The changing of the season to autumn means a lot of different things to people in Arkansas. It means Friday night high school football, Saturday college football games, tailgating, beautiful Sunday drives and our first break from the oppressive humidity of Arkansas summers. To me, as a die-hard craft beer lover, it means seasonal beers like Märzens and pumpkin styles arrive, and we’ve got some good ones to pick from around central Arkansas.
Märzen, or Oktoberfest, is a German lager known to be malt-forward, amber in color, and typically very easy to drink. It was traditionally brewed in the month of March (Marz) at the end of the brewing season, stored in caves over the summer, and served in autumn amidst harvest celebrations. Märzen eventually became the official beer of Oktoberfest. Some breweries now serve them year-round, which I have no problem with personally, but almost all breweries have their own version which they release around these fall months.
Pumpkin beers come in all sorts of styles and variations and begin hitting the taps as early as August now, but that’s a whole other post.
So in the past week, I’ve either acquainted myself with or re-acquainted myself with this six-pack of picks from our central Arkansas breweries, all in the name of research of course.
Diamond Bear Rocktoberfest Märzen: If you’re not that familiar with the style, this is a great place to start as it’s a straight-forward version of it. This beer has been a central Arkansas fall tradition for the last decade, since Diamond Bear introduced it around 10 football seasons ago. It pours a pretty amber color with a nice creamy head. The aroma matches the flavor of rich caramel sweet malt and some low key hops. It’s finishes clean and meets that “very easy to drink” criteria, coming in around 6% ABV. You can find it on taps and in 12-oz bottles and I’ve found this year’s version to be the best I can remember.
Stone’s Throw Big Dam Horn O-Plenty Imperial Märzen: Named after local band The Big Dam Horns, this one is actually an imperial version of the style and has a richer, more forceful malt profile. The flavor is big and bold. It clocks in at 8.5% ABV but even with the huge malt kick, it just drinks so much easier than that, so be careful. There are tap handles of this one all around town.
Damgoode Arktoberfest Märzen: A new entry to our market this year, Damgoode Brews brewed it for the Arktoberfest festival in Arkadelphia last weekend and will be serving it in their River Market location, grand opening at the Kavenaugh location and at the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival next Friday. It’s a solid traditional version of the style and clocks in at 5.4% ABV. I found it very satisfying with a nice smooth sweet malt flavor and clean finish.
Lost Forty The Hunter Oktoberfest: Probably the least traditional version on this list, but also for me one of the more interesting ones. The biggest difference is plenty of spicy noble hop aromas and flavors. The combination of traditional German style noble hops Hallertau Mittlelfruh and Crystal hops, which lends a subtle hint of citrus, make it more flavorful than a typical Oktoberfest. The sweet malts are there, but paired with more hops than I expected. It’s 6.1% ABV and perfect for washing down some sauerkraut or sausage. Get it on taps around town or maybe there are some cans still at the brewery. They’ll also have it at the Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival.
Lost Forty Vanilla Bean Pumpkin Baltic Porter: The nose and first few sips for me held plenty of rich vanilla and hints of pumpkin, but as I adjusted the pumpkin sort of hid in the background a bit and the vanilla and base porter took over. That works fine for me because I’m a huge fan of the Baltic Porter, with plenty of robust chocolate and roasted coffee notes while being so easy to drink. The vanilla works very well with it and brings a nice dimension. The pumpkin is there, it’s just not punching you in the face.
Stone’s Throw Pumpkin Pie Porter: Another rich, full porter with nice dark and roasted flavors out in front, it works well with the lingering pumpkin spice flavors. They don’t overpower it but instead complement it well. I like to let this one warm up just a little to really let those spicy flavors come out. They’ve made this one before but I think this year’s version is the best so far. It’s 6% ABV and you can find taps around town.
Have a local fall brew you can’t get enough of? Get down there in the comments and let us know all about it.