9/15/23: Athletic Brewing Co.'s Oktoberfest

6:40 AM

Today's post is something of a rarity around these parts: A non-alcoholic beer. The last one I drank for the blog was in February '20, just before the pandemic hit the US. If you'll recall, I enjoyed it.

A can of Athletic's Oktoberfest

You might imagine my surprise, then, when I spotted Athletic's NA take on an Oktoberfest beer on store shelves. I bought it on sight, hoping it'd scratch that frothy, malty itch I get this around this time each year, without needing to worry about the booze or calories weighing me down. Does it do what I'm hoping? Only one way to find out!

Athletic Brewing Co. has two locations on opposite ends of the country: It's home in Milford, CT and its sister location in San Diego, CA. Between these two breweries stretches their beer's footprint (which actually stretches even farther, since Athletic brews can be delivered directly to your door). Owners Bill and John developed their proprietary method of brewing NA beers on homebrewing equipment before going commercial and opening what's thought to be the world's largest dedicated NA brewery. Here's the page when you can learn more about this and all else Athletic has going for themselves.

Fashioned after traditional German Festbiers (not Märzens), Oktoberfest features a grain bill of Munich and Vienna malts and Hallertau, Mittelfruh hops, which is to say it seems to nail the German essence it's going for. It also boasts an ABV of <0.5%. The flavors specifically listed on its official page are: bread, malt, and honey.

Oktoberfest has a bright bouquet. It's citrus and straw with some freshly baked bread, bringing a sort of rustic vibe to the affair. Aside from the breadiness, I'm not finding any malt of note (so no toffee, caramel, or biscuits), but, since this is styled after a Festbier that's not much of a problem. Purrl gave my can seven whiffs, so it seems that (at least for the time being) she's more drawn to the hoppy aromas.

Purrl cat sniffing my open can of Oktoberfest

Those bright hop notes shine into the beer's flavor profile--citrusy and floral. The straw's back, too. In the finish, which is shorter than I thought it'd be, I'm finding some malt: freshly baked bread, lightly burnt toast, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Unfortunately, the expected subdued caramel, toffee, and touted honey flavors are absent.

This beer drinks like any good Festbier should: Crushable and easy-drinking. With the absent ABV, it'd be all to easy to throwback stein after stein of this seasonal offering.

Blame it on the brewery's name, the calories (70!), or the lack of alcohol, but I'm thinking back to my post-run routine when we lived within city limits as I drink this. 

See, I'd only run on the weekends, and these were all eight-plus milers. When I'd get back to the apartment after ascending Pleasant Ridge's hills, I'd head out to our balcony and enjoy a frosty beverage in celebration of finishing my workout. If I'd had this Oktoberfest on those occasions, I would've really reveled in the relaxation of it all, feeling the breeze and the overlooking the comings and goings of our street.

Athletic's Oktoberfest is proving tricky to rate, so I'll give it two ratings. The first is when compared to other NA brews I've had. Here, I'd give it a 9.0/10, a hearty recommendation. This beer's great for those who want to get into the Munich spirit without sweating the calories or booze.

But, it's official rating when contrasted against the other Oktoberfest beers I've discussed on the blog? That'd be a 7.0/10. Not the worst, but just not what I want out of a Festbier. Unless there's a reason why you'd reach for this, I'd say you can safely skip it and grab a can or bottle of some other Oktoberfest-style lager.

Before I go, I will say that I'll definitely be buying and drinking more Athletic brews! But I'll probably pass on this specific offering in the future.

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