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Oktoberfest Beers, Part 2

OK, last week we talked about the German imports I tried at a recent private tasting, the more traditional Oktoberfest beers. This week it's domestic variations. Of the 17 domestic autumn beers, our top three favorites were Weyerbacher Harvest Ale, Mendocino Brewing Company Oktoberfest Lager, and Lancaster Fest Beer Amber Lager. The Weyerbacher had nice balance, a hint of anise, and a silky finish-not an Oktoberfest lager, but tasty all the same. The Mendocino boasted more malt and a core of spice, while the Lancaster tasted more intense with a dash of candy sugar sweetness.

And then there were the pumpkin ales. There seem to be more of these on the market each year, for better or worse. Some are truly dreadful-vegetal or just off (my notes for this round include the descriptors "band aid," "undercooked squash," "soap"); some have no pumpkin or spice flavor at all (Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout, I'm looking at you). The top three chosen by our group included a slightly bizarre brew from New York state's Southern Tier, Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale-it smelled like basmati rice with notes of Indian spices like coriander and cardamom-as well as Dogfish Head's more straightforward Punkin' Ale, a brown ale blended with pumpkin, cinnamon, and allspice, and the balanced, spicy Pumpkin Ale from Weyerbacher (again).

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