Multiple Beer Reviews: Fest Lager, Scratch 385 – Krausened Dunkel Lager, and Scratch 386 – Tangerine Passionfruit Guava Tart Ale (Troegs Independent Craft Brewery)

Multiple Beer Reviews: Fest Lager, Scratch 385 – Krausened Dunkel Lager, and Scratch 386 – Tangerine Passionfruit Guava Tart Ale (Troegs Independent Craft Brewery)

A flight of four at Troegs Brewery in Hershey. From left to right – Fest Lager, Scratch 385, Scratch 386, and the Boysenberry Tart Ale (repeat for me).

After leaving work at 630 decided to NOT watch the end of the Bengals game, as I had a very good idea of how this was going to turn out (it was 21-17 Seattle when I left work). So taking 743 route home, I stopped at Troegs brewery. Perfect place to avoid football. Not a TV in sight, a gorgeous outdoor beer garden to sit in and drink and read. And pretty much only hipsters and families from the park in sight. Perfect place to avoid the Bengals. To avoid football.

Missed out on Scratch 387 (hazy NE style IPA), and too early for the new Trail Day Pale Ale that their releasing, I grabbed a flight of Fest Lager (looking to be a regular from some of their scratch versions of this), Scratch 385, Scratch 386, and a repeat for me – the Boysenberry Tart Ale.

Something can be said for just how consistent Troegs is with their beers, styles, tastes, and flavors. Over the years, since at least moving to the new facility in Hershey, they have just been flat out consistent. Never really having experienced any off flavors, or downright undrinkable beers, everything confirms to styles and is spot on to their taste listings, etc. A few ‘stinkers’ throughout the year (what brewery hasn’t) and some amazing beers (Nimble Giant immediately comes to mind, various scratches, some of the new splinter series like Blackberry Tizzy), but under it all, just a consistent batch of beers at all times. They might not be creating a list of whales to go and seek out, but the consistency is such an important factor. Give me a brewery that consistently pumps out nearly 4 star beers that all fit the styles and guidelines and taste good over a brewery that gives a 5 star followed up by a 1 star then a 4 star then a 2 star then a 5 star then a 1 star, etc. I’d rather have the reliable consistent beer and brewery next door than the whale chaser that as often times misses the mark than makes it. (Note, this isn’t a call-out or a jab at any one particular brewery, I’m just giving a hypothetical comparison.)

So let’s move on and get into this flight shall we?

Fest Lager, a festbier / marzen from Troegs, perfected through their scratch series of the same style(s).

This is one of the latest of their scratch versions of marzens, dark lagers, and festbiers, that they typically have done one or two of each year around this time. Now that its named instead of having the scratch designator, it looks like they’ve come to their conclusion on the recipe for this one and it might see play as a seasonal rotation beer at this time. Which is good, this is definitely their best version of it (of those that I’ve had, and I believe I’ve had at least 3 or 4).

Beer: Fest Lager
Brewery: Troegs Independent Craft Brewery
Style: Festbier
ABV: 6.1%
Untappd Write-Up: Our take on this timeless German style – perfected through our small-batch Scratch Series – starts with a traditional brewing technique called decoction. By boiling a portion of the mash, we create a bright, dry maltiness. A kettle addition of Hallertau Tradition hops adds subtle floral and herbal undercurrents to this toasty sweet Fest Lager.

For those curious, there is differences between Marzens and Festbiers. Festbiers are what kind of came out of Marzens turning into Oktoberfest beers and instead of lumping them all together, they got different designations with the subtle differences being the key notes between them. And Festbiers got their own branding instead of being called Oktoberfest mainly not to deal with copyright and similar legality issues (many German breweries, and some American ones had already copyrighted beer names of Oktoberfest before the BJCP could fully define things, as well as the Oktoberfest in Germany, etc., just more of a headache than its worth.)

For those curious for more on the Festbier style, here is the BJCP write-up on it:

4B. Festbier

Overall Impression

A smooth, clean, pale German lager with a moderately strong malty flavor and a light hop character. Deftly balances strength and drinkability, with a palate impression and finish that encourages drinking. Showcases elegant German malt flavors without becoming too heavy or filling.


Deep yellow to deep gold color; should not have amber hues. Bright clarity. Persistent white to off-white foam stand. Most commercial examples are medium gold in color.


Moderate malty richness, with an emphasis on toasty-doughy aromatics and an impression of sweetness. Low to medium-low floral, herbal, or spicy hops. The malt should not have a deeply toasted, caramel, or biscuity quality. Clean lager fermentation character.


Medium to medium-high malty flavor initially, with a lightly toasty, bread dough quality and an impression of soft sweetness. Medium to medium-low bitterness, definitely malty in the balance. Well-attenuated and crisp, but not dry. Medium-low to medium floral, herbal, or spicy hop flavor. Clean lager fermentation character. The taste is mostly of Pils malt, but with slightly toasty hints. The bitterness is supportive, but still should yield a malty, flavorful finish.


Medium body, with a smooth, somewhat creamy texture. Medium carbonation. Alcohol strength barely noticeable as warming, if at all.


This style represents the modern German beer served at Oktoberfest (although it is not solely reserved for Oktoberfest; it can be found at many other ‘fests’), and is sometimes called Wiesn (“the meadow” or local name for the Oktoberfest festival). We chose to call this style Festbier since by German and EU regulations, Oktoberfestbier is a protected appellation for beer produced at large breweries within the Munich city limits for consumption at Oktoberfest. Other countries are not bound by these rules, so many craft breweries in the US produce beer called Oktoberfest, but based on the traditional style described in these guidelines as Märzen.


Since 1990, the majority of beer served at Oktoberfest in Munich has been this style. Export beer specifically made for the United States is still mainly of the traditional amber style, as are US-produced interpretations. Paulaner first created the golden version in the mid-1970s because they thought the traditional Oktoberfest was too filling. So they developed a lighter, more drinkable but still malty version that they wanted to be “more poundable” (according to the head brewer at Paulaner). But the actual type of beer served at Oktoberfest is set by a Munich city committee.

Characteristic Ingredients

Majority Pils malt, but with some Vienna and/or Munich malt to increase maltiness. Differences in commercial examples are mostly due to different maltsters and yeast, not major grist differences.

Style Comparison

Less intense and less richly toasted than a Märzen. More rich-heavy in body than a Helles, with more hop flavor and higher alcohol. Less rich in malt intensity than a Maibock. The malt complexity is similar to a higher-gravity Czech Premium Pale Lager, although without the associated hops.

And for comparison sake, here is the BJCP’s write-up on Marzen:

6A. Märzen

Overall Impression

An elegant, malty German amber lager with a clean, rich, toasty and bready malt flavor, restrained bitterness, and a dry finish that encourages another drink. The overall malt impression is soft, elegant, and complex, with a rich aftertaste that is never cloying or heavy.


Amber-orange to deep reddish-copper color; should not be golden. Bright clarity, with persistent, off-white foam stand.


Moderate intensity aroma of German malt, typically rich, bready, somewhat toasty, with light bread crust notes. Clean lager fermentation character. No hop aroma. Caramel, dry-biscuity, or roasted malt aromas inappropriate. Very light alcohol might be detected, but should never be sharp. Clean, elegant malt richness should be the primary aroma.


Initial malt flavor often suggests sweetness, but finish is moderately-dry to dry. Distinctive and complex maltiness often includes a bready, toasty aspect. Hop bitterness is moderate, and the hop flavor is low to none (German types: complex, floral, herbal, or spicy). Hops provide sufficient balance that the malty palate and finish do not seem sweet. The aftertaste is malty, with the same elegant, rich malt flavors lingering. Noticeable caramel, biscuit, or roasted flavors are inappropriate. Clean lager fermentation profile.


Medium body, with a smooth, creamy texture that often suggests a fuller mouthfeel. Medium carbonation. Fully attenuated, without a sweet or cloying impression. May be slightly warming, but the strength should be relatively hidden.


Modern domestic German Oktoberfest versions are golden – see the Festbier style for this version. Export German versions (to the United States, at least) are typically orange-amber in color, have a distinctive toasty malt character, and are most often labeled Oktoberfest. American craft versions of Oktoberfest are generally based on this style, and most Americans will recognize this beer as Oktoberfest. Historic versions of the beer tended to be darker, towards the brown color range, but there have been many ‘shades’ of Märzen (when the name is used as a strength); this style description specifically refers to the stronger amber lager version. The modern Festbier can be thought of as a pale Märzen by these terms.


As the name suggests, brewed as a stronger “March beer” in March and lagered in cold caves over the summer. Modern versions trace back to the lager developed by Spaten in 1841, contemporaneous to the development of Vienna lager. However, the Märzen name is much older than 1841; the early ones were dark brown, and in Austria the name implied a strength band (14 °P) rather than a style. The German amber lager version (in the Viennese style of the time) was first served at Oktoberfest in 1872, a tradition that lasted until 1990 when the golden Festbier was adopted as the standard festival beer.

Characteristic Ingredients

Grist varies, although traditional German versions emphasized Munich malt. The notion of elegance is derived from the finest quality ingredients, particularly the base malts. A decoction mash was traditionally used to develop the rich malt profile.

Style Comparison

Not as strong and rich as a Dunkles Bock. More malt depth and richness than a Festbier, with a heavier body and slightly less hops. Less hoppy and equally malty as a Czech Amber Lager.

So, as you can see, a few differences. And that was my knowledge for you for the day. And as GI Joe would say “And Knowledge is Power!” Ahem…. ehmm… err…. cough…. back to the program.

So back to the actual beer, the Fest Lager, by Troegs (in case you dozed off and got prodded by a stick by somebody when they scrolled down to the actual review).

Appearance is on the darker hue of lagers, clear and obviously lager / dunkel like in coloring. Malty appearance, nice top to her and a clean body.

Aroma is malty, some herbal notes, some possible subtle hop notes but nothing strong and more or less grasping for this maybe. It just looks and smells delicious at this point.

And thankfully the taste lives up to it, and it is a sweet tasting, malty, slightly bready, herbal beer. Great for this time of year. This is a fantastic bonfire sipping beer right here. Great Oktoberfest quality style beer, with the spice and herbal notes to really bring out the various malts and deliver a fantastic brew.

My Untappd Rating: ***.75
Global Untappd Rating: 3.75 (as of 9.8.19)

Scratch 385, a krausened dunkel lager from Troegs Brewery.

And, as the book in the background gives testament, the Bengals settle for a field goal and make it 21-20 with 7:46 left in the game. Giving the ball back to Seattle and Russell Wilson in Seattle with 7:46 left to go, down only by 1 point. (This screams typical Bengals…. I made sure to check Marvin Lewis wasn’t still there.)

Troegs has really gotten gung-ho about krausened and krausening and doing open fermentation. They have done several scratch dunkels (and I believe a wheat or two) using this process, and the DreamWeaver is done with this process now. Krausening means doing end of fermentation additions of fresh wort and yeast, something that is typically not done. Troegs does this in the old German style with open fermentation, making it easier to add late additions like this, and to give it other qualities that differentiate it from normal (closed) fermentation.

Beer: Scratch 385 Krausened Dunkel Lager
Brewery: Troegs Independent Craft Brewery
Style: Lager – Munich Dunkel
ABV: 5.4%
Untappd Write-Up: Our new Dunkel Lager walks the line between two of our favorites here at Tröegs: Sunshine Pils and Troegenator. On a recent trip to Germany, we fell in love all over again with this classic dark lager. Our take explores the additions of open fermentation, a technique we use for DreamWeaver Wheat, and krausening. Krausening is the process of adding wort and fresh yeast toward the end of fermentation. The combination of techniques adds subtle fruity esters and a soft, bready mouthfeel.

We taste: bread crust-like maltiness with subtle notes of caramel, nuttiness and chocolate.

There is a notable difference between open fermentation and closed. You get added variables that aren’t in play when its closed and everything is under lid, lock, and key. Brewers must also be a lot more careful with open fermentation due to an increased chase of contamination and other things obviously falling in. It would be interesting to have this recipe done regularly, closed fermentation, and then done in open, to compare the two. Likewise with the krausening, try it as the regular recipe, and then with the late fermentation additions of fresh wort and yeast. For comparison’s sake. For Science!

Appearance for this is very similar to the Fest Lager, but a bit lighter, but not by a massive amount, just a shade or two. Has a nice caramel color to it.

Aroma is malty again, with a bit of roasty malt, not too much, but just a bit, which I thought was a bit odd since this is lighter in color than the Fest Lager which you would think would have more of the roast malts then. Perhaps something to do with the krausening or open fermentation, or maybe my sniffer isn’t working too well (or due to just drinking tasters rather than whole drafts).

This has a very nice, gentle, smooth, subdued taste to it. Nothing punching you in the face, nothing taking your breath away, but just a nice, subtle, beer. No astringency, no off flavors, mellow, smooth, crisp, tasty, and like the Fest Lager another great fall, bonfire, late night sipper while hanging out with buds and roasting marshmellows with kids.

My Untappd Rating: ***.75
Global Untappd Rating: 3.76 (as of 9.8.19)

Scratch 386, a Tangerine Guava sour.

Another Guava beer, they are popping up everywhere it seems. That makes four or five of them I’ve had in recently history. So I’m coming to grips with it, and I think done subtly, and small, its done well, too much, and its too overpowering.

And the final has just come in, Bengals lose 21-20 to Seattle. Not a bad opening game really. In Seattle, I had Bengals losing by at least a touchdown, possibly by 10 or more. So this is really not a bad start to the season, considering the number of players out (like AJ Green). John Ross III really stepped up and played great, and Dalton actually looked promising (for once).

Beer: Scratch 386 – Tangerine Passionfruit Guava Tart Ale
Brewery: Troegs Independent Craft Brewery
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 4.8%
Untappd Write-Up: Scratch #386 is our latest soft and rounded tart beer, this time with a bold combination of tangerine, passionfruit and guava. The citrus and tropical notes of the fruit are propped up by a rich backbone of oats and honey malt. A first fermentation with lactobacillus adds tartness, and a second pass with Hornindal Kveik yeast adds subtle notes of pineapple. We taste: citrus zest, marmalade, tart pineapple

Once again another new theme of Troegs scratch beers popping up – hornindal kveik yeast. They’ve been toying around and playing with this yeast strain for a bit of a while now, in all kinds of ways, with all kinds of different styles. I believe this is their first time trying it out with a sour.

Appearance is exactly what you would expect from a sour with passionfruit, tangerine, and guava. Its a light, orange, to pinkish hue, similar to some children’s fruit juices. Like a Capri Sun or something similar. There is a slight fizzyness with this as well.

Aroma is like a refreshing breeze. There is the notes of tangerine, citrus, passionfruit, guava, possibly orange juice like smell to the concoction. Its refreshing, gentle, and light, just like the beer itself.

And taste is just right there too, refreshing, gentle, soft, light. You get up front notes of citrus and guava in equal measures that then fades back and fades into the notes of the tangerine, the passionfruit, and the tartness starts to take over. This has just a relaxing vibe to it, with an easy going, soft mouthfeel and nothing clingy or off putting, and leaves you with a nice citrus, tart, fizzy, taste that lingers in your mouth and on your tongue.

My Untappd Rating: ****
Global Untappd Rating: 3.8 (as of 9.8.19)

Well the Bengals might have lost, but the road to 0 and 16 began there and that first round draft pick looks closer and closer to a reality. Just have to pray for a Dolphins win I suppose.

Here’s to great beers and an interesting NFL season this year. Cheers!

-B. Kline

recent posts

Go to Top