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Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019



East Brother Festbier, East Brother Beer Co.

by Nelson Crowle
East Brother Beer Co.

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Head Brewer Paul Liszewski Talks Festbier

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
Co-Founder Chris Coomber and I spend a lot of time evaluating other commercially available examples of the style. After we find one or two that we really like, we dissect why we like each beer and where the flavors come from. What is it about the malt backbone we like? The hop flavor and bitterness? The appearance? Finally, we review our tasting notes from the previous release and sample from our beer library to decide what tweaks we want to make. We were happy with last year’s results, but we still found areas for improvement.

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
Most importantly, balance in flavor sets this apart from others within the style. A clean finish coupled with clear and crisp layers of flavor beckon your palate to indulge the next sip. True to style with the freshest locally available ingredients highlight what your local craft brewery can produce. This easy-to-drink beer allows you to celebrate the harvest of local ingredients and encourages you to focus on creating that special moment with your friends.

What makes this beer truly world-class?
You said it, not us! We brewed this beer last year and were quite happy with it, but there is always room for improvement. Rather than pushing the style guidelines for a particular style, we focused on improving our process and ingredient selection. We revised last year’s recipe and the most notable change was in the base malt, for which we used our local maltster, Admiral Maltings. The result was additional layers of flavor due to the incredible freshness of the malt, elevating this beer from good to great. Close your eyes, take a sip and you will swear that you are wearing lederhosen, sitting under a walnut tree and listening to an oompah band in Germany.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
We first released this beer last year and, admittedly, we were late for the Oktoberfest season. However, we were overwhelmed by the positive responses we received from many people, who told us that this was the best of the season. We were on time this year and managed to sell out before the beer was even packaged. This year, we moved to Admiral Maltings for the bulk of the malt bill and found that using fresh malt raised the bar for this brew.

Judge’s Second Opinion

Festbier. It sounds like one of those beers that has been around for hundreds of years, very German, and steeped in tradition and history. However, it’s actually a relatively new style of beer – from the 1970s.

Way back in 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria wanted to marry the Saxon Princess Therese – and of course, there needed to be a huge party in the Wiese (meadow) to celebrate. That’s where Oktoberfest started – but they didn’t drink Festbier at the time. They probably were drinking a somewhat darker beer. Along came Gabriel Sedlmayr in 1872, and he upset the apple cart completely by introducing a deep, amber, malty, complex beer that we call Marzen or Oktoberfest. That went great for a hundred years, then Paulaner decided that a lighter (in color and body) beer was more appropriate for the millions of visitors attending the annual Oktoberfest in Munich each year. They created Festbier, and all six breweries that pour beer at Oktoberfest have served the lighter Festbier style ever since.

East Brother Beer Co. from Richmond, California, has done an exemplary job of faithfully recreating the Festbier style. The beer pours brilliantly clear deep gold, with a nice poofy head of fine white foam, and the bubbles keep rising from the bottom; a very pretty and very appealing brew. The aroma and flavor both greet you with interestingand complex malt characters including bread crusts, freshly baked bread dough, a light toasty note, a hint of honey (but not sweet) and some nice background floral and black pepper hop notes – with just enough bitterness to give a dry finish that invites another sip (and another and another…).

Typical Oktoberfest Festbier is about 6 percent ABV – East Brother’s version is a solid 5.8 percent. At Oktoberfest you might drink a couple of liters – but the 16oz can is only about half a liter, so you’re good for a few if you’re looking to celebrate.

While you’re enjoying a couple of East Brother Festbiers, why not go all German and do some bratwurst on the grill? I was able to sample a can of Festbier with bratwurst and the beer does a great job of cutting through the fatty/oily sausage, resetting your palate and getting you ready for more food. A match made in heaven!

East Brother also makes several other true-to-style beers, and they seem to be genuinely interested in producing the best example of each of these styles. With their Festbier, they certainly have done a great job! - Nelson Crowle


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