Beer Review: Narragansett Fest Lager

It's not too late to enjoy an Oktoberfest brew

Narragansett Fest Lager is a beer that almost never was. Brewed for the third time this year since 2005, the fall seasonal is the product of a brewery that was shuttered — permanently, it was believed at the time — in 1983 and demolished over the ensuing decades. In 2005, a longtime New Englander purchased the rights to the Rhode Island beer from then-owner Falstaff Brewing Co. and brought back former brewmaster Bill Anderson to oversee production. One of the first beers they brewed was the Fest.

Registering at 5.5 percent ABV and 22 IBUs, the traditional German Oktoberfest-style lager is brewed in Connecticut and Rochester, N.Y., with almost exclusively with German malt and hops: Vienna, Pilsner, Light and Dark Munich malts, and Northern Brewer & Tettnanger hops. Its credentials are enviable, boasting two silver medals from the World Beer Championship and a gold medal in the Oktoberfest category at last year’s Great International Beer & Cider Competition in Providence, R.I.

The beer does exemplify the style, with a robust malt backbone that lends its strong roasty, bready essence to the aroma and flavor and provides a somewhat thick mouthfeel without a lingering aftertaste. It pours a ruddy amber that leans toward copper, though its ivory head lasts about as long as a train delay out of Munich.

It’s definitely a beer to be drunk cold, as it loses some of its sparkle when warmed up. In its warm state, however, it loses the chilly bracing quality that could sadly mute the pop of spices, like anise and light peppercorn, often cooked into traditional German meats like wurst. Though if you’re planning to serve it with food, the beer would better serve chilled side dishes, like potato salad and kraut, cold, hearty and waiting for a cool sip to wash them down.

— Tara Nurin, The Drink Nation

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