Highland Brewing Company | Clawhammer Oktoberfest Lager

23 August 2016 by , No Comments

It’s August. That means pumpkin beers are – or will be shortly – on the shelves across our fair state. While I can hold off on the pumpkin beer for a bit, it’s the Märzen style lagers I really look forward to. A couple years back I did a Märzen series which was a lot of fun as this style has some range in interpretation. Once we get close to September though, this style takes to the shelves and it is certainly a welcome sight for this beer snob. I’m going to borrow a bit from the initial post in that series to provide a little history on the style:

Oktoberfest beer is typically a Märzen style lager – this translates into “March” beer which has its roots in Bavaria and reflects when they’d brew it – March! Why March? Way back when (think 16th century) beer could only be brewed between September 29th and April 23rd. Why? Because fire was a big deal and during these colder months, the chances of burning the place down were a lot lower. Now, Märzen style beer is a lager, which we all know has to be fermented at a lower temperature than ales. Also keep in mind that way back in the 16th century they couldn’t just throw the beer into the controlled freezer or fridge – they had to use nature to their advantage. So caves were used to store beer and as things started to get warmer they’d take ice out of frozen waterways and toss ’em into the cave – the equivalent of running down to Weigels! Now, a lot of these brews had a bit higher gravity so they’d keep pretty well over the warm summer months and everyone would pop ’em open in mid-to-late September at Oktoberfest – just before the brewing season started again. Sounds like a clearing of the cellar party to me! There, now you learned something, on with the review!

Highland_ClawhammerOn deck tonight we have Highland Brewing Company’s Clawhammer Oktoberfest Lager. If you follow the blog you know that Highland holds a special place for this snob – I love what they do and how they go about it. Gaelic Ale definitely was a contributing factor to my love of craft beer. Clawhammer, while not a new beer for me, is certainly one that I look forward to each year. As I’m studying for my BJCP tasting exam, I’m going to use the style guidelines (6A) as we review this one, so here we go!

On the nose I immediately find caramel and bread-like notes to suggest the dominance of the malts. Hop aroma is low if non-existent. Shifting to appearance this beer has a wonderful reddish-orange hue, very clear and poured with a medium, persistent head. On the tongue the sweet caramel tones are the first to greet the palate followed by subtle spice from the noble hops before the roasty notes leaves my palate dry and ready for the next sip. The mouth feel of the beer is medium and smooth. It coats the palate and lingers. Medium carbonation. There is no alcohol warmth to note and at 5% ABV, there shouldn’t be!

Final snobs: I’m ready for fall, football, changing leaves and for my grass to quit growing! This beer is a harbinger of great things to come this fall season. It certainly ticks all the boxes in the BJCP style guidelines even if it is a touch under the 5.8%-6.3% ABV stat – I wouldn’t ding it for that. This is a great example for the style and if my wife hadn’t stolen it, I’d definitely enjoy finishing this one off!