America’s love affair of pumpkin-spiced products has been well documented, particularly in the beer aisle. One of the earliest incarnations, Buffalo Bill’s Original Pumpkin Ale, date back to 1985. (For those keeping track at home, that’s 18 years before Starbucks released its infamous latte.)
To stand out among all the gourd-forward ales, in recent years some breweries started looking even further back in beer history and now release Oktoberfest lagers.
Synonymous with the namesake festival held in Munich each September, some excellent German imports make way to our shores, and Boston-based Samuel Adams’s version—spelled OctoberFest—boasts the title of top-selling fall seasonal beer. But more and more craft breweries now release versions worth seeking.
Sometimes called Märzen or Festbier, how Oktoberfest lagers appear in the glass is up to a brewer’s interpretation. Some are deep gold in color, while others have more of an orange hue. Regardless of look, these typically range between 5% to 6.3% alcohol by volume (abv), and should be slightly sweet, dry and bready, and malt-forward, with little discernible hop character. Heavier versions, however, can present with a pronounced toasted malt character, little bitterness, and a dry finish.
Five to tap this fall
Copper Legend Octoberfest | Jack’s Abby Brewing
Sweet and malt forward, with spiciness from noble hops, this is an Oktoberfest to enjoy by the liter.
Oktober Fest-Märzen | Ayinger Privatbrauerei
Full-bodied with a bready character and low hoppiness, this finishes with a light alcohol heat.
Oktoberfest | Enegren Brewing Company
This is a vibrant, orange-colored Märzen-style lager with notes of bready malts, honey, nuts and sweet caramel.
Oktoberfest | Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
The recipe for this beer changes annually. This year’s version features Spalt Spalter and Spalter Select hops, and it has a grain bill of Pilsner, Vienna, Munich and pale malt.
O-Katz (Oachkatzlschwoaf) Oktoberfest Lager | Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
An annual release from this Missouri brewery features Perle, Hallertauer and Mittelfrüh hops alongside Munich and Pilsner malts.