Beer Review 0265: Left Hand Oktoberfest

Longmont, Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company was started in 1990 after Dick Doore received a home brewing kit for Christmas. For three years, Doore passionately made batch after batch, eventually getting his college buddy Eric Wallace involved.

Doore brewed the beer while Wallace brought along travel experience of being exposed to great beers all around the world. After passing their home brew around to friends and neighbors, becoming more confident in their craft, Wallace had an idea while drinking a stout they had made: “Let’s start a brewery.”

The original brewery was called Indian Peaks Brewing Company, but after finding another company was using the name for a style of beer, they changed to Left Hand, in honor of Indian Chief Niwot, whose tribe lived in the local area. “Niwot” is an Arapahoe word for left hand.

Left Hand’s Oktoberfest is brewed in the spring and allowed to lager for two months — the beer comes in at 6.6% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 24 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). The hop bill include Magnum and Spalter Select, and the malts are Munich and Pilsner. Of course, this is a seasonal offering for October, but you will probably find it in stores at the beginning of September.

Pouring delivered an average size, soapy head that very quickly diminished into just a thin cover. The beer was amber-orange in color, like it was transitioning between a golden lager into more of an amber lager. Body was clear, free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was good, leaving behind ample amounts of thin, wispy suds.

On the nose, this beer is outstanding. Up front, and in a surprise, there’s a decent amount of fruity hops, particularly in the form of candied/burnt orange. Of course, there’s a sizable malt backbone, delivering notes of sweet caramel, bread, a dash of cinnamon, and a bit of dark fruit (raisin). As I sampled, I kept returning to this aroma, because it is nice, fairly pungent, and a bit unusual.

Hitting beer to palate, there was a rich caramel sweetness that unfolded like a layered cake, mixing well with flavors of faded orange peel and rum-soaked raisins. Yes, rum-soaked raisins. This led to a slight edge of cinnamon, which brought on a practically chewy sweet bread finish that washed over with more layers of the orange peel, like a pleasant potpourri. This beer was light in body but had a medium mouthfeel, a creamy texture, and soft carbonation.

Left Hand’s version of an Oktoberfest is tasty and highly drinkable. I loved the dark fruit twist, and the aroma is something any lover of lager will want to take in. I think the slightly higher than typical ABV puts on a great show here. Try it. I very much enjoyed this beer, to my surprise.

Left Hand Oktoberfest, 93 points. Price: $1.99 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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