Beerman for Sept. 6, 2012

September is the new Oktober

For Weekly SurgeSeptember 3, 2012 

I wouldn’t have expected to be saying this: I can’t quite pick a winner between this fall’s Samuel Adams Oktoberfest and New Belgium Hoptober. Personally, I would have given Samual Adams the advantage. But apparently, neither brewery minded making some changes.

So it’s a crisis showdown between two of the biggest names in American craft beer – two heavy hitters in the barely-micro part of the microbrew industry.

I knew something was different as soon as I saw New Belgium’s six pack at Owens Discount Beverages, 8000 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. In the first place, in the New Belgium camp, it’s actually Red Hoptober this year, rather than the previous year’s Hoptober.

When I first tried Red Hoptober, I tasted strong roasted nut flavors. Those flavors were sacrificing the joy of the autumn season for the seriousness of a complex recipe. It didn’t charm like last year’s Hoptober, which was golden, a touch sweet, and hopped up.

Then again, a second try, a couple of days later, was much better. The roasted flavors weren’t as strong and a little of last year’s sweetness emerged. The hopping certainly isn’t as noticeable this year. I should also mention the strong, deep, amber-red color.

I’m weighing that experience against the sample taste I had from a growler-station tap of Samuel Adams Oktoberfest at Green’s Discount Beverages, 2850 North Kings Highway. Compared with previous years, I tasted a pronounced toffee-like presence in the 2012 batch. Think of it like a sound mixing board: the volume on one instrument was pushed higher than usual. This toffee flavor is a good thing, not a weird sweetness but a typical part of beer flavor profiles.

Both autumn seasonal beers are safe bets for your beer-purchasing money. Both have complexity and accessibility.

Of course, those are just two of many Oktoberfest beers – and, shudder, pumpkin beers – we’ll start seeing in the upcoming weeks. Even here in early September, Oktoberfest beers from American microbreweries and historic German breweries are making their way into the market, so keep your eyes open for good drinking opportunities.

Local Oktoberfest beers

Of course, a locally-brewed fall seasonal beer is the only thing better than a good American microbrewed Oktoberfest or an imported German märzenbier.

The Myrtle Beach location of Gordon Biersch, the brewpub chain, theoretically has an Oktoberfest year-round – its Märzen beer. But for good measure, Gordon Biersch, located at The Market Common, will start offering its fall seasonal on Tuesday (Sept. 11).

Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery, the brewpub at Broadway at the Beach, will tap its Oktoberfest on Sept. 21.

Quigley’s Pint & Plate, a brewpub in Pawleys Island, was slated to tap its Oktoberfest yesterday (Sept. 5), so it looks like they’re the first out of the gate.

The folks at TBonz Gill & Grille say they’ll start serving the Oktoberfest from New South Brewing Co. of Myrtle Beach sometime in late September.

Grand Strand Oktoberfests

Two Myrtle Beach-based Oktoberfests are nearly traditions now, and they’re back this fall.

The Downtown Myrtle Beach Oktoberfest 2012 will be held noon-11 p.m. Oct. 6. See www.myrtlebeachoktoberfest.com for more information.

The 4th annual Oktoberfest will be held Sept. 28-30 at The Market Common. See www.myrtlebeachbeerfest.com/Oktoberfest.html for more information.

Stone’s 16th Anniversary IPA

Hole. E. Crap. The Stone Brewing Co.’s 16th Anniversary IPA floats above all others. Do her feet even touch the ground? I think not.

That’s because I have a weakness for lemon, and that’s what we get in this “ale brewed lemon verbena and lemon oil,” as the bottle says.

It’s also a beer brewed with rye in the malt, although not quite enough to qualify as a rye beer, the label insists.

Stone’s cult following will appreciate the originality of this beer’s combination of the lemon and the rye with the traditional hopping of an India Pale Ale. The result differs from the likely weirdness of its most obvious description: a touch spicy and a touch lemony.

Whatever that means to you, try it. Don’t forget this anniversary.

Contact Colin Burch at beerpour@yahoo.com and visit his blog at http://maltyhops.blogspot.com.

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