If you look at the menu at Buster’s on 28th, you’ll soon notice that a) it has an awful lot of draught beers available, and b) you can order a custom-made tasting flight of five beers for about $10.
And as it turns out, while there are five beers in a flight, there are also five Oktoberfests on the menu at the moment. Coincidence? Unlikely. Destiny? Sure, we’ll call it destiny.
Märzen beers (so-called because they were traditionally brewed in March to be held and served in the autumn) are typically rich, toasty, and copper in coloration. They tend to have a medium to high alcohol content. But within those general guidelines, there’s a fair bit of room for play.
From my least to most favorite, here are five takes on Oktoberfest (with apologies to Surly, whose reputedly excellent SurlyFest wasn’t available):
A sentimental favorite of locals who want to celebrate the crusty old brewing culture that (utterly) pre-dates the craft beers we’ve come to love, Schell’s often surprises. Not here, unfortunately. This is a bit bitter, somewhat washed out Oktoberfest that — in its defense — is a good thirst quencher. In an absolute sense, not a bad beer, but there were four better ones in the same category…
New Belgium Hoptoberfest
The makers of the decent but wildly overrated Fat Tire also brew a decent but underwhelming Oktoberfest. Hoptoberfest has the firm, grapefruit bite of a hop-bomb beer, but is otherwise flat and unidimensional, particularly considering that it boasts four different malts and five hops. How can a beer with so much going on taste as though there’s so little going on?
Middle of the pack, and a fun glass to kill. Mild and crisp, Summit’s take on the Oktoberfest suggests grape soda with a twist of cranberry — it’s also a bit malty, and nicely balanced. This could be consumed by the pint, no question.
This stuff is wild. Tilting hard toward the “malt” side of the hops / malt teeter-totter, this imported Oktoberfest has a rich, sweet finish that strongly suggests raisins and honey — it’s almost like Oktoberfest meets mead. It’s not over sweet, and wonderfully suggestive of baking bread, or the early stages of brewing.
Now this is what we’re talking about. A mature, balanced beer with a Scotch-like depth, a full-bodied malty flavor, and an impeccable sense of balance. Complex without being brainy or crazy — a truly mature beer, the perfect drink for the onslaught of cold weather.
Don’t trust this non-accredited beer poseur’s opinion? Head out to Buster’s and try the Oktoberfest flight for youself.
Buster’s on 28th
4204 28th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406