Ask most beer enthusiasts what's on their
mind in October, and they'll tell you, almost invariably, "Oktoberfest
beers!". To be sure, you may get the occasional contrarian response from the
pumpkin ale contingent, but far and away October really is the preserve of
those wonderfully malty O-Fest beers. Traditional German Oktoberfest beers
are always lagers, but here in America we like to throw tradition out the
door and do things our own way.
Hence, Oktoberfest ales. Harpoon Octoberfest (as many spell it here
in the states) is one example, and Otter Creek Brewing also makes a fine and
dandy one all their own. Such beers use caramel malt (and maybe even a bit
of Munich malt) along with German-style hops to simulate the Oktoberfest
experience, and give you that warm fuzzy fall feeling.
Here in the south, Atlanta's Sweetwater Brewery recently released just such
a beer in its Catch and Release line of limited time specialties.
Sweetwater doesn't mention the Oktoberfest ale connection (they call it an
ESB instead), although they do plaster their label with leaves. I'm not sure
either about the naming conventions this brewery seems to have adopted,
which continue to allude to sexual slang (as with their Happy Ending
Imperial Stout and Donkey Punch Barleywine). But this is Hotlanta, after
Sweetwater Motor Boat Ale pours to a rather apropos orange amber
color with a light creamy head formation and a bright caramel and citrus
nose. The color is, of course, so relevant because it reminds one of fall
foliage, and so why not a beer that looks like dead leaves? Anyway, taking a
sip I do get plenty of chewy caramel malt, really more than I'd expect in an
ESB and I think more than I used to get in their old ESB (yes, they offered
one in the past though it is now defunct). There's a hint of chocolate, too,
and some rather herbal and grassy hops that dry out the finish nicely. A
hint of spicy citrus hop flavor comes through too.
Sweetwater's Motor Boat is tasty fall brew that I'm really enjoying. I'm
really not getting the ESB connection, although this one is a lot hoppier
than most of the O-Fest ales I've tasted. But even then the Sterling hops
used here (a Saaz varietal) are decidedly Teutonic, although German and
English hops can both impart a grassy character. And the Cascades, which
lend the citric notes, don't really suggest tea and crumpets to me either.
Be that as it may, this is a welcome and tasty fall brew.
And remember, try a new beer today, and
drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For
reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.