There are hundreds of great Oktoberfest beers out there and plenty of sauerkraut on the side. Grab them while you can during the season. For now, here are six—if you can find them. Look for the style on shelves in early August through the late fall, or when the kegs run dry. —INGRAIN, Fall/Winter 2019
STORY / Beau Forbes
Freising, Germany (Bavaria)
A beautiful example of the new-school style found at the tents in Munich. A boosted-up version of Weihenstephaner’s Premium (Helles), Festbier boasts notes of honey and caramel, with some noble hop aromas. Just crisp enough to be refreshing and just malty enough to be delicious, this beer is perfectly balanced and world-class—and from arguably the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world (chugging along since 1040). Have it with a veal brat and sauerkraut.
An American “old-school” Märzen interpretation from one of the American craft breweries that has been doing it the longest. Big but not huge, toasty but not roasty, toffee-rich but not sweet. Drinkable, delightful, and always reliable, this solid beer deserves schnitzel.
Munich, Germany (Bavaria)
A classic made for America. Spaten is one of the “Big 5” breweries that sets up a tent in Munich; it is arguably THE brewery you can thank for lager beer in its modern form, having invented Märzen beer in 1841. This is as close as it gets to that original beer. Since it’s slightly on the sweeter side, have this Oktoberfest with smoked wings. (Spaten also did a collaborative unfiltered version of this beer with Goose Island in 2017.)
Brimming with notes of toasted malt and freshly baked rye bread, this light-bodied German-style lager (a Märzen) is clean and crisp with a fine, noble hop character and a mild, earthy bitterness that is the hallmark of Hallertau hops. Celebrate no matter where you are with Goose Oktoberfest.
A collaboration beer from an American brewery known more for its pale ale. Sierra Nevada works with a different German brewery each year to produce an Oktoberfest as true to form and style as can be had in the United States. This year it’s Bitburger, a brewery in Western Germany; previous brewing partners have included Weihenstephaner, Brauhaus Faust-Miltenberg, and Mahr's Bräu. Every year this Oktoberfest is a wholly new drinking experience.
Aying, Germany (Bavaria)
A 5.8% ABV lager from a classic German brewery located about thirty minutes outside of Munich. Every lager is a perfect interpretation of a given style (see the Celebrator Doppelbock), but their Oktoberfest with a capital O (Oh… yeah!) might be the best. It’s bready, toasty, malty, easily chuggable from a stein, AND a generous food-pairing partner. Best enjoyed with a pretzel while you shift and sway to oompah music played by a fat old guy in lederhosen stretched to their limits.