Master of Marzen 2020 – Round 1, Bout 9: Live Oak Brewing vs. 14th Star Brewing

Round 1, Bout 9 sees Live Oak (TX) take on 14th Star (VT).

This is a big bout! Live Oak’s Oaktoberfest was the 2019 Master of Marzen runner up to Tucker Brewing. With Tucker being edged out 3-2 by Night Shift in its Round 1 bout, Live Oak remains as the veteran of this competition.

This is my first time checking out a brew from Vermont’s 14th Star, and I’m incredibly excited to see how it goes! Let’s get things rolling.

Check out the Master of Marzen 2020 Round 1 draw.

Packaging Design

The breweries took a very different tact when it comes to their packaging design.

Live Oak opted to stay with their trademark white-heavy can design, including the yellow typeface of their brew and the top and bottom black borders.

14th Star, on the other hand, has included the traditional Oktoberfest white and blue check with a lion over the top. I am not familiar with the relevance of a lion, but it’s a very striking image.

I’m torn on this criterion. I appreciate the clean can design that Live Oak rolls with, but I also appreciate the awesome lion and inclusion of the traditional Oktoberfest check.

14th Star just edges out Live Oak on this one. Running total: Live Oak 0-1 14th Star.

Aroma

Live Oak’s Oaktoberfest offers a deep and rich aroma of malt with a slight sweetness. It smells like a much darker brew, and sets the stage for what should be an amazing experience.

14th Star’s Oktoberfest’s aroma is tremendously robust. It’s packed with toasted malts and has a slight earthy quality.

Both of these brews smell amazing, but I’m going to have to award this point to Live Oak. The malts of both are great, but the touch of sweetness just puts Live Oak over the edge. Running total: Live Oak 1-1 14th Star.

Flavor

Oaktoberfest is an incredibly well rounded beer. It opens hard and fast, with a rush of malt flavors that continue through the back end and build a strong, persisting aftertaste. Each mouthful builds the aftertaste, and maintains a tremendous experience that is an impeccable example of the style.

14th Star’s Oktoberfest is also an amazing brew. A rush of toasted malts set the stage on the front end, which continues and is complimented by a touch of earthiness and sweetness to round it out. It also builds an awesome aftertaste, with theirs having a bit more of the toasted malt quality than Live Oak’s.

Yet another criterion where it’s very difficult to choose a winner. Both beers have a tremendous flavor profile that rushes out of the gate. They also have an awesome malty aftertaste. The major point of differentiation is the slight earthy and sweet second layer that builds on 14th Star’s flavor profile in its back end. Where two amazing beers are otherwise evenly matched, that additional pop of flavor puts 14th Star slightly ahead. Running total: Live Oak 1-2 14th Star.

Body

There’s significant similarity between the bodies of these beers, but also enough separation to declare a victor on this criterion.

Regarding mouth-feel, Live Oak’s is a bit thinner and lighter-bodied, but does not skimp on the flavor. 14th Star’s is a bit heavier, but strikes the balance of being incredibly flavorful without becoming bloating.

Live Oak’s Oaktoberfest on the left and 14th Star’s Oktoberfest on the right.

On head retention, neither beer really did much. Live Oak initially built a bit more of a head, but both receded without a trace in short order.

Regarding lacing, neither beer really did a whole lot. Tiny flecks of foam hold to the side of the Live Oak stein, but it’s so minimal it would not be fair to consider them a leader here.

With these sub-criterion in mind, it only seems fair to consider the relative mouthfeel and choose a winner on that alone. The Live Oak is light, crisp and refreshing while offering an impressively deep flavor. The 14th Star is a bit heavier, but very smooth and packed with the toasted malts I love about this style of beer.

That said, I’m going to give a very slight edge to 14th Star on this one. Running total: Live Oak 1-3 14th Star.

People’s Choice

As in last year’s tournament, my Instagram followers have the opportunity to shape the decisions of each bout. In the 24 hours directly preceding each bout, a poll is placed on my Instagram story. Whoever has the most votes when the poll closes, takes this fifth criteria. So how did it shape up?

As you can see in the image above, Live Oak took the people’s choice rather convincingly. Running total: Live Oak 2-3 14th Star.

Results

Well, this bout was about as close as I’ve seen throughout the history of Master of Marzen. Two truly remarkable beers entered, but only one could progress. The reigning runner-up was unable to progress, meaning 14th Star will take on Dru Bru in Round 2.

Be sure to check back regularly and to follow me on Instagram for your latest updates and opportunity to vote on each bout throughout the tournament. Until next time, cheers y’all!

Check out the 2020 Master of Marzen Round 1 draw.

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