Seth Levy

Seth Levy

Tasting an epic style of beer: the Double IPA

This month, we're slugging down epic quantities of an epic style of beer: Double IPA (DIPA). This style of beer intensifies the characteristics of IPA — an already profound style of beer.

This week, we're tasting DIPAs from Vermont. Why? Well, I recently found three excellent DIPAs from that state, and many successfully argue that the “East Coast” DIPA trend started in Vermont, with the introduction of The Alchemist's “Heady Topper.” This unfiltered, highly hopped DIPA introduced many East Coast beer enthusiasts to the pleasures of vibrant hop aromas and built demand for the style. Here's to the ancestral homeland of East Coast DIPA!

 

Otter Creek / Lawson's Finest Liquids Double Dose IPA

Format Sampled: 12 oz. capped bottle
ABV: 8.5%
Tasting Notes: Pours a transparent gold with a thick pillow of off-white head. Aroma has fresh, sticky pine sap, dried citrus, and nose-hair singeing alcohol. Initial flavor is tart and fruity. There's plenty of citrus here: grapefruit, orange peel, tangerine, and lemon. There are herbal, piney flavors and a delightful bitterness flitting around the edges. The body is surprisingly thin and drinkable for all the strength. The relative lack of malt flavor lends the beer a light, lilting quality. The overall impression is light, playful and fun.

 

14th Star Brewing Co. Tribute Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 8.4%

Tasting Notes: Pours a pallid gold with a thin, pure-white head. Aroma is filled with permutations of pine, juniper, sage, and a faint undertone of dried orange peel. Initial flavor is sharp-elbowed, with massive resinous pine and cedar, a refined powerful bitterness and plenty of grapefruit. There are more gentle fruit aspects too, like hints of peach juice and ripe pear. The malt under all the hoppy wonder is toasted and biscuity, and there's a pleasant musty wood character lingering there, like the book section of an antique store. The overall impression of the Tribute is like walking through a bright, green pine forest the morning after a heavy rain. Damp, fragrant, and immersive.

 

Fiddlehead Brewing Second Fiddle Double IPA

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 8.2%

Tasting Notes: Pours a fizzy amber with a thin, off-white head. Aroma has delicate tangerine, pine needles, and fresh-baked bread. Initial flavor sparkles with lemon, citrus zest, and marzipan. There's a delicate flavor of burnt sugar and a firm mineral flavor — almost metallic. It's like sipping fresh lemonade from a cold pewter mug. This is one of the most refreshing, easily drinkable DIPAs I've ever had, bar none. The substantial alcohol content is completely obscured by the expertly crafted balance of malt, minerals, and hops.

2016: A Year For Great Beer

It was a grand year to be a beer writer, loyal reader. My 2016 was a series of blurry, drunken reveries. Based on eyewitness accounts from trusted friends and colleagues, I am confident in saying that I'm relatively certain I had a good time. I think. This week, I'll share some of my favorite Maine beers, as well as the memories I made with each one. Here's to a happy, healthy 2017, with many more memories and great beers!

 

Winter

Banded Horn Barrel Aged Mountain Russian Imperial Stout. Cautiously sipped from a 12 oz. capped bottle.

The aroma of the Mountain is a cloud of boozy yeast, aged rum, coffee and black cherry. The flavor is a tidal wave of rum-soaked fruitcake, vanilla beans, dark caramel, toffee and burnt cream. I sipped this beer after a wonderful evening at the Maine Huts and Trails. A raucous group of friends hiked through complete darkness to a warm, well-lit hut with a blazing fire. We talked and ate well into the night. After a long drive home, I kept the buzz of the conversation and the warmth of the fire going with the Mountain!

 

Spring

Peak Organic Ginger Saison. Slurped from a 12 oz. bottle.

The aroma of this beer is peculiar, with sulfur, apple-cider vinegar and ginger. The first sip is refreshing as the aroma is funky. There's musty, herbal ginger, clove and lemon. It's deliciously close to a dry ginger-ale. I enjoyed the Ginger Saison during a multi-day bike tour from Acadia National Park to Patten. I rode with a diverse group through sun, rain and fog to raise awareness of the (then proposed) Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The beer was a refreshing end to the second day of riding.

 

Summer

Foundation Epiphany. Gulped from a 16 oz. can.

A riot of citrus aromas escapes from the can. The tropical fruit aroma is so intense, I expect the foam to be bright orange. The flavor is juicy, so plush and herbal that I try to lick the bottom of the can. I opened this beer in a canoe, at sunset, on Moosehead Lake, on my birthday. A friend and I spent the day fishing, talking about the birth of his daughter, and marveling at the accumulation of memories over time. As the sun set, a galaxy of hop warmth rose in my soul. What a night and what a beer.

 

Fall

Sebago Bonfire Rye. Sipped from a 12 oz. can.

This beer is spicy, dry and toasty, evoking gingerbread, pumpernickel toast and campfire smoke. The body is thin, and the alcohol level moderate — an ideal combination of refreshment and substance. I enjoyed the Bonfire in front of a campfire near Bethel. I had just biked nearly 70 miles over the Grafton Notch in blazing fall colors. The air was cool, I had a full belly, and smoke from the fire mingled with the rye in the beer.

Embracing Paradox with California DIPA

Double IPAs are strange beers. They're doubled versions of IPA's, an already brash and “loud” style of beer. DIPA's contain larger quantities of alcohol, hops, and malts than “regular” IPA, and these create unique flavors that suggest different drinking strategies to fully experience.

1. Drink it fresh! The ephemeral essential oils and acids that make hops so delicious are fragile and degrade rapidly even sealed in a can in the fridge. It's not wine – drink it as soon as possible!
 
2. It's all about the cans. The two biggest enemies of hop flavors are light and oxygen. Cans are more effective in excluding both, so if you've got to choose, consider opting for a DIPA that's canned.
 
3. Don't be cultured. The aromas of fresh hops dissipate rapidly. To get the freshest and most direct hop hit, sip the DIPA right from the can! Or, if you're trying to be cultured, try a brandy-snifter, with a big bulb and a narrower nose to concentrate the fresh hop aromas.

With these tips in mind, we're going to taste some California DIPA's. Cheers!

Knee Deep Brewing Lupulin River

Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle

ABV: 8.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a bright amber with a thin pure white head. Aroma has grapefruit, pine, peach and pineapple. Initial flavor is a paradoxical mix of astringent, floral coffee, tropical fruit, and grapefruit pith. There is a firm, assertive bitterness after the fruit that lingers on, teasing my tongue. There's a marvelously delicate structure of sweet malt holding up all the hoppy ornamentation. The malt is slightly toasty, with a gentle, honeyed sweetness, and flashes of brown sugar. The body is moderate and slightly syrupy.

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 10.4 %

Tasting Notes: Pours a clear amber with a bone-white head. Aroma is dank, herbal and sweet. Initial flavor is roundly sweet, with apple, pineapple, and bitter herbs. The body is viscous, sweet and makes the lovely bitter hops stick to my palate like an embracing herbal blanket. Tasting partner, Kyle, says the hop flavor "hits like a ton of bricks." It's not all bitterness though. There are notes of lemon custard, caramel apples and fruit gums. This is a forceful herbal elixir with a heavy body, massive floral bouquet, and fuming alcoholic intensity. This is a beer to sip from a snifter in front of a raging fire, contemplating deep thoughts.

Firestone Walker Double Jack

Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle

ABV: 9.5 %

Tasting Notes: Pours a dark gold with a thin white head. Aroma is resinous with pine, basil, citrus and honey. The first sip frankly bitter, astringent and herbal- like a hop tincture! But it quickly rounds into balance with honey, pine, and oak joining the herbal hops. The body is thick and quite smooth. The thick body, relatively dry flavor profile and abundant wood flavors recall a single malt whiskey. This is another forceful, complex, contemplative beverage!

Eastern Double IPA. Twice the Hops But Half As Bitter?

This month, we're bingeing on Double IPA, a style of beer that began as an intensified version of the brash, hoppy India Pale Ale.

Craft IPAs are often associated with the West Coast brewing scene. Western brewers' proximity to fresh fields of Cascade, Chinook and Willamette hops led them to use huge quantities of these bitter, piney flowers.

This challenging, bitter version of IPA dominated the American palate for years. Despite the "Double" in the name, most of the East Coast DIPA's aren't twice as bitter as a West Coast IPA. These East Coast DIPA's might use more hops than a Western IPA, but they add them earlier in the brewing process and pick varieties that pack a massive floral aroma, rather than a bitter punch. Confused? That's OK. Slug back a few of the East Coast DIPA's and meditate on the difference.

Sam Adams Rebel Raw Double IPA (Boston, Mass.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 10%

Tasting notes: Pours a vivid, cloudy yellow with a huge head of whitish foam. Aroma is raucous with grapefruit, green apple and candied orange slices. The first sip is complex and searching — a battle between fruit, flower and grain. There's sour orange, and sweet orange blossom, all layered over a delicious burnt-sugar base. The body is thick and slightly syrupy. Tasting partner Julia isn't stoked on the can design, but I'm focused on the flavor. There is bitterness here, but it's mostly in the aftertaste. This is a festival of citrus and flowers — a lovely beer.

Moat Mountain Call It A Day Double IPA (North Conway, N.H.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 8%

Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy, fuzzy amber with a thin head. Aroma is powerful and unusual — there's asphalt, pine, overheated electronics (hot Nintendo?) and mint. The first sip is packed with hop flavors. First, there's a candied citrus rind and a grassy, "green" flavor that totally overwhelms my palate. After these herbal flavors, a powerful, astringent bitterness emerges. It's sharp, forceful and enduring. The body isn't as thick as the Rebel Raw, and the flavors are more herbal than fruit-forward.

Lord Hobo Brewing Co. Consolation Prize Imperial-style DIPA (Cambridge, Mass.)

Format sampled: 16-ounce can

ABV: 9.5%

Tasting notes: Pours a cloudy yellow with no head at all. Aroma has lemon zest, taffy and resinous pine needles. Initial flavor has sour lemon, gummy candies, vanilla and pine. There's a serious bitterness hiding behind all these flavors, though, and it comes through as the fruity aromatics dissipate a bit. The body is moderate — somewhere between the Moat and the Sam Adams. For some reason, this beer is powerfully intoxicating. Several ounces is enough to render this beer writer quiet and contemplative. More like a first prize than a consolation prize, in my opinion.

Doubling Down on Double IPA

Happy November, loyal reader! This week, we're going to continue our double IPA binge.

What is a double IPA? IPA stands for "India Pale Ale," a style of ale developed as a durable export to British colonies in India. Original IPAs featured larger quantities of hops and a higher alcohol content, primarily for their preservative effects during their long journeys. Double IPAs challenge the palate by intensifying the flavor characteristics and alcoholic strength of this already punchy style. Many of these beers have alcoholic strengths greater than 8 percent, and IBUs (a measure of how bitter a beer is) of 90 or greater. These are big, bold, challenging beers that reward sipping and swirling. Their strength and brashness make them a challenge to pair with food, and the bold hop flavors aren't crowd pleasers. For idiosyncratic hop-heads like me, they are the pinnacle of brewing achievement.

Last week, we tasted three double IPAs from Maine. This week, we're going to double down and taste three more! They're from Rising Tide Brewing Co. in Portland, Banded Horn Brewing Co. in Biddeford and Hidden Cove Brewing Co. in Wells.

Rising Tide Cutter Imperial IPA

Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.7%

Tasting notes: Pours a hazy yellow with a thin layer of white head. Aroma has grapefruit, caramel and pine. Initial flavor is juicy with grapefruit and fresh citrus, piquant with conifers and black pepper, and completely mouthwatering. There's a brash, brassy sensation of bitterness after the initial sip. This bitterness dries down slowly, leading into a warm, glowing malt. The body is moderate, and it's not at all sweet. This is a lovely, well-balanced DIPA — more akin to an intensified IPA, rather than a beer where each aspect of the flavor is simply doubled.

Banded Horn Daikaiju

Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.7%

Tasting notes: Pours a hazy, fuzzy orange-yellow, with a thin lace of pure white head. Initial aroma is vibrant with tangerine, fresh hay and pine sap. The initial flavor is fresh with green herbs, chlorophyll, clementine, dried orange peel and juicy citrus. There's a firm bitterness underlying the herbal, citrus qualities of the hops, which branches out like lightning over my palate. The body is quite light, and the malt character is crisp and only faintly sweet. This beer is like a finely wrought tool — simple, elegant and quite forceful. The belch is filled with sweet citrus, pine and mint.

Hidden Cove Thunderclap
Format Sampled: 16-ounce can
ABV: 8.8%

Tasting notes: Pours an opaque yellow with a thin layer of white head. Aroma has lemon chiffon, pine needle and mint. Initial flavor is dry and herbal — perfumed with a sachet of rosemary, citrus peel and hop blossom. The flavors build and coalesce, with lemon, honey and clove joining the experience, along with a sharp hop bitterness. The aftertaste is slightly sweet and lemony, with slight jabs of hop bitterness to keep things interesting. Following the trend of the other Maine DIPAs, this is highly drinkable!

Double IPA: Hoppy Treats for Maine Beer Drinkers

It's been a hard month, loyal reader. Together, we slogged through the monochromatic landscape of Oktoberfest beers. Silenus* bless them, but Oktoberfest beers aren't the most vibrant and diverse bunch. To shock our palates out of their long stupor, and stimulate our brains, I'm launching a month-long exploration of one of the newest and most vibrant category of beers – Double IPAs! We're starting close to home this time and sampling DIPAs from Maine. In fact, Maine has so many great DIPAs, that I'm going to break precedent and taste several weeks worth of beers from one state. There's some poetic symmetry in doing a double review for double IPA, so hold on to your pints, loyal reader!

Baxter Brewing Bootleg Fireworks
Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 9.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a vivid reddish orange with a thick scrim of white foam. Outrageously floral, herbal aroma rockets out of the glass – dried orange rind, hashish, asphalt and mint join pine and mango in an explosion of hop stink. Initial flavor is surprisingly warm and round – emphasizing citrus peel and spice characters. There's an oily sheen of citrus, conifer and dankness coating my tongue. “It's like an IPA-Jello shot!” says tasting assistant Ivan. There's a powerful bitterness lingering behind the warm fruit though, like the delayed sternum-shaking boom after a bright explosion of fruit. It's a powerful product, but the body is surprisingly moderate and it hides its 9% abv strength quite well.

Foundation Venture

Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 8.0%

Tasting Notes: Pours a pale, transparent yellow with no head. Aroma is resinous and piney, with undertones of fresh citrus, and wet, sticky herbs. Initial flavor is dry, herbal and immediately bitter, reminiscent of a digestif liqueur. The bitterness subsides, revealing grapefruit, lemon and orange flavors and a whole sachet worth of herbs – too numerous to elucidate. The body is miraculously light and slinky – an amazing feat for a beer this packed with flavor and alcohol. Alcohol, you said? A glance at the can reveals it's an ambitious 8%, but it's dangerously mellow on the palate. The aftertaste is faintly sweet and remarkably clean. This beer glows in the pit of my belly like a warm coal.

Marsh Island Brewing Company 12 gauge DIPA
Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle

ABV: 9.3%

Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber with an ample off-white head. Aroma is spicy and strongly alcoholic. There is a strong tequila component to the smell – hot, volatile and potent! Initial flavor is also hot, sweet and packed with alcoholic force. There are notes of white pepper, a slap of hop bitterness, and a long, grape-like sweetness. This is a forceful, almost pushy DIPA. It would serve as an amazing digestif after a heavy meal or a wonderful warmer on a cold night!

*The Greek deity of over-indulgence in drink.

Beer Tasting Survival Guide

The timing couldn’t be better. Portland Beer Week is in the rear-view mirror, and I have a cold that’s so bad, I can’t tell the difference between and IPA and a tall Dr. Pepper! So, rather than publish a tasting complaining that everything tastes like Echinacea and mucus, I’m going to share some survival tips for a week of extensive drinking. I’ve gathered these tips over several decades of dedicated consumption, and they don’t fail me more than once a week. Cheers!
Eat
The less food you have in your stomach, the faster alcohol enters your bloodstream. So, start your tasting session with a light meal of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein. Or, just go for volume and eat a bucket of greasy fries. Either way, don’t hit something so spicy, salty or strongly flavored that it numbs your palate.
Hydrate
Alcohol is dehydrating, so sip water throughout your tasting sessions. I’ll have a pint of water per pint of beer, and I’ve noticed that I feel significantly more alert at the end of a tasting with this regimen. A quick drink of water between different beers cleans the palate so you can appreciate the next beverage, and frequent trips to the restroom provide an enlivening exercise!
Slow Down
Not to literally be a buzz-kill, but it’s hard to taste beer when you send it directly into your esophagus, without a brief stop on your palate. Sip, pause, drink water and contemplate. You’ll have a more complete sensory experience and you won’t get as loaded.
Take Notes
I’ll bring a small notebook to tastings. Sometimes, I take detailed notes for a story, but more often I’ll just jot down the name of a favorite beer, or a new brewery, a flavor I’ve never experienced, or a new friend.
Use All Your Senses
A huge percentage of the sense we call taste is actually smell! Take your time to enjoy the aroma of the lovely beer in front of you. See the color, the clarity and feel the temperature. Beer drinking can be a complete sensory experience if you’re willing to engage all of your senses.
Start Low, End High
If you’ve got a lot of beers to taste, and you want to be able distinguish them to the very end, you need to prepare for palate fatigue. This phenomena occurs when your palate becomes accustomed to perceiving certain flavors, and has difficulty distinguishing them. If you start your evening off with a beer that has 10 percent alcohol, and a wheelbarrow-load of hops, everything you taste after is going to taste pallid in comparison. If I have to taste a variety of beers, I’ll focus on beers that are lower in alcohol, hops and lighter in color, and move on to progressively heavier beers.
Manage Serving Sizes
Pouring at a tasting festival, I was shocked when a well-known local brewer handed me back the remainder of his 4 oz tasting sample, mumbling, “That’s gross man. I’m saving my liver for something tasty.” I’ve since seen the wisdom of his words. Why finish a pint of something you hate? Order the smallest serving possible, and if you like it, order another!

Bitter parting: Northern Oktoberfest Beers round out category

October is over, but our tasting of Oktoberfest beers lives! This week, we're tasting Oktoberfest beers from the Northeast – highlighting breweries in NY, VT and NH. After a solid month of sipping Oktoberfest beers, my palate is all malted out, and I'm ready to hang up my Lederhosen until next year. But before I move my attention to another style of beer, I'm reflecting on lessons learned in tasting Oktoberfest beers, namely:

Potato totally works as an addition to a strong Oktoberfest! The Maine Oktoberfest beers I sampled were, as a group, the least assertive in flavor. The Northeast Oktoberfest beers I sampled were, as a group, the darkest and most assertive in flavor. Oktoberfest beers uniformly use subtle, Continental hops, with low levels of bitterness. I miss bitterness!

Vontrapp Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.6 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber and raises a fine head of off-white foam. Aroma is redolent of fresh apples, caramel and minerals, with a whiff of sulfur. Initial flavor is bracing, with unexpected sourness, backed up by a lovely, assertive bitterness. There is a warm, honeyed malt flavor after the initial attack of bitterness. The aftertaste blends the simple, uncomplicated malt sweetness with the lingering bitterness of the hops. Though it's initially more assertive than other examples of the style, the Vontrapp ends on a balanced, elegant note.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.5 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a bright copper with no head. Aroma has rich caramel with hints of slate and ginger. Initial flavor is a swirl of rich toffee, aggressive carbonation, and sour, spicy malt. This is punchy for an Oktoberfest! There is a building impression of vanilla and caramel as the spicy, sour notes fade. The aftertaste is multifaceted, pulling together all the previous layers of flavor. There's cinnamon, wood, spice, sharpness and a long, mineral finish.

Harpoon Octoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.3 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing amber, with a very scant tan head. Aroma has malt syrup, lemon, apples and alcohol. Initial flavor glows with sweet, light caramel flavors. The malt flavor is quite sweet, and minimally caramelized. A hop flavor slides in after the sweet, so subtle it's almost past before I recognize it. These hops are spicy, showcasing a mulled, orange-peel flavor instead of a bitter blast. The aftertaste is a bit sticky and acidic, a bit of a let-down after the strong opening. With the spicy sweetness, I imagine the Harpoon would pair very well with a herbed sausage.

Maine Oktoberfests to relish

In honor of October, I've dedicated an unreasonable share of my palate to sampling Oktoberfest beers. These malty beers have plenty of flavor, moderate levels of alcohol and hop bitterness. It was a challenge to find three Oktoberfest beers from Maine that I hadn't tasted before, or, at least, that had been reformulated since I had them last. Why? My theory is that, because Oktoberfest beers are a challenge to make, and are so distinctly seasonal, they aren't a huge focus for local brewers. Since most Oktoberfest beers are lagers, they need to sit in cold storage for weeks, or even months-an expensive and time-consuming venture for a beer with a short season. Additionally, I've always felt that Oktoberfest's malty bouquet and heartier body make it less versatile than even a quotidian pale ale. There ends my musings, loyal reader. Now is the heyday of Oktoberfest beer, so let's taste some of the freshest, most local examples of this style possible!

Foulmouthed Brewing Brat
Format Sampled: 32 oz CO2-flushed growler
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear copper with a thin layer of white head. Initial flavor is clean, velvety and metallic. The hops are up-front and immediately spicy, but not particularly bitter. The malt flavors are lightly toasted, faintly sweet, and emphasize metallic, mineral notes. This tastes sharp, clean and mechanical – an ideal vision of a German altbier. I can imagine the restrained sweetness and spicy flavors would pair well with a brat, draped in caramelized onions, or a salty pretzel with a whole-grain mustard.

Rising Tide Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 16 oz can
ABV: 5.7 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a sparkling light gold, with a fine, white head. Aroma is clean, slightly sour, and redolent of fresh apple juice. Initial flavor is all about the smooth, creamy malt. It's a substantial sweetness, not cloying like candy, much deeper and much more complex. The flavor opens up quickly, with a bright, coppery taste, and more of the apple juice flavor. The aftertaste is slightly sweet, still coppery, with hints of elegantly subdued hops. This is an incredibly elegant, clean, practical beer. The body is rather light, the color is just on the copper side of pale, and the whole experience is lilting and lifting. Lovely!

Marsh Island Brewing Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 22 oz capped bottle
ABV: 5.9 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a deep, reddish amber, with a dense, tan head. Aroma is sweet, with hints of dusty stone, and a spicy, noble hop scent. Initial flavor is filled with mellow, mulled spices. The spices are held up by a firm base of toffee-like malt, rich, full and just sweet enough. The body is moderate. After the malt, there's a brief flash of assertive bitterness, a welcome change from some of the other Oktoberfests that don't emphasize hops. Underneath all of this is a consistent mineral flavor, steady, slightly drying and reassuring.

Oktoberfest beers worth sampling

In honor of, well, October, we're sampling Oktoberfest beers from near and far. With bigger, malty flavors, this beer style has enough substance to stand up to the cooler weather and heartier food of fall. Chili, sausage, burgers – Oktoberfest is a friend to all of them. Oktoberfests aren't “big beers.” Their moderate alcohol and flavor impact are sufficiently thirst-quenching power through a warm fall day.

What makes a beer an Oktoberfest? Oktoberfest beers must comply with the Reinheitsgebot, an archaic German beer purity law that limits brewers to only malt, water and hops. Further, traditional Oktoberfest beers are typically Märzens, a style of lager that's darker than the Czech lagers with which American drinkers are more familiar. Technically, only 6 German breweries can supply the official beers to the festival. I'm saving my tasting of German Oktoberfest beers for last. This week, we'll taste Oktoberfest beers from the inter-mountain west and the mid-west.

Left Hand Brewing Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz capped bottle
ABV: 6.6 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a light amber with a thin lace of whitish head. Aroma is enticingly spicy, toasted and augmented with a pleasant wine note. Initial flavor carries a bitter burst of bracing hops. The predominant flavors are herbal, and citrus, with hints of holiday spices. Yummy! After the brief bitterness, there's a pleasant interlude of warm, sweet, toffee malt. The malt is so gentle, so soothing and so pleasant, it lulls my tongue into a quiet reverie. Another round of bitterness, much gentler this time, rounds out the experience and lingers for some minutes.

Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest
Format Sampled: 12 oz, capped bottle
ABV: 5.1 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a clear, light copper with no head. Aroma has toasted malts, apple cider, and spices. Initial flavor is an education in malt. There's roasted grain, honeyed sweetness, and caramel and toffee. After the malt flavors, there are bare hints of spicy hops, and a rapid diminution in flavor. The aftertaste is mild and agreeable – a mixture of sweet malts, and the ghost of the already faint hops. This is a simpler Oktoberfest, suitable for consuming in quantity, or for those that prefer beers with a simpler, lighter flavor profile.

Great Divide Hoss
Format Sampled: 12 oz can
ABV: 6.2 percent
Tasting Notes: Pours a deep amber with a dense layer of off-white head. Aroma is sharp, clean and punctuated with notes of caramel and spice. The initial flavor is filled with rich, layered malt flavors, tending toward the darker and more toasted. There's a spicy character that's reminiscent of rye or coriander, and a lovely drying flavor – like a cedar stave. The aftertaste mixes wood, spice, and nicely toasted malts in a wondrous swirl of fall flavors. This is the richest and boldest Oktoberfest of the lot!

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