tallboy. Taste-wise, it falls somewhere between an English brown ale and a traditional cream ale, but it still finishes with that signature Bauhaus pale crispness. The beer’s been available in the taproom since August 10, but since the Vikings just christened US Bank with their first home game on Sunday, September really feels like the debut of this Southern-style bleacher beer.
Fair State Frontenac
Sour pale ale, 5.3% ABV, 21 IBU
Okay, so Fair State Co-Op has something of a specialty with mixed culture fermentation. Their sour beers have been the cornerstone of their reputation so far, but they’ve never made a beer quite as intense at Frontenac.
A spiritual sibling to Horatio!, the sour wheat ale Fair State and Fulton used to win the 2015 edition of In Cahoots!, Frontenac is a sour bomb through and through. Aged in frontenac and marquette red wine barrels from Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery and made with malt from Malterie Frontenac in Quebec, the sour pale ale didn’t take much creativity to name. With plenty of red wine notes and barnyard tart, Frontenac goes down smooth and funky until a serious bite comes through on the back end.
Frontenac will debut in Fair State’s taproom on Thursday, though it was tapped over the weekend at the Autumn Beer Review, where it was awarded Best Beer. It will also be shelved in 750 ml bottles starting the same day. Since this is a collaboration, Fulton will also tap some Frontenac of their own, though it should have a slightly different flavor, as the beers were fermented separately.
Eastlake Fresh Hop Blueliner
American pale ale, 5.5% ABV, 32 IBU
Not only is it marzen season, it’s also fresh hop season, and Midtown Global Market’s Eastlake Brewery has wasted no time working fresh and fragrant hops into its Blueliner APA. Infused with gads of unprocessed hops that came courtesy of Badger Hill, the Blueliner can be smelled from five feet away. The taste is as juicy as the scent telegraphs, and the clear brass body goes down in easy gulps.
Blueliner isn’t the only flagship at Eastlake getting the fresh hop treatment, though. In the next two weeks, Kirby Pucker #11 will come on tap -- a sour beer that’s fresh hopped with bines from a neighbor’s yard.
56 Brewing Zeusus Rubus
Wheat ale, 5.5% ABV, 30 IBU
There’s a big ol’ German shepherd who roams the parking lot over at Northeast’s 56 Brewing. He goes by the name of Zeus, and now, he has a beer named after him. Zeusus Rubus, which just tapped on Friday over at 56, is a raspberry wheat ale that takes the other half of its moniker from the Latin name for raspberry, Rubus idaeus.
Raspberry wheat ales are almost a throwback at this point. Given how prominent they were in the early 2000s, the style has gone mostly dormant since the second Great Craft Beer Explosion. This fact gives Zeusus a familiar taste, but there’s also something adventurous and new about it. With a hazy, almost sticky body and bold fruit notes, it’s a wonder this style ever fell by the wayside.
56 is also in on the fresh hop game, and their fresh-hopped Session 56 should be at the brewery soon. Also look out for their Oktoberfest, an annual favorite from the soon-to-relocate upstart brewery.
Imperial spiced ale, 12% ABV, 40 IBU
In autumn, Big Lake’s Lupulin Brewing celebrates with an herbed ale called Pumpplefest. This year, they’re turning that humble harbinger of fall into a dastardly imperial ale that tingles with spice and ripples with boozy goodness. Rumpplefest, as it’s been dubbed, spent eight months aging in rum barrels to give it that woody, almost raisin-y flavor that a good barrel-aged imperial takes on after some cellaring.
Rumpplefest is available on tap, but there will also be a very limited 750 ml bottle run that begins on October 11. But Rumpplefest isn’t the only big-ABV beer in the works up in Big Lake. Lupulin also has a triple IPA named Strictly Illegal that clocks in at 11%, but you’ll have to travel to the taproom to get it.
Brewers interested being featured in Local Suds should email [email protected]