Beware that Oktoberfest is a narrow style. By narrow I mean that the alcohol content, color, and flavor must all fall within a very narrow range for a beer to qualify as an example of the style. Only a handful of malts and hops are appropriate for the style, and it must be fermented cool with lager yeast. In contrast, something like an American brown ale might utilize several out of dozens of different specialty malts, might use any of dozens of different hops, may use one of many different yeast strains, and different examples will have widely different alcohol contents and bitterness levels.
All that is to say that for an Oktoberfest to have so decisively stood out from the pack to win gold at GABF two years in a row is a very impressive accomplishment, as there is not much room to work with for a brewer to produce a noteworthy example of the style. The judging is done via blind tasting, so beers can’t win based on reputation.
In my estimation the most distinguishing trait that makes Dogtoberfest stand out is the hoppiness. And I use the term “hoppiness” in a relative sense — as compared to most other Oktoberfests, not as compared to pale ales or IPAs. It clocks in at 30 IBU, which is pretty much the highest level of bitterness a beer can have and still qualify for the style (but way below the 70 IBU you’ll find in many IPAs). And some of those IBUs come from late hop additions so you can taste some of that Perle and Hersbrucker goodness (hops that combine for some lightly fruity, spicy, and grassy flavors).
The Vienna and Munich malts combine for a light amber color and plenty of malt sweetness. And at 5.3% ABV, this one fits right in with traditional German Oktoberfests, which as you might have guessed are liberally enjoyed at the festival of the same name. Here in the American South, they go perfectly with college football and tailgating foods like sausage. There is no better pairing for bratwurst, especially after marinating your brats in Oktoberfest beer. Throw some German potato salad in there you have a meal fit for a Kaiser.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com.