We had never before had a Friday night game in Charlottesville, and never before had we planned such an ambitious lineup for a Tailgate Throwdown. In the midst of Oktoberfest, we once again could not deny ourselves a sampling of one of the most robust (and popular) seasonal types. Granted, there are some variations which keep your Märzens apart from your Vienna Lagers, but verdammt if they aren’t both delicious. Hamilton did challenge me to find Märzens, so we scouted around for bottles and potential growler fills alike with a keen focus on in-state brews. While it’s not part of the Throwdown, we also snagged an eclectic set of bombers (and some other growlers) for bottle share purposes. The end result: as the rain drizzled down from above, the suds flowed with abandon. It was a hard tailgate to leave, and once the game started, we wished we’d never left…
Tailgate Throwdown: Boise St. vs. UVa, September 25, 2015
Featured Style: Oktoberfest Beers
Featured Beers: Brooklyn, Goose Island, Victory, Blue Mountain, Port City, Fair Winds, Mad Fox, Three Notch’d
# of Tasters: 14
Once again, our friend Ramona (aka @SportsGalPal) surprised us with a LiveCast via Periscope, which captured some of the chaos as well as the weird quasi-twang I take on after a few brews and when nervously speaking to a crowd/forced into karaoke. 14 tasters was as ambitious as it was silly, especially after seven hours of tailgating, but some constant themes did emerge: the craft beer aficionados wanted malts and complexity, and the casual drinkers preferred smooth, subtle flavors. And with Hamilton’s challenge, most of the beers selected are Märzens with two notable exceptions. So who would win out across such a diverse lineup? The casual drinkers (who might opt for Vienna Lagers), or the self-labeled beer snobs (Märzens)?
Beer #1: Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Tasting Notes: “a hint of nuts” “malty” “finish isn’t bold enough” “almost like a nut brown”
Overall: With a rowdy crowd, the Brooklyn had its work cut out for it. There were several comparison to our William & Mary Throwdown, though it wasn’t really our intent to find nutty Märzens. This was a good exemplar of the caramel malts you’ll find in a Märzen.
Beer #2: Goose Island Oktoberfest
Tasting Notes: “more robust” “flavorful” “floral”
Overall: As is Goose Island’s style, this beer is quite bold. The craft beer lovers in this group were all over it, too. I was a bit more skeptical, but whereas last year I recorded my scores separately this year I’ve mixed it in. I was, simply, overruled on this one.
Beer #3: Victory Festbier
Tasting Notes: “caramel” “too malty” “nutty” “creamy”
Overall: One of the most divisive beers on the afternoon, the Festbier broke down to average among the two tasting groups in the crowd. It was slightly more enjoyed by the VBR crew. If anything, I think it doesn’t go quite far enough with that caramel backbone.
Beer #4: Blue Mountain 13.5 O’fest
Tasting Notes: “mellow”
Overall: Hamilton quite enjoyed this one in his review. Personally, Blue Mountain can do a whole lot of funky things (especially with their Barrel House series, of which we’ve looked at the Über Pils), but this one was fairly middle of the road for me and most of the crowd.
Beer #5: Port City Oktoberfest
Tasting Notes: “nutty” “buttery” “malts!”
Overall: This is easily my favorite of the bunch, so while it’d be quick and dirty for me to award the perpetual Tailgate Throwdown Best Oktobefest to Port City, this is why we crowdsource this event. What’s fascinating to me, though, is that in past years PCBC has trended towards a Vienna Lager with this entry, and despite a blip last year it’s made the full transition to the Caramel Malted glory of a Märzen. I love this beer no matter what they say.
Beer #6: Fair Winds Nautifest
Tasting Notes: “nutty” “drinkable” “light”
Overall: I am so excited by Fair Winds. The day after this event, they won a GABF Gold for their Siren’s Lure Hoppy Saison. And they’ve only been open for six (6!) months. In our first visit we noted how their beers seems mature, and the Nautifest is no exception even as one of their first seasonals. It tends more towards a Vienna Lager in my opinion, but it has good depth.
Beer #7: Mad Fox Hitzig Frau
Style: Vienna Lager
Tasting Notes: “light” “smooth” “light malts”
Overall: That’s right, here’s the first curveball. And it twisted upon where we thought the day would go. By this point some of our tasting crowd was a bit partied out, but those who remained were emphatic: this beer is exceptional. Personally, my only thought was, “okay, what’d I miss?” I do think well of this Mad Fox entry, but man did the tasters at Camp Wahoo dig this one overall.
Beer #8: Three Notch’d Hansel & Kettle
Style: Imperial Märzen
Tasting Notes: “malty” “hoppy” “sweet raging bitch”
Overall: Another curveball, but here in terms of additional complexity to your traditional Märzen. You have to really be into malts to enjoy this brew, which was fine for Hamilton and me (and one other fine chap with the delicious tasting quote above), but a crowd pleaser this is not. Best suited for dinner more so than a tailgate.
I will admit to being astonished by these results. The lion’s share of the beers were accessible and well-liked throughout the crowd, but the biggest crowd pleaser was not a Märzen. I’ll review Mad Fox’s creation separately given the enthusiasm it generated, though really I think any brewery would be pleased with this consensus score. It’s the Hitzig Frau in a blowout!
Overall Winner: Mad Fox Hitzig Frau
Due to some complexities in the season, this is my last game until the Virginia Tech season finale on November 28th. In the meantime, Hamilton will keep everyone occupied (expect Pumpkin and another rich entry or two!)