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Thirsty Thursday: Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest


Welcome to Thirsty Thursday, a weekly column where we pick a beer from our fridge and review it, because in a world where two new breweries launch every single week, sometimes we need some help sifting through all of the hops.


It’s that time of year – when the weather starts to become crisp, when the leaves begin to change and when your beer distributor puts out the fall lineup of craft beer.  

Much like the old Andy William Christmas tune, I often joke that it’s the most wonderful time of the “beer.” When I was walking around my beer store, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to take it, whether I wanted an traditional Oktoberfest beer or something with more of a pumpkin or harvest flavor.  There were a ton of options but I elected to choose a festive beer that I have actually never had before – Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest.

I wanted to keep my selection in the United States, otherwise I would’ve chosen Paulaner Brewery’s Oktoberfest, which is by far my favorite of the season.  I’ve had Samuel Adams’ effort more than enough, so I steered away and chose Leinenkugel’s because, let’s face it, a brewery based out of Wisconsin has to know a thing or two about German beer, right?

One of the nation’s oldest breweries, Leinenkugel’s was founded in 1867 in Chippewa Falls by Jacob Leinenkugel, with the first fans being local lumberjacks.  Over the years, the brewery has continued to prosper and now the sixth generation of Leinenkugels run it, though it is owned by MillerCoors, producing seven year-round beers along with eight other efforts.  Leinenkugel’s distributes it’s beer to all 50 states, and pumped out more than a quarter million barrels back in 2012.  The company is best known for Summer Shandy, a unique – often duplicated – traditional weiss beer with natural lemonade flavor.

But summer is over and I ‘m here to enjoy one of the best things about September.

As I look at the label, it’s very simple – not surprising for a brewery that’s been around longer than Washington has been a state.  It’s easily recognizable as the Leinenkugel’s brand, with a blue and white theme (the colors of Oktoberfest) and a picture of a river with beer tents.  There’s no writing, other than the mandatory stuff. Oktoberfest, if you’re unfamiliar, is a German Style Marzen beer, offering more of a lager taste but with additional spices and fall-like flavor.  This particular one is 5.1% alcohol by volume, 20 IBUs and is described to have a perfect malt flavor, along with subtle, spicy hop notes. And, apparently, it’s a stein’s best friend – but I will be the judge of that!

Photo Courtesy of Leinenkugel’s

I will admit, when I opened this beer I was a little skeptical.  When it comes to my fall beers, I’m pretty set in my ways and I actually don’t like to go off the beaten path too often.  There’s really not a lot to say about this Oktoberfest, as it’s a fairly simple beer, like most of its contemporaries.  When I popped it open, it smelled like a typical Oktoberfest, only a little less pungent, which is mostly malt and maybe just a hint of caramel.  It has a very rich amber color – though not as dark as usual – and a hefty, slightly off-white head that lingers, in a good way. The taste is a little more potent than the smell, with the hops doing a good job of balancing it out, however we still don’t get quite enough of the Oktoberfest flavor that we appreciate in Sam Adams and the likes.  It finishes good, but not great, with a little of that malty flavor lingering.

Honestly, I feel like this is a little bit of a watered-down version of an Oktoberfest.  It will certainly do the trick in a pinch but is definitely nothing to write home about.  Perhaps it just needs a little more of the ingredients that make the traditional marzen style of beer so iconic – more flavor.  I will say, it was one of the cheaper offerings at my store, with a price of $9.75, which is a plus.  The average BeerAdvocate score is a 3.19 and that’s not too far off, as I am going to score this Oktoberfest a 4.7 out of 10.  Live and learn.

Stay tuned for next week, because I might just try something from your favorite brewery.