Seasonal beers offer a nice change of pace from our usual brands and the fact that they are released on an infrequent basis adds to their anticipation and appeal. Since Fall is upon us, the seasonal beer for the moment is marzen style Octoberfest and one good tasting example is Harpoon Octoberfest, a seasonal beer from the popular Boston craft brewer.
Style: Marzen (Octoberfest) ale
Alcohol Content: 5.5 percent by volume
Harpoon Octoberfest is a ruby/copper colored beer with a nose that is enticing, combining scents of sweet malt, nuts, plums, and cherries. A good pour produces a good deal of foam that eventually settles down to a thin layer. The body of the beer is completely clear and this combination of qualities makes for some self- evident appeal to the visual and nasal senses.
Moving to the taste, Harpoon Octoberfest offers a good deal of complexity with flavors like bread, nuts, a small amount of chocolate, earthy notes, toasted malt, caramel, and fruit vying for attention. The beer is medium in body, a tad salty, and offers a mild bitterness. Harpoon brews it using Munich, pale, and chocolate malts along with willamette hops.
Harpoon Octoberfest has been around since 1990, but I havent tried it and, consequently, haven’t bothered putting my feelings to paper until this year. I see this product every year on the store shelves, but I haven’t reached for it until this year. Part of my reluctance is that I am not a huge fan of the Marzen/Octoberfest style. I have tasted many versions that simply missed the mark, but at the same time, I agree that there are some notable Octoberfest beers and so I decided to try Harpoon Oktoberfest and hope for the best.
Now that I have sampled a few bottles of Harpoon Octoberfest, I can say that this is a good tasting beer and one worth trying if you haven’t already. I found that I liked this beer a little more with each passing sip and I found it interesting in its complexity. I like the different combination of nutty, toasted malt, and caramel notes and I can agree that this is the type of Octoberfest that most will find acceptable at worst and very good at best.
Harpoon Octoberfest has its plusses, but it isn’t without a few faults and chief among them is the glaring fact that this beer is brewed as an ale and thus it isn’t a true representative of its style- a style that is traditionally brewed using lager yeast. Second, it is a little fruitier in taste than I prefer for this style. Among the Octoberfests I like, the reason I like them is usually due to their bready- like aroma and taste. This beer doesn’t have that nice, liquid bread character and isn’t really the best example of its style.
On the other hand, if you can get past the word “Octoberfest” on the label and rate this as a generic beer, you will find that this is a good malt beverage product. I was a little offended at first that Harpoon decided to call this a marzen brew even though it is brewed as ale, but once I got past my purity standards, I found myself liking this product for what it is. It could be better if the recipe was tweaked just a tad, reducing the fruity component and increasing the taste of bready malts. But Harpoon Octoberfest is still a good tasting beer and a nice change of pace during the cooler time of the year.
Rating: 7 cheers out of 10