Each year since 2015, Sierra Nevada has partnered with an established German brewery on its annual Oktoberfest releases. The concept began with a collaboration effort between Sierra Nevada and Ausberg’s Brauhaus Riegele. 2016 featured work from Mahr’s Brau in Bamberg. 2017 saw the craft stalwart hook up with Miltenberg’s Brauhaus Miltenberger.
2018’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest features Bavarian collaborator Weihenstephan—the oldest brewery in the world according to Weihenstephan itself. This particular iteration features four malts (Two-row pale, Steffi, pilsner and Munich) to go with three hop varietals (Sterling, Spalter and Record), finishing at 20 IBUs and 6.0% ABV.
Sporting a very Bavarian blue and white diamond patterned label, Sierra Nevada’s 2018 Oktoberfest pours a rich but light caramel color. Tons of active bubbles cloud an otherwise totally clear body as they rise to meet the frothy finger of white head sitting on top. Though that head fades slowly through the middle, the edges cling to the glass in defiance.
A good Oktoberfest smells like beer. That may seem obvious, but in the world of craft beer aromas are often dominated by fruit, funk, roastiness or myriad other scents. Cheap lagers cloud the nose with rice, off aromas or provide no aroma at all. Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest smells of lightly bready and sweet malt, with hints of herbal and fruity hops and an earthy quality--possibly from the yeast--that make for a subtle and delightful aroma.
The resulting offering hits on the oldest recipe for a good beer: simple, clean and well-executed.”
Like the aroma, this Oktoberfest’s flavor is entirely beery—with no adjuncts, dry hopping or sour bugs to muddy up its beautifully clean and simple taste. The complex malt bill brings sweetness, roasty bitterness and a drying cracker-like flavor. The Noble hops complement those qualities with floral and earthy notes, and just more than a hint of lemon. The beer finishes clean and drying, begging you back for another sip.
Sierra Nevada was smart to collaborate with the world’s oldest brewery because the resulting offering hits on the oldest recipe for a good beer: simple, clean and well-executed. The 2018 Oktoberfest is just as at home sipped in a tasting alongside nuanced ales as it is swilled from a stein alongside sausage and pretzels. Sierra Nevada produces excellent German-inspired Oktoberfests year after year, and the 2018 version is yet another pillar of the style to which other brewers should aspire.