It’s that time of year when beer fans get to try seasonal beers that are only around for about eight weeks. That’s right, it’s Oktoberfest time. We’ve got some beers you should try, but before we do that, a bit of context for the types of beers we’ll be talking about.
In the European Union, only beers brewed by the original six breweries inside the city limits of Munich can use the label “Oktoberfest” for their beers. All other breweries must call their seasonal lagers “Oktoberfest-style” beer.
But this is #merica, and we don’t usually care about rules cooked up in Europe, which means you’ll see American brewers using terms like Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest-style, märzen, and festbier interchangeably. Let’s clear up the differences:
- Oktoberfest — like we mentioned, this has to be brewed in Munich and is usually served on the grounds of Oktoberfest. These days they are often light gold in color and easy-bodied.
- Märzen — this is a German amber lager that will vary from chestnut to russet in color. It will often taste smooth, toasty, bready, with a bit of spice.
- Festbier — this is a strong golden lager that has more floral and spicy notes and are usually going to weigh in at closer to 6-6.5% ABV.
- Oktoberfest-style — anything brewed outside of the city of Munich falls into this category, and are usually märzens. In America, this label will usually indicate an amber märzen that’s going to be maltier and sweeter. This makes them nothing like what’s being served in Munich these days, but are closer to what was being served in the 1870s.
If you really want to have some Oktoberfest beers, it makes sense to at least try some from Germany, right?
- Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Marzen — the original Oktoberfest beer: the party doesn’t officially start until the first barrel of this beer is tapped by the mayor of Munich. Roasted malt flavors.
- Hacker-Pschorr Weisse — a taste of history…these guys have been making beer since 1417.
- Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier — the most served beer at Oktoberfest these days. It delivers bready and toffee notes with a bit of bitter at the back.
So once you’ve primed your taste buds with the flavors of the Old World, you’re free to roam the land with the most microbrews in the world, our own backyard. Some generally reliable and easy-to-find brews include Leinenkugel’s, Shiner, and Sam Adams, all with an only-available-for-eight-weeks Oktoberfest version. But if you want some harder to find (and tastier) ones, check out:
- Jack’s Abby Copper Legend — malty, sweet, and slightly bitter.
- Karl Strauss Oktoberfest — a lager with nutty toasted malt flavors.
- Troegs’ — sweet, malty, fruity, with grassy hops.
- Endgrain Märzen — if you can believe it, a bit of dark toast and jam on the front, with smoked meat as a finish.
- Bierstadt Lagerhaus — deep malt character with a dense, crisp finish.
- Westbound and Down Oktoberfest — fresh toasted bread, golden brown biscuit, clean and balanced finish.
Whether you’re knocking back foreign or domestics, you should be munching on sausages, pretzels, roasted chicken. If you want to get really traditional, get some dumplings and spatzle.