Oktoberfest was brewed on 08/28/16. One of goals in the beginning of the year was to step up my lager game, and brew a couple lagers. Mission complete since this is lager number two for me in 2016. Though I’m a hop head for sure, I really enjoy a good Oktoberfest beer once the weather starts cooling off and the leaves change colors. Its really one of the perfect styles for people who are big beer people and people who drink macro beers. Its usually malty and not bitter, easy drinking but with good flavor, and sessionable. They aren’t complex enough where people may be turned off, but there are subtle nuances that can be appreciated as well.
There are two types of Oktoberfest beers: Festbeers and Märzen. The Festbeer style is closer to being like a more robust Munich Helles. This is the type of beer you would be served if you attended THE Oktoberfest in Munich. The Festbeer is smooth, crisp, and easy to drink in quantity despite an abv usually hovering around 6%. Pilsner malt should still make up the majority of your base, but you’ll see a higher percentage of Munich and/or Vienna malt in there as well than in a Helles. Specialty malts should be kept to a minimum.
The other type of Oktoberfest is the Märzen. This style is typically more deep gold to amber colored, and is the more commonly found style in the US. A lot of examples have a bit more toasty or caramel flavor. Munich and/or Vienna malt may make up a larger part of the grain bill, and you may find some specialty grains being used like caramunich or other crystal malts. Their use should still be restrained since you don’t want sweetness. There’s a clear difference between a good, well attenuated malty beer and a sweet beer, and this shouldn’t be sweet.
Both styles of Oktoberfest have things about them that I enjoy, so I tip-toed the line between them. This year’s Oktoberfest probably leans more toward the Märzen style, but it it shouldn’t have any of the caramel sweetness that can sometimes be off-putting in that style whn not done properly. With this beer, I much prefer getting my malty flavors from using larger percentages of Munich and Vienna malt, and I added a half pound of Melanoiden malt. Melanoiden is a specialty malt that is almost like a super Munich malt. It adds intense malt aroma and flavor to the beer, but not in a sweet way. The malt should have notes of fresh baked bread, biscuits and a bit of toast.
This year’s beer isn’t too much of a change from the last time I brewed an Oktoberfest. I substituted a couple pounds of Pils malt for Munich for that added maltiness, and the Vienna is the same. I upped the bittering charge a bit, and got rid of the second round of hops so that the bittering hops will offset the sweetness, but there won’t be much hop flavor to get in the way of the malt. I also went with the yeast I used on my Helles, Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager. It had a profile that I really enjoyed, and it should work just as well here.
Brew day was a lot of fun as usual, I had a good group hanging out and helping me. I mashed in at 150 for an hour and sparged as usual. This beer called for a 90 minute boil due to the Pilsner malt used. Since it wasn’t a huge percentage of the grist I may have been able to get away with a 60 minute boil, but why risk it? I threw in my lone bittering charge at 60 minutes and sat down for some beers and BLT’s with my friends. I didn’t have anything going on until a whirlfloc addition at 15 minutes, and sanitizing the chiller in the boil at 10 minutes. I got the beer chilling right at flameout, but this took a while to get to pitching temperature. Hose water this time of year doesn’t get too cold, so we filled a bucket with ice and saltwater and then coiled the hose in it as a sort of pre-chiller.
We were able to get the beer down to 68 degrees and I decided I’d let the fride to the rest of the work. I drew a hydrometer sample, poured through a strainer into the carboy, and then I pitched my yeast which I had built up in a starter. My hydrometer sample was right on at 1.057!
This beer will ferment at 48 degrees for about a week and a half. After that time, I’ll raise the beer to 65 degrees for a diacetyl rest. The beer will sit at 65 for two days, and then I’ll transfer the beer to a keg. I’ll then drop the beer by 5 degrees each day until it gets close to freezing, probably 34 or 35 degrees. Once I have open space in the kegerator, I’ll trow some gelatin to clear this thing and then start letting it carb! I expect to be drinking it by mid October, though it should continue to improve with more time in the keg.
Ca+2 Mg+2 Na+ Cl- SO4-2 HCO
80.3 11.8 7.8 72.0 59.2 4.379
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.057 SG
Estimated Color: 8.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 76.00 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
4 lbs Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 34.8 %
3 lbs 12.0 oz Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 32.6 %
3 lbs Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) Grain 3 26.1 %
8.0 oz Melanoidin (Weyermann) (30.0 SRM) Grain 4 4.3 %
4.0 oz Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) Grain 5 2.2 %
1.50 oz Hallertauer [4.80 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 6 25.6 IBUs
2.0 pkg Bohemian Lager (Wyeast Labs #2124) [124. Yeast 8 –
Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 11 lbs 8.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 14.38 qt of water at 161.4 F 150.0 F 60 min
Keg Update 09/12/16: After a few days at 65 I kegged this beer under my usual closed transfer system. The FG came in at 1.011 giving me my target 6% abv! The beer had a really nice clean malty flavor already that will only improve with lagering. I lowered the beer back to 50 and will drop the temperature a few degrees each day until it reaches lagering temps where it will sit a month or so.
Tasting Notes 10/20/16:
Appearance: Oktoberfest pours a deep gold to light amber color. The beer has a nice level of clarity thanks to the gelatin used to fine it. Its not crystal clear, but its not far off. The beer has a nice white head when poured that sticks around for a bit then clings to the side of the glass.
Smell: The aroma of this beer is mild, as it should be. The dominant smell I pick up from this beer is freshly baked bread crust. There was initially a hint of sulfur, but that has thankfully conditioned out of the beer. No yeast or hop aroma to speak of in this one.
Taste: Clean, crisp, and malty is the name of the game here. The maltiness follows the nose in that it tastes very bread crust like. Its just a pure malt flavor, no real flavor from the hops come in, just bitterness to offset the sweetness. The beer is well balanced, could maybe be just a touch hoppier to further balance it. I’ve had a number of friends sample this at an Oktoberfest party and it was well received, but the constructive criticism I got was to up the hops a bit. I think a 15 or 20 minute addition might do well here. This lager yeast fermented very clean, and I’m glad I used it here after the success I had with it in my Helles recipe.
Mouthfeel: A light to medium bodied beer with lively carbonation. One of the adjustments I made in the keg with this beer was to blast this with some more C02 while my other keg was disconnected. I usually have my regulator set to about 12 to 15 psi, which works great for my ales, but setting this at 20 and leaving it overnight about a week ago bumped up the carbonation to a perfect level.
Overall: A definite improvement over last years, but still not perfect. I had an Ayinger Oktoberfest the other day, and that beer is on a whole other level. That being said, I’d put this beer against a lot of other American versions of the style. The malt flavor in this beer is really nice and clean. The bitterness could use the slightest bump. I’d like to add a bit more toasted biscuit flavor, or somehow just make the malt a bit more complex without over complicating the beer. I’m thinking a higher percentage of Munich or Vienna malt might do that, and maybe a bit of Caramunich. All that aside, I’m really pleased with this beer, and it’s another solid entry into my very sparse lager portfolio.