2.6AROMA 4/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 11/20
I admit I’m fairly new to this beer reviewing thing, especially when it comes to imports (especially when it comes to rare seasonal imports). However, if a niche import looks, smells, and tastes like a run-of-the-mill American mass-market ice beer, I’d find it difficult to defend.
This is exactly how I feel about Hofbrau Oktoberfest – one of the six official German Oktoberfest beers. To date, every other beer of this style has been dark, sweet, and finely crafted. So why does this beer seem so typical?
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
Before I even poured Hofbrau Oktoberfest I had to raise an eyebrow. It was packaged in a light green bottle and seemed almost clear from the outside. It poured to a bright yellow straw color and formed a very small white foamy head. The head disappeared rather quickly and left next to no lacing on the glass. There was an extraordinary amount of carbonation present upon initial pour and it never stopped until the glass was empty.
Perhaps what shocked me most was the smell: this is a genuine German Oktoberfest? It smells like some cheap frat party brew – just a totally generic “beer smell.” No malts, no seasonings, not even particularly hoppy.
I decided not to panic or jump to conclusions. After all, this is an official Oktoberfest beer, surely the Germans know what a good beer is, right? Then how come this tastes exactly as it smells – like some cheap American bargain bin lager?
Technically, my only frame of reference would be Paulaner’s Oktoberfest which was a highly complex, very flavorful, smooth beer. Hofbrau tastes like the exact opposite. It’s just extremely basic, dry, bitter and almost salty. It leaves an unappealing aftertaste and doesn’t improve depending on the temperature in which it’s drunk.
It’s rare a beer with an unappealing taste can finish clean, but Hofbrau is surprisingly soft. Since it’s highly carbonated it doesn’t have the cleanest finish in the world, but I wouldn’t call it harsh, just a little gritty.
What surprised me most about Hofbrau was how weighty the beer seemed. After all, this beer looks and tastes a lot like an American “lite” so it should have a similar effect on the body, eh? At a very potent 5.8% ABV this is a beer that will make its presence known. I’m not sure how many calories it contains but I’d guess it’s close to tipping 200. Why the Germans want to drink such a heavy beer with gobs of food is beyond me.
The American “Octoberfest” beers had been fairly average and underwhelming to me, but none of them were off-putting. So it’s very ironic that Hofbrau Oktoberfest would seem inferior when it’s one of the genuine articles. I can actually see this beer being a good compliment to German festive foods such as brats and sauerkraut, but on its own it’s very disappointing.