Fall typically means the end of Summer, which is pretty much a drag. But Fall also hints at the arrival of the harvest, and with harvests come festivals. The precise style which defines the Autumn “-fest” craze is open to debate – amber lager, märzen, Vienna lager, or other hybrids flood the scene from mid-Summer into the equinox. If you’re following the true Oktoberfest calendar, however, you’ll relegate the flood to something more akin to a post-equinox, pre-Columbus Day binge. So with the first day of Fall lurking at the end of the weekend, let’s take a look at what promises to be the first of many brews sharing more in common than just their similarity to the color of falling leaves…
Festie, Starr Hill Brewing Company – @StarrHill (Crozet, VA)
Amber Lager, ABV 4.8%, IBU 12
Presentation: Bottle pour into an appropriate Starr Hill pint glass.
Appearance: More copper than amber. Light head, dissipating slowly. No noticeable lattice.
Taste: In the spirit of most ambers, the focus is more on malts than other flavors. That gives a semi-sweet, almost caramel body. While the “Festie” label seems reminiscent of Oktoberfest märzens, this brew tends to more of an earthy heartiness – almost coppery like the color. I happened to be having a steak salad when I broke this bottle out, and the two profiles were very complementary to each other.
ABV/IBU: There’s very little bitterness here, with more of a smooth experience throughout.
Overall: Starr Hill has the same problem as Sam Adams – as one of the original entrants into the craft brewing scene, most brewers these days are more daring and prone to swiping talent to help them get started. While this has definitively aided the start-ups, at the top the styles are a bit more diluted. That’s why what should be a classic, such as Starr Hill’s The Love, can come across as almost bland compared to newer competitors. With Festie, however, what you’re getting is actually a departure from other “-fest” style beers. It has a bit of the crispness that keeps the malts from overpowering the subtle amber profile, and like other standouts in the genre this makes the beer more complex the further you get into it. I wish they distributed this in more than just variety packs, as it’s one of Starr Hill’s strongest entries.