Blood Orange Adds Burst Of Sweetness To Rusty Rail Oktoberfest Brew
If you read my last column, you know I’m reveling in Oktoberfest season. I love these malty, German-style beers as they deliciously mark the transition from summer into fall and pave the way for the thicker, heavier beers to come. They’re delightfully savory and can come across like a liquid pretzel. Matzens are pretty drinkable as well, making them an easy brew to gulp.
There isn’t too much variation in the style, however. This isn’t to say that all Oktoberfest beers taste alike; if you have a few, you can certainly tell them apart. Perhaps it is more exacting to say that there aren’t many variations from the norm. When you take a style like stouts that are often mixed with a variety of ingredients such as chocolate, coffee and even oyster shells, marzens seem to pale in comparison. If you get a marzen, it’s a marzen — nothing more, nothing less.
One brewery looks to change that, however. Rusty Rail Brewing Co.’s N’Oktoberfest blood orange rye ale promises a different experience while still being in the vein of your standard Oktoberfest brew. While I never thought of it before, the addition of blood orange and rye to a marzen seems like a great pairing. With luck, Rusty Rail is going to follow through on that assumption.
The pour was an amber/orange color topped with a copious amount of long-lasting head. How much there was surprised me. It also had many little bubbles rising through the liquid, promising a good amount of carbonation common to marzens. It left lacing down the side of the glass as I drank it, hinting toward a bit of creaminess in the body.
Blood orange came out right away in the scent, adding sweetness and a citrus tang in the nose. There certainly was malt as well. Lurking in there, intermingling with the smell of hops, the rye added a certain heaviness to it. It amounted to a nice mix of sensations.
The taste up front was just that of a heavy marzen. While tasty, I definitely didn’t catch the blood orange. The longer I drank it, the more it changed, however. At first, I started to notice it slightly right before the full flavor of the bitter hops set in. A slight burst of sweetness and grapefruit bitterness lead into the balancing hops. Then, as it continued to warm, the blood orange took over the middle of the swallow, becoming rather bright between the sweet, toasty malt and bitter hops. It was a beautiful transition, made that much better by the blood orange’s own bitterness.
The rye seemed to be most apparent long after the swallow, lingering in the mouth like rye toast. It started to become apparent right after the sweet malt but disappeared amongst all the other flavors before reappearing at the end. It blended well and was in no way disruptive, but it certainly served to differentiate this brew from others.
N’Oktoberfest isn’t technically a marzen, instead being classified as a rye beer. I feel it still stays true to the marzen spirit, however, showcasing German malt and yeast. Despite this, the brew certainly is a nice divergence from the standard. Rusty Rail made a great brew here, certainly worthy of joining your Oktoberfest rotation. Enjoy the season, friends.