9/1/21: HighGrain Brewing Company's Meadow

3:33 PM

There was a definite chill in the air this morning when I woke up. It was still dark out when my alarm went off at 6:30. My morning commute is getting longer due to school traffic. Finally, finally it's seeming like summer's drawing to a close. The timing of all this is perfect since it's September 1st, meaning that the blog's officially shifting into autumn beers. These beers, of course, start with Oktoberfest--a beer season we'll recognize all month long.

This year I have six Oktoberfest brews lined up to feature. Today, we're kicking off the festivities with HighGrain's Meadow, a true festbier lager (as the HighGrain folks put it, at least). So, I encourage you to put on your favorite polka playlist, crack into an Oktobefest brew of your own, and settle in as we start this adventure together.

HighGrain's based out of the old Silverton, OH Municipal Building. Although they opened just after Michelle and I moved away from the area, I did have a chance to drop in for a visit before COVID hit. Despite the pandemic, the brewery's been doing great! They're devoted to sustainability, something that's seen in their transition to solar power, the usage of electric vehicles for their sales team, and the addition of a carbon-neutral ale to their lineup. They're good folks, and I'm itching to get out to the brewery again soon.

Meadow, which isn't that carbon-neutral beer, is featured on HighGrain's Beer Menu. It's a 6.2% ABV malt-forward Oktoberfest offering that's been lagered for four weeks, which is what makes it a "...true festbier." I'll also add that my can state's the lager's been "Fermented with yeast from the oldest brewery in Munich." That's a pedigree.

Now, I'll be honest with you: I've been doing this for years now and have never really known the difference between the two Oktoberfest lagers (Märzens and festbiers). I decided to change that and found this excellent PorchDrinking.com article by David Nilsen. Turns out the definition is murkier than I expected it to be.

It's a great article that you should definitely take a minute or two to read, but to paraphrase the big ideas from it: A Märzen is typically heavier, darker, higher ABV, and sweeter than the lighter, lower ABV, and more bitter festbier. Both of these, though, are marketed across the US as "Oktoberfest" (or "Octoberfest") beer. Brewers across the nation don't necessarily limit themselves to these rigid concepts for the beers, though.

My (admittedly cursory) research into how long festbier needs to be lagered proved futile. But, considering that a Märzen starts its lagering process in March in order to be ready by September, I'm inclined to believe HighGrain's assertion that festbiers are lagered for four weeks.

Cracking into my can provides me with the aroma I'd expect from that traditional idea of a fesbier: An immediate bitter hop bite. Behind this, however, I'm finding the rest of the bouquet that I associate with Oktoberfest-style beer, including biscuit, honey, toffee, and caramel. When taken as a whole, Meadow's nose is clean, crisp, and sweet. Definitely befitting this style of lager. Purrl gave my bottle twelve whiffs, so she's in solid agreement with me.

The flavor got me good here. What I'm finding most strongly is freshly-baked bread with honey drizzled over it. It's absolutely delicious. There's a dry finish to my swig, inviting me back immediately for another. And another, and so on down the line. Those further swigs present more flavors to me: apple, toffee, and toast, namely.

Mouthfeelwise, Meadow's a perfect lager. Easy-drinking, moderately carbonated, with an assured smoothness.

I'm sitting on my porch, attempting, without success, to pin an Oktoberfest memory to this beer. Instead, my mind's wandering to the time Michelle and I made pretzels (hey, it's Oktoberfest-adjacent!). The aroma that filled our kitchen was heavenly. The pretzels themselves were a little wanting (we didn't even try to do the skin), but we loved them all the same. It's been some time since we gave pretzel making a go. Maybe this September we should dust off the old baking book and have another shot at it.

HighGrain's entry into the Oktoberfest canon is a great beer for me to welcome the season. Meadow's crisp, full of flavor, and drinks easily. I can't help but give it what it deserves, which is a 9.5/10. Hopefully by now you've finished your beer. You might even be reaching for another, in which case, prost!

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