Oak Highlands’ Märzen-Style Oktoberfest Is The First Taste Of Fall.

Welcome to On Tap! Each week in this recurring feature, we’ll take an in-depth look at one of the many beers now available in the suddenly crowded North Texas brew scene. The goal here is to look at these area beers without our local goggles on and to wonder aloud, “Is this beer good or do I just like it because it’s local?” Should be a fun experiment, no? Cheers to that!

This week, we sipped on Oak Highlands Brewery‘s Oktoberfest.

Fast Facts on Oak Highlands Brewery Oktoberfest.
Style: Märzen
ABV: 5.8 percent.
International Bitterness Units (IBUs): 24.
Color: Copper.
Availability: Fall seasonal in kegs and cans.

Oak Highlands started brewing its Oktoberfest beer in 2015. When I visited the brewery and taproom last year, the folks pouring pints convinced me to try it with cinnamon and sugar rimmed on the pint glass. I reluctantly agreed, and while I wasn’t totally blown away by this flavor addition, it was interesting. The beer took on a somewhat holiday pie sort of attitude and, hey, some people like that. So go for it, OHB. Purists be damned!
Once again, OHB brewed Oktoberfest as a fall seasonal. Hopefully it will keep this tradition up! One other important item to note is the small pink ribbon on the can. OHB donates a percentage of sales of Oktoberfest to a local breast cancer awareness charity. Beer and boobs, sure!

Background on Märzen.
The Märzen style is an often-overlooked style in DFW. Say it with me: Märzen. Mare-tsen. I like this style a lot, and I don’t really get in the Märzen mood until late summer. And here we are in late summer, and OHB has released this beer right on time. If you read this column regularly, there is a tiny chance that you have visited Germany’s legit Oktoberfest, and a much larger chance that you have stood in line for those dumb tickets and exchanged them for your fair share of Oktoberfest-style beer at one of the myriad local Oktoberfest celebrations around town.

Märzen is a clean German lager that’s both easy-drinking and full of flavor. They are typically brewed in March, and then lagered through the summer to be ready in late August. The style originated during the same moment when the Vienna Lager style came on to the beer scene. German Oktoberfest style beers have evolved from rich styles like Märzen toward chug-ability, however, the U.S. and other variations on the Oktoberfest style remain darker. And that’s OK. Personally, I’d rather drink an Oktoberfest beer with a little bit more malt backbone on it. The U.S. has no shortage of light lager chuggers, so why would we want more of the same? I don’t intend to blur the lines between the rather new BJCP category named Festbier, but it seems that the new-ish lighter German chuggers fall in to this category, while the darker Oktoberfest styles could wander over in to Märzen territory. This style is known for its rich malt character, a perceived sweetness packaged with a clean crisp finish, and very low hop character.

Oktoberfest pours a light copper color. This beer is nice and clear, and it looks super inviting. The head on this beer hangs around for photos, and then it subsides to form a nice ring around my glass. The lacing is nice for this beer too. OHB has its clarity game on point, further evident by the brilliant clarity going on here.

The main aroma on this beer is malty goodness. It’s semi-subtle on the nose, but more evident in the retro-nasal slow breath out the nose after the swallow. There is little to no hop on the nose of this beer, but there is a small amount of hop bitterness in the taste. Overall, the aroma is a sort of subtle, sweet bread or crust type of sensation.

This is a mild-drinking beer through and through. I get mostly malt and just a teeny tiny perceived sweetness. It’s not cloying sugary sweetness, however. It’s a balanced sort of sweetness, minus the sugar. There is a very low sense of bitterness on the taste, but it doesn’t get in the way of the bready malt flavor of this beer. The alcohol level is hidden very nicely behind the malt backbone of this beer, and I want to drink this beer fast.

Oktoberfest is deceptively smooth. My eyes seem to get in the way of the sensory experience with this beer, because they’re telling my brain that this looks like a sipper of a beer. But it’s not! Oktoberfest is a smooth, rich, medium-bodied experience for the palate. It finishes crisp, without a bunch of residual sugar or other distracting sensations.

Overall Impression.
I can’t say that I go seek out the Märzen style on the regular. However, with fall right around the corner, the Oktoberfest style beers are now back on my radar screen. And your local bars and growler shops are putting this style back on their menus. I’m pleasantly surprised with Oktoberfest. This beer isn’t going to totally knock you over with its flavor or aroma, but that’s not the point of this style anyways. It’s a malt-rich, easy drinking lager.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Oak Highlands Brewery Oktoberfest a 7.25.

What’s happening in the area brew scene?
• Saturday, August 27. Two-Year Anniversary at Shannon Brewing.
• Sunday, September 4. Labor of Love Homebrew Competition at Deep Ellum Brewing Co.
• Saturday, September 10. Brewfest at Dallas Farmers Market.
• Thursday, September 15-18. Addison Oktoberfest at Addison Circle Park.
• Saturday, September 17. Barks, Brews & BBQ at Intrinsic Smokehouse and Brewery.
• Thursday, September 22-24. Oktoberfest Fort Worth at Panther Island Pavilion.
• Saturday, October 1. Texas Beer Camp at Long Road Farm.
• Saturday, October 1. Rahr & Sons Oktoberfest 5K Run/Walk.
• Saturday, October 8. BeerFeast at Flying Saucer Fort Worth.
• Saturday, November 12. Untapped: Dallas at Fair Park.

Previous On Tap Reviews:
Revolver’s Sangre y Miel: 10.
Peticolas’ Royal Scandal: 10.
Community’s Mosaic IPA: 10.
Peticolas’ Velvet Hammer: 10.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Legion: 10.
Community’s Legion: 10.
BrainDead’s Fill in the Blancs: 9.5.
Oak Highlands’ Freaky Deaky: 9.5.
Deep Ellum’s Barrel Aged Four Swords: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Saint Dymphna: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Lost Epic: 9.5.
Community’s Ascension Porter: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Temptress: 9.5.
Lakewood’s Goatman: 9.5.
Community’s Public Ale: 9.5.
Peticolas’ Thrilla in Brazilla: 9.5.
On Rotation’s Jalapeno Saison: 9.
Woodcreek’s Bourbon Barrel Bock: 9.
Lakewood’s Wild Manimal: 9.
Revolver’s Blood & Honey: 9.
Martin House’s Imperial Texan: 9.
Community’s Trinity Tripel: 9.
Peticolas’ Irish Goodbye: 9.
Four Corners’ Block Party Porter: 9.
Cedar Creek’s Belgian Dubbel: 9.
Peticolas’ Ghost Of Alfred Brown: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Easy Peasy IPA: 8.5.
Deep Ellum’s Oak Cliff Coffee Ale: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Rock Ryder: 8.5.
Rahr’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Winter Warmer: 8.5.
Lakewood’s Raspberry Temptress: 8.5.
Texas Ale Project’s Payne Pils: 8.
Noble Rey’s Bridesmaid’s Tears: 8.
Collective Brewing’s Urban Funk House: 8.
Lakewood’s On Call: 8.
Oak Highlands’ Golden Mustache: 8.
903 Brewers’ Crackin’ Up: 8.
Deep Ellum’s Play Date: 8.
Rahr & Sons Brewing Company’s 11th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Belgian Tripel: 8.
Noble Rey’s SteamPunk: 8.
903 Brewers’ Citra On Top: 8.
Bitter Sisters’ Hissy Fit: 8.
BrainDead’s Gritz: 8.
Community’s Barrel-Aged Inspiration : 8.
Cedar Creek’s Fisticuffs: 8.
Lakewood’s Punkel: 8.
Four Corners’ El Chingon IPA: 8.
Martin House’s Day Break: 8.
Deep Ellum’s GOURDzilla: 8.
Peticolas’ The Duke (Aged 12 Months): 8.
Deep Ellum’s Pale Ale: 8.
Revolver’s Bock: 8.
903 Brewers’ Sasquatch: 8.
Peticolas’ Wintervention: 8.
Armadillo Ale Works’ Brunch Money: 8.
Martin House’s Salsa Verde: 8.
Cedar Creek’s Spinning Mule Robust Porter: 8.
Lakewood’s Holiday Bonus: 8.
Lakewood’s Hop Trapp: 8.
Grapevine’s Reserve Tart Cherry Berliner Weisse: 7.5.
Martin House’s Stars Above: 7.5.
Grapevine’s Prickly Pear Wheat Ale: 7.5.
Bitter Sisters’ Knock Out: 7.5.
Four Corners’ Notorious O.A.T.: 7.5.
Noble Rey Golden Rey With Raspberries and Ginger: 7.5.
On Rotation Saved By The Belma: 7.5.
True Vine’s Unicorn’s Revenge: 7.5.
Deep Ellum’s Hop Seeker: 7.5.
Four Corners’ El Super Bee: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Hopochondria: 7.5.
Three Nations GPA: 7.5.
Martin House’s Rubberneck Red: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Antigoon’s Revenge: 7.5.
Community’s Texas Pils: 7.5.
Lakewood’s Zomer Pils: 7.5.
Cedar Creek’s Dankosaurus: 7.5.
Backcountry’s Double IPA: 7.
Rahr’s Visionary: 7.
Shannon Brewing’s Irish Cream Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Guava Good: 7.
TUPPS Brewery’ Northbound 75: 7.
Rahr & Sons’ Iron Joe: 7.
BrainDead’s I Like Harvey IPA: 7.
Martin House’s Turtle Power: 7.
Collective’s Petite Golden Sour: 7.
Shannon’s Chocolate Stout: 7.
BrainDead’s Red Ale: 7.
Community’s Razzy Raspberry Witbier: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway Blonde Ale: 7.
Bearded Eel’s Purple Unicorn: 7.
Noble Rey’s Off The Leash: 7.
Shannon Brewing Company’s Irish Red: 7.
Texas Ale Project’s Somethin’ Shady: 7.
Deep Ellum IPA: 7.
Cedar Creek’s The Lawn Ranger: 7.
Martin House Brewing Company’s Cellarman’s Reserve IPA (Amarillo).: 7.
Lakewood’s Till & Toil: 7.
903 Brewers’ The Chosen One: 7.
903 Brewers’ Sugar On Top: 7.
Martin House’s Gateway XPA: 7.
Armadillo Ale Work’s Quakertown Stout: 7.
Revolver’s High Brass: 7.
Community’s Pale Ale: 7.
Oak Highlands’ Chump Change: 7.
Martin House’s River House: 7.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Sir William’s Brown Ale: 7.
Community’s Funnel Cake Ale: 7.
Audacity’s Boss Raptor IPA: 7.
Martin House’s The Juice: 6.5.
Collective Brewing Project’s Mom Azacca: 6.5.
Four Corners’ La Lechuza: 6.5.
Revolver’s Ironhead IPA: 6.5.
903 Brewers’ Trot Line: 6.5.
Peticolas’ Operation Collaboration: 6.5.
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Nightwatch: 6.5.
Peticolas’ The Duke: 6.5.
Deep Ellum’s Double Brown Stout : 6.5.
Wild Acre’s Tarantula Hawk: 6.
Martin House’s Kafkaesque: 6.
TUPPS’ Cotton Mill Gold: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Tweedleyum: 6.
Rabbit Hole’s Off With Your Red: 6.
Cedar Creek’s Elliott’s Phoned Home Pale Ale: 6
Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Lakefire: 6
Armadillo Ale Works’ WunderMelon: 6
Deep Ellum Pale Ale: 6
Lakewood’s Troll Toll: 5.5.
Martin House’s Hell Below: 5.5.
Lakewood’s La Dame Du Lac: 5.5.
Martin House’s Mind On My Money: 5.
903 Brewers’ The Land Of Milk And Honey: 5.
Deep Ellum’s Numb Comfort: 5.
Four Bullets’ Black Jack Brown: 4.5.
Four Corners Heart O’ Texas: 4.
Audacity’s Sunset Boulevard: 4.
Shannon Brewing Company’s IPA: 4.
Grapevine’s Monarch: 4.
Twin Peaks’ Dirty Blonde: 3.
Franconia Wheat: 3.
Miller Lite: 1.

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