Never one to conform to conventional wisdom, Asheville, North Carolina’s French Broad brewery has changed the rules again with their Zepptermberfest Ale. Zepptemberfest is a fall seasonal brew, a German-inspired Vienna Marzen with a difference. That difference, of course, is that this is an ale, fermented with Kolsch ale yeast in lieu of lager yeast. The beer is available August through February, and the name is perhaps a play on the fact Octoberfest in Germany mostly takes place in Septemeber. The “Zepp” also implies the zeppelins that so prominently adorn the label.
French Broad says on the bottle:
“In true Zeppelin style, this beer has a big malty body with a hop wonder that will shock the world. Carefully chosen yeast gives this beer both a clean lager smoothness and estery ale characteristics, all in one explosive package.”
Let’s dig in, shall we?
French Broad Zepptemberfest pours to a cloudy amber to brown color with a medium sized but very creamy head formation and a suprisingly fruity McIntosh Apple nose. The palate is a bit chewy with caramel maltiness, though nowhere near as much as a true Oktoberfest might be. There’s more of the apple and perhaps a bit of pear as well, and a zesty herbal grassy hop aroma in the finish. Bitterness is moderate, really just enough to dry the end product out.
I am assuming the beer is not lagered with all of the fruity esters going on. Indeed, Zepptemberfest simply bursts with apple fruitness, which with the malt reminded me of a caramel apple while sipping. I would take issue with French Broad’s statement that about the clean lager smoothness, the fruit was for too intense for that.
All in all, this is not a bad beer, but not really something that puts me in the Oktoberfest spirit. I might try it again next year to see if the esters have been brought under control a bit more. At 6.1% alcohol by volume, it isn’t an excessively big beer, and it was reasonably priced enough at $4.99 for the bomber bottle.
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