Sierra Nevada 2015 Oktoberfest Festival Lager

Review Date 8/13/2015   By John Staradumsky

Last year, I saw something I had never seen before: an Oktoberfest beer from Sierra Nevada. That’s not to say they hadn’t made such a beer before, it’s just that if they did, I never saw it. The beer was only released as part of a fall sampler 12-pack, and sadly, I never picked one up. I’m kicking myself for that, because I would have loved to have notes to compare it to this year’s Sierra Nevada 2015 Oktoberfest Festival Lager.

I know they’re not the same beer, because, you see, the current incarnation of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is a one-time only brew. Says so right on the label. Rest assured, there will be a Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest beer in 2016, but it won’t be quite the same as this year’s version.

From the website:

We’re on a mission to explore the roots of Germany’s festival beers. Each year, we’ll partner with one of a handful of incredible German brewers to create a traditional take on the most famous beer style in history.

From the label:

We partnered with one of Germany’s oldest breweries-Brauhaus Riegele-to create a true festival beer unlike any brewed in the USA. Using traditional techniques and ingredients, we’re bringing the style back to its authentic roots with deep golden color, delicate hop note and rich malt complexity.

I have to smile at the use of the term “back to its authentic roots”, because for Oktoberfest beer that’s a relative term indeed. The first Oktoberfest celebration in Germany occurred in 1810 with the marriage of Ludwig I to Princess Therese. Thereafter, an annual celebration occurred to commemorate this event that took on a life of its own. It became customary to serve beer brewed only by Munich breweries, and sometime after the 1840s when Anton Dreher developed Vienna Lager, the standard beer of Oktoberfest became Vienna-Marzen beer.

In fact, the beer most Munich brewers send to America is still Marzenbier, and most American brewers that produce an Oktoberfest make Marzenbier too. Something changed in Munich, though, in the last few decades, and the beer now served at Oktoberfest is no longer Marzenbier. Instead, Festbier has become a variation of the Helles lager style. Some German brewers now even export this type of brew (Hofbrau for example). Others, like Paulaner, export both a Marzen and Helles version of Oktoberfest beer.

Sierra Nevada’s 2015 Oktoberfest is, unlike most American Oktoberfest beers, in the Helles style, though with a smattering of Munich malt to remind you that Marzen may be gone from the Theresienweise, but it is not forgotten. The influence of Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, which can trace its history back to 1386, is readily apparent here.

Ingredients from the website:

Yeast   Lager yeast 

Bittering Hops   German Magnum 

Finishing Hops   German Select, Tettnanger, Spalter 

Malts   Two-row Pale, Steffi, Pilsner, Munich

Sierra Nevada 2015 Oktoberfest Festival Lager has an alcohol content of 6% by volume with 30 IBUs. I paid $8.99 for a six-pack at Publix Supermarket, a real bargain these days. I think I will go back for more, because when I first tried it I drank three bottles out of my one-liter Sierra Nevada Maas. I assume those bottles came from the Mill River facility just north of me in North Carolina. They were packaged on 6/30/2015 per the label.

Sierra Nevada 2015 Oktoberfest Festival Lager pours to a pale golden color with a thick creamy head of foam and a soft inviting bready malt nose. Taking a sip, the beer has more of the fresh bready notes that the nose promised with hints of toastiness, toffee and light caramel from the Munich malt. It’s perfectly dried with grassy herbal hop bitterness.

My friends, this is true beer perfection. It has such depth of malt character that one rarely finds in today’s world of barrel-aged, super hopped uber-brews. I just love the clean bready malt here, expertly balanced with just the right amount of herbal grassy hops. You shouldn’t miss this beer, because if you do, you’ll never be able to try it again.

And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.