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Hophead: New Belgium's Hoptober, Paulaner's Oktoberfest And Sam Adams' Octoberfest--A Three-Way Rocktober Smackdown!

As it is now officially Rocktober, Oktoberfest beers are replacing summer brews on store aisles, bar coolers and tap walls.

Apparently, though, not all brewers have the traditional Oktoberfest German Marzen-style amber lager in mind for this month. New Belgium, best known for Fat Tire, has introduced a new golden ale, Hoptober, which bears little resemblance to the malty lagers that typify the Oktoberfest style. It's a refreshing--literally and figuratively--change of pace for the season.

In fact, it's one of the most interesting beers sampled lately, at least compared to Samuel Adams' and Paulaner's seasonals.

Hoptoberfest poured a clear, bright yellow with a moderate white head. The five hop varieties combine for a nice balance of citrus, pine and earthy floral notes in the aroma and taste. It could have passed for an American pale ale, though one with a creamier body and a tad more sweetness than usual. Yet it wasn't especially bitter; it was crisp and refreshing and lingered pleasantly.

Maybe my excitement over this beer had something to do my totally off-base expectations. First of all, I'd assumed it would be an Oktoberfest beer (again, not my favorite style) with some hop bite.

But also, to be frank, lately my shoulders slump every time I look in the fridge and see that Lady Hophead has picked up yet another six-pack from New Belgium. Perhaps that's because I've grown so tired of Fat Tire. It used to be my wife's favorite. In fact, it used to be the only craft beer available at some of the bars we frequent. And it used to be one of just a couple microbrews offered at a hotel where I used to bartend. In other words, I've had more than my share. Yet Hoptober has reignited my interest in the brewery.

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By contrast, Samuel Adams' Octoberfest and Paulaner's Oktoberfest were both drinkable examples of their style but nothing too exciting. The Boston Beer Company's offering tasted richly malty but was a bit thin in texture. That six-pack isn't disappearing nearly as quickly as the Hoptoberfest.

Better were the nutty, caramelly sweet and fuller-bodied Paulaner Oktoberfests enjoyed last night at The Quinn. That may have had something to do with the fact that they were free, thanks to an extremely intoxicated Peruvian-born, half-German/half-Spanish guy who bought our table a round. I don't know if it was because we were celebrating a birthday or because he was just glad to find an audience for his bizarre rants about giant jungle ants and how his mother's liberal European attitude toward sex paralleled that of the Incans.

So to that guy, to Oktoberfest and to Hoptober, I say salud! and prost!

And speaking of New Belgium, the brewery is among the sponsors of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff's Cyclesomatic events, 10 days of bike activities to raise funds and awareness for efforts to make Dallas--particularly Oak Cliff--more accessible to bicyclists. These events include a Beer Wars screening 7 p.m. Saturday at the historic Texas Theatre with FREE samples of local beers; and an Oktoberfest celebration 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Eno's Tavern

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