While Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Company is perhaps best known for its imperial stout Yeti (and its many variants), one shouldn’t overlook the rest of the brewery’s offerings. In particular, its award-winning Oktoberfest lager Hoss deserves some attention this fall.
Hoss differs from most Oktoberfests (or lagers in general for that matter) due to Great Divide’s addition of rye into the malt bill. The rye malt brings earthy and spicy notes that complement and clean up the traditionally sweet and malt-heavy Oktoberfest profile. The end result is a unique beer that should give more brewers license to toss rye malt into their märzens as well.
Great Divide’s Oktoberfest pours from a red plaid can featuring a lumberjack silhouette—the Hoss bearing an axe and a pipe. The beer itself is neither rich caramel amber nor bright straw gold, but rather settles somewhere in between. A full two fingers of white foam sticks around while leaving nice lacing on the glass where it fades. Pinprick bubbles rise through the clear body and cling to the outside of the pint.
Much like the appearance, the aroma is a blend of the more traditional light and dark Oktoberfests flooding tap lists this fall. The dark side brings toffee and caramel malty aromas, with the light drumming up barnyard pilsner funk and floral, earthy fruit. The combination works, with Hoss’s aroma pulling me toward the glass.
The resulting beer is still sweet and malt-dominant like most Oktoberfests, but balanced enough to remain interesting on each sip.”
The flavor straddles a line as well. Great Divide’s Hoss is sweet and malty, but warm fruit and bitter herbal hops provide balance. Caramel and lightly bready toasted malt flirt with floral honey-like dark fruit to create a unique sweet flavor. For the first time, the rye addition roars through to clean up the taste with its spicy and earthy qualities. The resulting beer is still sweet and malt-dominant like most Oktoberfests, but balanced enough to remain interesting on each sip. That flavor dance plays over a medium-light body that mostly just stays out of the way.
Great Divide takes its shot at the Oktoberfest style with an ambitious lager in Hoss. The beer strikes an interesting balance between two standard German märzen styles, ultimately hitting on the best characteristics of each. Great Divide further increases the balance and complexity with the rye addition—something the rich oktoberfest style benefits from greatly. In a well-saturated category, Great Divide does enough to distinguish itself with Hoss.