As the calendar turns to fall, Oktoberfests begin to crop up on tap handles and beer store shelves. Ballast Point’s take on the style, Dead Ringer, leans heavily on toasted malt to provide the caramel, nut and toffee flavors that are required in any good Oktoberfest or Märzen. But Ballast Point doesn’t totally neglect the hops, as Dead Ringer clocks in at 26 IBUs to go along with its 6.0% ABV. The beer’s heavy reliance on the malt bill is ultimately its undoing, as the loads of toasted malt pit an off-putting bitterness against more pleasing flavor notes.
The label features a lederhosen-clad skeleton brandishing a stein, a pretzel and a grin, with dreadlocks dangling from under a German alpine hat. The beer itself pours a deep brown amber with hints of ruby red below a minimal but creamy white head. Dead Ringer has style-appropriate clarity and activity with bubbles rising up the glass.
Mild in its aroma, Dead Ringer mainly smells of sweet malt. Honey, bread and roasted nuts peek through the overall sweet aroma. A touch of pilsner-esque dirtiness or funk complements what could otherwise be described as a bland, if true-to-style, aroma.
In the end, Dead Ringer leaves me decidedly less jolly than its label art suggests.”
The initial taste of Dead Ringer is much more bitter than the aroma lets on. It’s astringent and seems to be more derived from bitter malts than hops. Bready notes combine with caramel and toffee to wash that astringency away. What’s left is a full-bodied, sweet Oktoberfest that is just shy of porter-level thickness. As the flavor fades, the bitter toastiness returns along with a hint of fruit that leaves a confusing aftertaste. That lingering flavor makes you want to go in for more, but mainly to rid it from your palate rather than get another taste of the beer.
Ballast Point’s take on the Oktoberfest / Märzen style hits all the key characteristics while remaining a little fuzzy around the edges. The distinct medium-full body and sweet caramel and toffee flavors are readily apparent, but they are accompanied by a subtle aroma and unpleasant bitterness. In the end, Dead Ringer leaves me decidedly less jolly than its label art suggests.