Beer Review: Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Great Lakes Brewing CompanyBack in the day, I thought I didn’t like lagers. It probably happens to a lot of American beer geeks early on – after all, the macro lagers that dominate the brewing industry in this country are what gave North American brewing its poor reputation – one that is still clearly held by many people who should know better, if the comments on this recent Gizmodo post on canned (craft) beer are anything to judge by. Even after a few years of solid beer geekdom, I was still in the ‘ales are vastly superior to lagers’ camp, largely due to my own ignorance of the range of lagers out there – I was finally introduced to a number of great lagers and discovered that I found many of them quite tasty indeed.

After all, while they share some origins and brewing techniques, there’s a world of difference between a Bud Light and a good Munich Helles, like Stoudt’s Gold Lager, or Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, which I believe outranks DAB Export as the prime example of the Dortmunder Export style. By the same token, the notion that a Doppelbock like Tröegs Troegenator and Coors shared anything beyond a vague sense of Things German would have confused me – after all, one is like drinking pond water (although, one hopes, without the giardia), and the other is practically a (good) meal – yet they are both lagers.

Perhaps my favorite sub-category within Lagerland is the Oktoberfest/märzen – the style should have plenty of malty goodness, but without being terribly sweet or overly heavy. But it’s always fun to break the rules a bit (and, despite the links above, I’m no stickler for BJCP guidelines except when judging something that’s clearly miscategorized; creativity is almost always more fun) – and Great Lakes does that with theirs, while still maintaining the spirit of the style. While not universally the case, American Oktoberfests tend to be a little stronger than their German cousins, so its 6.5% ABV is pretty normal in that regard. The Cleveland-based brewery always does a bang-up job with German styles (note their abovementioned Dortmunder Gold), as you might expect given its German-American heritage – no doubt you are aware that the goal of many Prohibitionists was to curtail the growing political power of German-Americans, who were at that time the designated group of ‘scary’ immigrants – and, in large part, it worked. But I digress – back to the beer.

While Oktoberfests often have a spicy hop aroma, this is one of the few I’ve tried that also had a lot of floral hop flavor. It may have just been that it was a very fresh pint indeed (poured from a sixtel straight from the brewery), but I liked this surprise element a lot, even if it’s not officially ‘sanctioned’ in the style. It still had the usual bready, biscuity aroma and taste, and it certainly made me wish it were fall. I hope to enjoy another glass of this beer with crisper weather on tap.

Final fun fact about Great Lakes – they also make lip balm!

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