Total Score: 93.0, A Reviewed 11/17/2011
For today’s Oktoberfest I head to Downingtown, PA (not really, but I wish!) to taste Victory Brewing Company’s Festbier. I’ve been impressed with just about everything I’ve had from Victory over the years, especially Prima Pils and Hop Wallop. I’m hoping this one continues the trend as my past few Oktoberfests reviewed have not been especially impressive.
Victory was founded by two childhood friends Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski, both of whom started as homebrewers in 1985 then went on to study brewing in Germany (promising news for this Festbier!). Lucky for us, they came back and started Victory in 1996, and they’ve been growing rapidly ever since, increasing production from 2,500 barrels their first year in business to an impressive 58,850 barrels in 2010. In addition to their impressive dedication to their Green Energy Initiative, Victory also can boast about being only one of a few breweries in the US to use whole flower hops rather than pelletized hops. This really sounds like a pretty cool place, and I haven’t even had a chance to mention the 300 seat restaurant and 60 foot bar with 24 rotating taps…any ideas on how I can convince my wife that we need to drive through Downingtown soon?
One of the original three beers produced by Victory, Festbier was honored with the gold medal in the Octoberfest category at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival. It is brewed using a decoction mash technique common among many German-style beers, which the brewery says contributes to the beers sweet malty flavor and robust body. For all you foodies, Victory recommends pairing this one with a pizza as it will balance nicely against the acidity of the tomatoes. Available all year round on tap at the brewpub, and in bottles September through November.
Oans, zwoa, g’suffa! (Can’t pronounce it, but love it.)
Bottle bearing January 2, 2012 best-by date poured into my Victory/Winking Lizard pint glass. A great crystal clear light copper color with full but unimpressive soapy looking head that withers quickly to a thin, uneven coat of tiny bubbles. No lacing. A blast of caramel and toasted malts greets the nose, with just a trace of floral hops sneaking in. Vastly different than the other Oktoberfests I’ve had so far, but not in a bad way. Taste is spot on as well, with a big roasty malt flavor that’s really impressive. Maybe a bit of bitter tea-like flavor in there too, especially as it warms a bit. A quick burst of floral/citrusty hops again just sneaks in on the back end of the taste. Sweet, but not too sweet. Well balanced with bitterness. Body is fantastically big and complemented by generous carbonation. Goes down exceptionally smoothly leaving a chewy sweetness that is quickly usurped by dry bitterness.
While far from an expert, especially in the field of German style, this is easily my favorite interpretation of the Oktoberfest style. When I think Oktoberfest I think “big chewy malt bomb” and damn did this deliver. At 5.6% ABV, I could knock a sixer of these back without thinking twice. We’ll see if it holds up against the other heavyweights waiting in the wings, Great Lakes and Brooklyn, but for now it’s a true victory for Victory. Highly recommended.
Looks: 8.5/10 Smell: 9/10 Taste: 9.5/10 All-Around: 9.5/10
P.S. A special thanks to Karen at Victory for providing me with some great info about the beer!