Reviewed: Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
From the brewer: “Oaktoberfest is our riff on the festbier style–we call it a ‘Paso Festbier’ as a nod to our hometown,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “While the recipe is traditional, we lager the beer in French oak barrels to give it an extra smooth mouthfeel with a hint of oak character.”
Firestone Walker Brewing – Firestone Oaktoberfest (2022 Vintage) – 12 oz. bottle poured into a 16 oz dimpled mug. 5.2% abv.
Craft lagers have found a foothold on tasting room chalkboards across the United States. The previous refrains of “too much tank time” and “we only brew lagers for the brewery staff” have gone away. While some have opted to hop up their lagers to levels only seen in IPAs, many breweries are meeting or exceeding the levels of quality set by their European counterparts. One sunny day, I sat down with a few bottles of Firestone Walker 2022 Oaktoberfest, and here is what I found.
Appearance: Beautiful orange hue with a red undertone. A fluffy off-white head sticks around in the mug through the entire session.
Aroma: Toasted whole wheat bread, subtle floral hops. Very clean; not getting much of the purported oak aging. Not as malty rich as some of the European imports.
Flavor: Melanoidin toastiness, with hints of caramel and licorice. The hop flavor is more prominent than the aroma, coming off as black tea and sage. The hop flavor has melded with the oak barrel; a singular experience! The beer has a firm bitterness, which is higher than expected for the style. A medium carbonation level keeps the palate refreshed.
Overall: Festbier style is designed to be drunk in larger quantities. You are looking for a beer you would enjoy cold, but still appreciate the last few warm sips. Oaktoberfest delivers on the promise of a quaffable lager, with some American twists: extra hop bitterness and oak aging. Both add some bite that the American craft beer consumer enjoys. I always look forward to Festbier season, and this is a 6-pack you should seek out.