New Mexico’s Santa Fe Brewing Company has come a long way since distributing out of the back of a van in the late 1980s. As most craft breweries do, Santa Fe began as a passion project. As most craft breweries don’t, it has now evolved into a respected player in the industry with distribution to nine states.
Despite its growing footprint, it is a brewery I still may have never heard of were it not for my recent relocation to Eastern Kansas. Santa Fe doesn’t produce any craft beer whales or leaderboard toppers, and its chosen distribution isn’t exactly the most populated area of the country. Regardless, when I saw the blue and white patterned can for the brewery’s Oktoberfest I decided this was the beer to pick up for my first taste of Santa Fe.
About those cans. Santa Fe’s cans are typically as plain as they could be. One solid color with a tiny simple picture in a rectangle centered above white lettering that shows the name of the beer. In the Oktoberfest’s case, a brown banner was needed, so the white lettering could be distinguished from the pattern, which is in and of itself a slight departure from the solid color norm.
As simple as Santa Fe’s cans are, there is something about them that draws my eye on the shelf. Maybe it is that simplicity or just the use of color – either way I’d say that is probably what the marketing team is hoping for.
It was crisp, light and just barely stein-able.”
The beer inside the can poured a dark orange with a nice fluffy off white head that stuck around. Santa Fe’s Oktoberfest was very active in the glass, hinting at a crisp quaffable brew, and the clarity was pristine – as it should be for the style.
The aroma was more complex than I anticipate. Notes of cracker intermingled with pilsner dirtiness (I promise that’s a good thing) and a light herbal fruitiness. No one scent dominated the nose and the aroma overall was just strong enough to allow the complexity to shine. This smelled like an Oktoberfest I want to drink.
The taste followed the nose with a variety of notes ranging from a biscuity cracker like malt in the front to hinted of fruit (maybe melon?) and sweetness rounding it out. There was more of the fruit quality than I am used to in an Oktoberfest, and I found myself going back for another sip, seeking it out. The dirty pilsner found on the nose doesn’t carry into the taste as the maltiness present is more clear and distinct.
Where I find many Oktoberfests lacking in flavor in an attempt at drinkability or sometimes even too sweet, Santa Fe’s provided just enough punch to be interesting without compromising its quaffability or steering into malty sweetness. It was crisp, light and at 6% alcohol by volume, just barely stein-able.
While the ceiling is somewhat limited by the style, Santa Fe’s Oktoberfest brings something new while remaining true to its Märzen roots.