Pumpkin beers often dominate the conversation every fall, but there is another fall seasonal that is widely available and sadly often overlook: Oktoberfest beers. The rich malty characteristics, low ABV, and crisp refreshing quality makes for a wonderfully invigorating beer
The style has a rich German heritage and is celebrated every year during the country’s massive Oktoberfest celebration. This celebration revolves around all things German while the beer flows freely. For beer to be consumed in such large quantities it needs to be a style that does not fatigue the palate too quickly.
A great Oktoberfest beer is one that has a wonderful and rich malt character but perfect balance with spicy noble hops. This quality enables the beer to go down smooth yet impart a lot of flavor without burning out the palate.
If you are looking to have your own Oktoberfest celebration, here is a short list of some of the many great Oktoberfest beers available now. Surprisingly, they are not all from Germany!
Sam Adams’ Octoberfest: One of the first beers from the brewery, brewed in 1989, it is still one of its best selling and most loved beers. One sip and it is easy to see why with its rich, smooth and semi-sweet malt profile balanced perfectly against a higher than average spicy hop flavors. This is a beer that you will return to again and again. The 5.3 percent ABV is perfect for the style and makes those return visits ones you will not regret later in the evening.
Ayinger’s Oktober Fest-Märzen: This is often the beer by which all other Oktoberfest beers are judged or recipes based upon. Brewed in Germany, this is a true example of the style. The clear orange/amber color of the beer presents itself as the perfect image for the fall season. Despite being 5.8 percent ABV, this beer is fairly complex. Rich malty notes impart flavors of fresh baked bread, honey and toffee, balanced with spicy floral hop notes. This is a beer you will wish was available year round.
Great Lakes Brewing Oktoberfest: This is quite possibly the best American take on the Oktoberfest style. While the 6.5 percent ABV stretches itself just a bit outside the range for most Oktoberfest beers, it certainly is not a diminishing quality. The malt qualities impart notes of biscuits, bread and hints of sweet caramel while the hops bring a lot of spice and earthy notes for balance. The result is a beer that is both thirst quenching and inducing. Drinkable is a true understatement for this beer, if you fancy yourself a German beer lover than grab this beer.
Avery Brewing Company’s The Kaiser: Avery is a brewery known to push the boundaries for many beer styles and of course they do so with the Oktoberfest. This beefed up beer clocks in at 9.3 percent ABV, far outside the average range for most Oktoberfest beer. Keep this is mind when indulging as the alcohol heat is well hidden and sneaks up on you quickly. The Kaiser is certainly an Oktoberfest to enjoy when you are ready for something a bit bigger!
Deschutes Brewery’s Hopzeit IPA: I know, I know. It says IPA in the name so why is it on this list? Well this is Deschutes newest beer and is based on a traditional Oktoberfest beer with one twist, a heavier dosing of hops. The result is a beer that has a wonderfully smooth malt backbone reminiscent of the traditional style with fruit forward hop notes imparting citrus flavors and aromas. While it does not land firmly into either category it is very drinkable and a great beer for the fall.
The great thing about the Oktoberfest style is that it offers something for everyone. It is a highly approachable beer style perfect for even the newest of craft beer drinkers, but it is also a great beer for even the most jaded beer drinkers. The smooth unimposing quality of the style is great as a palate cleanser or for a night out with friends when you want something a bit more smooth. No matter your background there is a beer on this list for you to enjoy this fall.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.