Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


New Glarus Brewing Company
New Glarus, WI

Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 6.25%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

Pair With:
With autumn upon us and one Oktoberfest review already in the bag, Nigel was looking for another seasonal to dip his toes into (this is of course a fabrication … no fine brew will ever come anywhere near my feet). As I stated in that Sprecher review, the options aren’t exactly lacking. The Oktoberfest/märzen style is one of the most popular out there, and if it wasn’t the first seasonal beer, it’s certainly the most prolific. Right outside my door, Lakefront Brewery is cooking up their Oktoberfest. Down the hill, Water Street Brewery is churning their Oktoberfest out, one that is available even during early July at Milwaukee’s Summerfest. Within a few miles Sprecher and Milwaukee Ale House are cranking out their versions of this autumn classic.

But alas, when push came to shove, I couldn’t settle on any particular Oktoberfest, either locally or nationally. So I did what any true Wisconsin beer dork does when decisions are hard to come by: I bought New Glarus.

Somehow New Glarus’ wonderful take on the märzen style, Staghorn, got lost in the shuffle here at Since New Glarus is one of the most reviewed and best received breweries on our humble site (my non-scientific guess would be that only Bell’s and perhaps Founders could compete in both volume and praise), I’m not sure how Staghorn slipped through the cracks. While I’ll once again state that I find Oktoberfest brews to be typically good but rarely great, Staghorn has always been one of my favorites, one that steps out a bit from a crowded pack and fits the charm of a crisp Wisconsin autumn day perfectly.

Staghorn pours well, with a moderate creamy head of just over an inch that quickly dissipates, leaving a slight white lace at the sides throughout. Decent carbonation causes a constant bubbly dance in a brew that is golden brown in color, with the slightest mahogany tinge (though not as red as many of its märzen brethren). A quick glance would likely make the experienced drinker comment “it’s a little lighter than I was expecting.”

The aroma is pleasant though a bit faint, even for a style that doesn’t typically overwhelm the nostrils. Once you zero in, a noticeable hint of mild roasted malt and nuts comes at you, quickly followed by light, sugary notes of caramel and toffee. A yeasty, bready undertone is present as well, giving Staghorn all the necessary characteristics of an early fall brew in perfect synchronization, even if they don’t knock you upside the head.

The flavor is again perfect for the season, and I’d consider Staghorn a textbook example of what a fine Oktoberfest/märzen should taste like. Aromas and flavors seem to go hand-in-hand here, as initial flavors of roasted barley and nuts come through, but not to the level they can in some darker brews. The sugary sweetness is what I believe sets Staghorn above some of its counterparts, as there is a beautiful, light sugary sweetness of caramel and molasses that fits perfectly on a crisp autumn day. A mild, earthy undertone that at times takes on the characteristics of corn (and no, not in a Miller or Grain Belt nasty sort of way) constantly reminds one of the harvest, making this a seasonal brew in every sense of the word. Not overly spicy, despite its claim to be, and lacking much in the way of hoppiness as the style dictates, Staghorn is a wonderfully balanced, tasty brew. Medium bodied and smooth on the palate, this is the prime candidate for a session brew, although it is on the stronger side for the style (6.25 percent ABV).

Overall, this is one of the better, though probably not the best, Oktoberfests I’ve ever had. Staghorn fits the season perfectly, and again embodies the New Glarus brewing ethos of creating a quality example of a classic style. This is a must-try this time of year, as anyone who appreciates a good märzen will surely be satisfied. Only time will tell what Oktoberfest Nigel will review next, but it’s going to have some big shoes to fill.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on September 30, 2009.
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