*Editor’s note: Thank you to Beer & Pig field correspondent Alex McVeigh for this fabulous write-up of the RhinO’Fest Release Event in Ashburn, VA. Please make sure you check out his twitter and his other works listed at the bottom of this article.*
Fans of Lost Rhino Brewing Company were rewarded with an early glimpse into fall Wednesday, Aug. 7 with the release of RhinO’fest, their fall beer. RhinO’fest was Lost Rhino’s first ever seasonal beer when they first opened in 2011.
The beer is a Marzen-style amber lager. Marzen is the name for a pale lager beer with a malty flavor and a dry finish that originated in Bavaria. RhinO’fest is a rich brown color, with a light head.
Though it was created while the summer sun was out, the beer was brewed at 48 degrees, meaning the process takes a bit longer than their average brew.
“This one is made of all German malts, which is different than our usual beers which use Canadian and other North American malts,” said Favio Garcia, co-founder and brewer at Lost Rhino. “The imported malts give it a very distinct flavor, even for a malty beer.”
The three kinds of malts used are pilsner, Vienna and Munich. Each one offers its own flavor profile, and the combination of all three is what gives RhinO’fest it’s rich, smooth flavor.
Pilsner malts are among the lightest malts available and have a sweet flavor. They’re generally used much more in lighter colored beers, but are considered a strong foundation for any German-style beer.
Pilsner malt is a major part of Lost Rhino’s Holy Brew Brown Belgian-style brown ale, which is sweeter, but not as rich as RhinO’fest.
The Vienna malt, though it generally makes up less than 20 percent of a Marzen, brings much of the toasty flavors to the beer. They enhance the color of the beer, and adds depth to the flavor.
The Munich malt, which is a staple of darker, bock-style beers, is what adds the finishing touch and dark color to the brew. It’s a much darker malt than the others, and it deepens the color of the beer to its delicious brown, as well as enhances the other malt flavors.
“I’m a big fan of pilsners and darker lagers, and RhinO’fest is one of my all-time favorites,” said Greg Earle, a Lost Rhino regular. “It’s known as their fall beer, but I find it refreshing enough to drink around this time of year, and unlike the lighter lagers, this one has a great flavor that stays with you. It’s not the overwhelming hops flavor that feels like it has to be savored, it’s just a really smooth finish, but not very heavy like a lot of Oktoberfest beers.”
It might seem that Aug. 1 is an odd time to release a beer that’s advertised as “”the perfect companion to Autumn’s first chill,” but brewing logistics
“We brew it throughout the summer, and though we have it on tap at the brewery now, we’re just getting it all bottled and ready to ship,” Garcia said. “It might seem strange to have a fall beer out so early, but this is the timeline that works so we can get it on store shelves by mid-to-late September. Oktoberfest traditionally begins in late September and ends the first week of October, so it times out nicely.”
This year’s release of RhinO’fest marks a new phase in Lost Rhino’s evolution: glassware specifically tailored to the beer.
“The glass really makes a difference in the flavor you get, if you’ve ever sat and tried the same beer out of different glasses, you’ll definitely taste the difference,” Garcia said. “Our Holy Brew is a great example, we were serving it out of the normal glass, but once we moved it to our longer glass, the flavor really opened up.”
To prove his point, Garcia drew two pints of RhinO’fest, one in the standard glass, and one in the thinner, taller glass that is usually used for beers like their Final Glide Hefeweizen.
In the original glass, RhinO’fest starts out sweeter before finishing with a malty burst at the end. When taken from the taller glass, the flavor profile transforms into a beer that hit’s the drinker right way with the malty flavor, and fades away quickly for a much smoother finish.
The standard glass used by Lost Rhino is taller and thinner than the average pint glass, with a slight bend to it near the top. They also have snifter-style glasses, as well as teardrop shaped one, with each one complimenting a different style of beer.
“I don’t like those glasses, and I don’t think they do anything to help the beer,” Garcia said. “I think the main reason restaurants and bars use them is because they’re easier to store and stack on top of one another. Though it’s kind of a pain to not be able to stack the glasses we use, the beer is much better for it.”
Lost Rhino has experimented with a few different glasses since opening.
“We had one that had a little groove at the bottom, which made the beer look amazing after you poured it, because the bubbles would come up from the middle of the bottom of the glass from the groove,” Garcia said. “The problem was, as good as it made the beer look, it also made it flat very quickly, so we couldn’t use it.”
The first 20 people at Wednesday’s event received Lost Rhino stein glasses, and customers ordering it in the future are likely to get their RhinO’fest in a stein.