30 Oct Best Oktoberfest in Houston
Who has the best Oktoberfest in Houston? Or Märzen? Or Festbier? Wait, what’s the difference anyhow?
Now that October’s coming to a close, you have to go grab up all the Oktoberfest’s that are left, or they’ll detonate. At least that’s what our buddies over at What’s on Tap Radio always say!
If you’re a real nerd like us, you may be looking at the BJCP style guidelines to make a clear delineation. The problem is, there isn’t one. In the 2015 stylebook, Festbier took over the Oktoberfest style altogether since the two styles are so similar other than the fact that Festbiers are historically a little lighter overall than Oktoberfest beers.
But what about Märzen?
While the Oktoberfest style isn’t even officially a BJCP sanctioned style anymore, that doesn’t stop a slew of brewers from using the name. More often than not, an Oktoberfest beer also happens to be a Märzen. How is this possible?
Unlike Festbiers and Oktoberfest, which are separated by a very thin line, there’s not even a difference between a Märzen and an Oktoberfest other than the name. It’s like saying a Whataburger and a Double Double can’t both be cheeseburgers. Both are ® terms for either franchise, but they’re still the same thing at the end of the day.
The official Oktoberfest style is 100% about legal ownership. Oktoberfestbier “is a protected appellation for beer produced at large breweries within the Munich city limits for consumption at Oktoberfest,” according to BJCP guidelines.
“The Märzen style is a malty, amber, European-style lager that can trace the roots of its modern variants all the way back to 1841, when Spaten created the first recipe for the style. Märzen became the official beer of Munich’s Oktoberfest in 1872, a tradition that lasted over 100 years when it was replaced by the lighter-bodied, golden-colored Festbier in the 1990 Oktoberfest,” explains Chris Guest of The Beer Connoisseur.
Sooo… Märzen, Oktoberfest, and Festbiers are All Basically the Same Thing, but Who Has the Best Oktoberfest in Houston?
We hunted high and low as soon as they began hitting shelves and taprooms. From Conroe to Galveston, we scoured the city for crowlers, growlers, cans, and bottles of everybody’s finest amber lagers, and we were able to grab almost all of them!
Holler and Vallenson both sold out really quickly, and B52 waited a bit longer than most to release theirs, but we got just about everybody else’s! Chris Barnett, of Beer and Bites Club, was even kind enough to bless us with a few imported beauties. Those imported beauties were meant to serve as a reference. The Hacker Pschorr & Paulaner Oktoberfest are two of the 6 breweries located within Munich city limits that are officially sanctioned to provide beer to the tents during Oktoberfest and legally carry the coveted moniker.
We met at Josh’s new house where his fiancee Yazmin hooked it up with a hella spread of dips, charcuterie, and pizzas, and she did it all without a dang fridge. Step your game up, ladies and gentlemen.
Who got the (digital instant-read) thermometer?
Yeah. That nerdy.
Here are all the breweries we gathered Oktoberfestbierzens from, in no particular order (JK We’re nerds – it’s alphabetical order, duh)
Galveston Island Brewing
Under The Radar
Let the Tasting Begin
As we huddled around Josh and Yazmin’s dining room table, clamoring over second-hand Oktoberfest stories and snacking, we prepared ourselves for a marathon of similarity. Stouts and IPAs offer a ton of variation among them, so those tastings required less discernment. But this one would be different. Naming the best Oktoberfest in Houston would require more stamina, but we set the pizza aside.
Pretzels and taster glasses in hand, we began the journey on our 100% blind taste test with a stack of BJCP scoresheets.
To keep our wits about us, we didn’t drink all the beer. One of the first rules on beer-writing is not do be drunk when you do it because drunkenness impairs your sensory perception. Damn, we’re nerds. Safe nerds.
We individually scored each beer according to the four of the five senses, aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel plus overall impression. We considered adding sound in there, but we agreed that was maybe a bit too much, and we put our stethoscopes away. At the end of the tasting, we tallied the group total for each beer to obtain the rankings below. There were a couple of outliers, but for the most part, our aggregated scores showed clear trends.
Best Oktoberfest in Houston #5 – Under the Radar 1506 Märzen
These guys like to stay under the radar, but we gotta give credit where it’s due. This fine Märzen can be found only at their Montrose taproom as far as we know.
Best Oktoberfest in Houston #4 – Urban South Virtual Prost
You can find this malty, crispy banger at their Sawyer Yards taproom, and you can get it delivered to your door from our friends at Hop Drop. Use code BEERCHRONICLE and save 10% on your first order!
Best Oktoberfest in Houston #3 – Fortress Oktoberfest
If you’re seeing a trend here, you’re not the only one. This smooth sipper’s only available at their Spring taproom. We see a last minute beer run in some of y’all’s future.
Best Oktoberfest in Houston #2 – Back Pew Festiber
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Although Back Pew is still kinda finding their way with their identity, Bobby’s never been shy about his passion for true to style German beer. It shows with their Festbier. This was the first one on our top 5 list to be widely distributed. You can find it at Spec’s, HEB, Total Wine, and other finer grocery stores.
Best Oktoberfest in Houston, Honorable Mentions
Chris Barnett: Personally, my honorable mention goes to New Magnolia. I think they’re a sleeper brewery and the team there has a tremendous offering of varying styles of which are all done well… Speaks to the talent and expertise of the brewmaster.
Josh Olalde: Is it still an honorable mention even if they were still top 5? Urban South HTX’s was hella good. Not gonna lie… I was surprised since they focus so heavily on all the fruited stuff. They should hit us with more classics like this Virtual Prost!
Anthony Gorrity: As much as I want to say New Magnolia, I’m going to be the ultra-traditionalist of the bunch and say Shiner. No matter where I go, no matter how garbage the beer menu might be, I know I can always count on Shiner for something good. Their Oktoberfest was no different.
The other guys are too cool to be surprised by anything, so they opted not to comment.
Top 5 Best Oktoberfest in Houston, Biggest Surprise – New Magnolia Oktoberfest
Maybe it’s because the brewery itself is new that we’re all a little surprised by these guys, but with Sean Spiller (formerly of Jester King) mashing in, we really shouldn’t be surprised. Oktoberfest aside, bringing home GABF medal in their first year is quite the feat, and not a single beer from these guys has been disappointing.
The Best Oktoberfest in Houston #1 – Alstadt Oktoberfest
Brightest, most aromatic, cleanest, most to-style, and overall the easiest to drink of the bunch, this BAMF of a malty boi can be found just about everywhere good beer is sold. Great work, Alstadt. You outshone everybody else from Houston in a Houston blind tasting. That deserves a pat on the back for sure. But, since it’s in bottles, be careful on your way home not to expose them to the sunlight. Here are 4 lies you may have been told about skunked beer.
Special shout out has to go to Yazmin once again. Her and Josh were such gracious hosts. She even agreed to pour all the beers for us! She did an exceptional job ensuring it was truly a blind tasting. She prepared all the samples for us in a different room and brought to the dining room; we insulated ourselves from the noise of her cracking beers open with a medley of classic rock, old school hip hop and (what else even is there to play) to ensure we couldn’t hear if a bottle top, crowler, growler, or can was opened.
Doing a blind taste test to vote Houston’s best Oktoberfest beer was super fun, and we can’t wait to do another blind tasting like this. We’ve talked about doing one for specifically hazy IPAs, but maybe we’ll do one for pale lagers instead. Who knows. What blind taste test would y’all want to see most?
Beers to you, Houston.