A Raging Disappointment

Oktoberfest in the BottleThere are times when my brain builds something up so much that the actual event elicits little more than a, “Ho, hum. That is not what I expected.” Such an event happened last night during the Style of the Month portion of the Menomonie Homebrewers meeting.

Oktoberfest is one of my favorite beer styles, partly because every example I have tried has been enjoyable. A great malty flavor backed up with a firm bitterness and a dry finish leaving you wanting more. Oktoberfest was the first beer I liked.

Since our club is located in Wisconsin, we try to find a Wisconsin-based brewery when we purchase the style of the month for our meetings. I’d heard good things about Capital Brewery out of Madison, WI. I figured their Oktoberfest would live up to their reputation.

Don’t get me wrong, the beer was good, it just wasn’t what I expect from Oktoberfest. The only thing close to what I expected was the color. The color was a little lighter than most Oktoberfests I’ve had, leaning toward orange rather than the “fiery amber” touted in Capital’s marketing speak.

The aroma was filled with honey-like sweetness and hints of fresh-brewed iced tea. There were fruity esters and no hop aroma. The lack of hop aroma is appropriate for the style, the fruity esters . . . not so much.

The flavor was sweet up front, with a strong crystal sweetness backed up with a really firm, cloying sweetness that didn’t seem to end until I took a drink of something else. The expected dry finish never materialized.

I don’t know if Capital ferments this beer with an ale yeast rather than a lager yeast, which is possible if you control the fermentation or if they actually used a lager yeast but the temp got away from them.

The best description I heard of the beer that night was, “It tastes like a British bitter, but without the hops.”

As a first exposure to Capital’s Oktoberfest, I was disappointed and I cannot recommend this beer as an Oktoberfest. It’s a good beer, it just wasn’t what I want from this style.

If you’ve had this beer and it wasn’t what I described above, let me know in the comments. Did you have it from this year(2012) or a different year? If you’ve had it from multiple years, does it change every year? I’m excited to hear your thoughts!


What’s that Flavor?! Bottle-Conditioned vs Force-Carbonated Part 3

Read Part 1 & Part 2 about what this experiment is all about.

Dry Hop Day

An essential part of the flavor of Janet’s Brown Ale is the dry hopping. Several ounces of hop pellets are added once the primary fermentation is completed, which adds a substantial hop flavor and aroma with minimal bitterness.

12-gallon batch of beer fermenting in a chest freezer
Here's our big batch of Janet's Brown bubbling away in the freezer. You can see the temperature control probe by the growler.

The beer fermented in Andy’s temperature-controlled chest freezer to maintain a steady temperature. This uses a standard chest freezer with an external thermostat to control the temperature maintained in the freezer.

After allowing the beer to ferment happily for a week and a half, Andy and I got together to add the dry hops. Following Andy’s normal technique, we sanitized a few hop bags, added the hops and dropped them into the fermenter.

Once the deed was done, several beers aided our recovery from the strenuous five minutes measuring, then carrying several ounces from the upstairs to the downstairs(there were two whole flights of stairs!). Arrangements were made for bottling day one week later.

Stay tuned for more updates!