Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Cleveland, OH

Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 6.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
Better late than never …

Picture September 15, 2008. The sun was shining, the temps were pleasant, and the air was teeming with the wonderful vibes of Indian summer (this would be creative license on Nigel’s part … I have NO idea what the weather was like on September 15th). The baseball pennant races were in their final weeks, as the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers were mired in epic late-season collapses and the eventual world champion Philadelphia Phillies were making their move. The football season was still young, and Nigel’s favorite team was a week away from being 2-1 (they’re now 2-7). The presidential race was gearing up for the grueling final weeks, and people across America were wondering what to make of this Sarah Palin chick (turns out she was quite the MILF, but not terribly capable of anything other than providing comic relief via hilarious “Fargo”-like phrases and complete ignorance of any and all issues). Most importantly, Nigel was gearing up for his first Märzen review of the season, excitedly scooping up Great Lakes Oktoberfest on a trip to the local craft beer retailer.

Fast forward to mid-November. The weather is frigid, the baseball season over, basketball season is underway, Sarah Palin is back in Alaska hunting caribou, and Nigel is FINALLY getting to his Oktoberfest. A number of reviews have come and gone in the past few months, yet somehow this seasonal offering from Great Lakes was overlooked, waiting patiently, collecting many a dust bunny and dead beetle in the process. Always one to keep his word, Nigel will give Great Lakes the review he promised ever so long ago; once again, better late than never.

Considering I’ve already made my annual Oktoberfest/Marzen comments in my review for Central Waters Octoberfest and I’ve reviewed a couple of Great Lakes offerings in the past and commented on them after placing them ninth in my Midwest Brewery Power Rankings (they finished fifth overall), I’m going to get right to it. After all, time is money and God knows we could all use a little extra cash given the current state of the economy.

Oktoberfest pours a beautiful coppery tinge, with a creamy white head of about an inch slowly dissipating, leaving a lingering lace throughout the session. A touch more carbonation than one would expect from a Märzen, it’s nonetheless an impressive looking beer with its shiny amber hue and constant bubbly dance in my official Great Lakes Brewing pint glass. The aroma is everything you’d expect from an Oktoberfest brew: pleasing but not potent, with nice hints of caramel malt, roasted nuttiness, and a bready finish. Based on appearance and aroma, this may be a winner.

The flavor is excellent; Great Lakes Oktoberfest is one of the better Märzen I’ve had to date, and a rare four-mugger in a category that almost always rates in the threes. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s a bit stronger than many of its brethren, both in ABV (6.5 percent) and flavor. Nice malty notes of sweet caramel, brown sugar, and a touch of molasses join a mild roasted profile, giving Oktoberfest that perfect autumn flavor. While there’s nothing unusual about the flavors in Great Lakes version, they seem to stand out a bit more than normal. Also noticeable is an ever-present bready feel; part of that is likely due to the fact that the body is thicker than other Oktoberfests, but part of it is because Great Lakes version seems a tad yeastier than others, though I could be reading a bit too much into it. Whatever the reason, Great Lakes has done a fantastic job of capturing all the complexities that make Märzens unique and boosting the flavor a notch or two. Medium bodied and relatively smooth despite being a touch over-carbonated, Great Lakes Oktoberfest is sure to appeal to any lover of good Märzens and to lovers of malty goodness everywhere.

Now I feel guilty … such a fine Oktoberfest brew, and I waited until November to sample it. Should you see the remnants of Great Lakes Oktoberfest lingering on store shelves this late in the season, be sure to pick one up. Even if the style typically makes you yawn, this one is sure to please. Reasonably priced like most offerings from this Cleveland brewer, Oktoberfest is a tasty brew and a late season surprise for Nigel.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on November 19, 2008.
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