For many craft beer drinkers fall brings out a longing for Oktoberfests. These seasonal lagers start appearing as early as August, and by mid-September store shelves are well stocked. By November, Oktoberfests become scarce. While Madison always sees a host of well-known returning favorites, in 2019 there are more than a half-dozen new deliveries worth checking out. My pick from this year’s crop is from Third Space Brewing.
Style: The Oktoberfest is a Märzen lager. It is medium-bodied, golden- to copper-colored, clean and well balanced, often ranging between 5 to 6 percent ABV. The festival-style Oktoberfest made famous at festivals, like its namesake event in Germany, is a little lighter colored with less body and strength than the traditional Märzen. This distinctive style emerged as a beer to celebrate the wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on Oct. 17, 1810.
Background: Third Space Brewing has been making beer in Milwaukee since 2016. Even though its Oktoberfest has been offered there since opening, this fall is the first time it has been sold in Madison. Third Space started distributing its brands here last spring.
Oktoberfest is the brewery’s number-one selling seasonal beer, despite having one of the shortest availabilities. “People in Wisconsin are strong seasonal drinkers and Oktoberfest is the classic style for them,” says brewery co-founder Andy Gehl. His partner, brewmaster Kevin Wright, jokes that “I think we’re legally required to have one in Wisconsin. I really didn’t think there was a choice of not making one.”
Wright brews his Oktoberfest as a Märzen-style lager with about one month of aging. At its core are Munich and Vienna malts, which give it soft sweetness and its copper color. Delicate herbal, spicy character comes from Hallertau Mittlefrüh hops. “It’s one of the first styles that I ever started exploring as a beer drinker,” says Wright, who drew inspiration for this beer from the classic Bavarian beer Ayinger.
Third Space Oktoberfest finishes at 6 percent ABV and 25 IBUs. It sells in six-packs of 12-ounce cans for around $9.
Third Space celebrates its third anniversary on September 14 with a party from noon to 10 p.m., and this beer is at the center of those festivities in the brewery’s beer garden.
BTW: Fans of the Oktoberfest style will also want to make note of the Isthmus OktoBEERfest also on Sept. 14, at Breese Stevens Field from 3-7 p.m.
Glassware: The heavy dimpled Bavarian seidel or stein, the kind one can hoist with the cry of “prosit.”
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Pairs well with: German fare like pork and sausages. A favorite choice of mine with Oktoberfest is smoked pork loin.
The Verdict: This is a very inviting malt-forward Oktoberfest. I spent the week following the Labor Day holiday trying more than a half-dozen Wisconsin-made Oktoberfests, and I pick Third Space as an early favorite of Märzen lagers for the 2019 season. It has nice bready sweetness, with enough herbal spiciness from the Hallertau hops to be balanced yet full of flavor. It’s malty, but not cloying or sticky. This is a seasonal treat that is very sessionable, as a good Oktoberfest should be.
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