Typically, this would be the month when thousands of tourists would flock to Munich to raise a glass (or several) and take part in its Oktoberfest. (Yes, despite the name, Oktoberfest takes place largely in September.) This year, however, for the second year in a row, the storied festival has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are plenty of seasonally appropriate beers here in the States that you can seek out to help you celebrate at home.
What we call an “Oktoberfest” typically falls into one of two subcategories — a sweet, malty Märzen or a pale, crisp festbier. Here in America, most Oktoberfests tend to be closer to the Märzen end of the spectrum, while Germany favors the lighter festbiers. (After all, the lighter it is, the easier it is to drink a massive stein of it.) And thanks to seasonal creep, Oktoberfests have been hitting shelves earlier and earlier, so you should have no trouble at all tracking one down weeks ahead of the actual German festival.
So while the Delta variant may be preventing you from actually donning your best lederhosen and hopping on a plane to Europe, all is not lost. To help you find the best options available to you at home, we’ve rounded up 10 of our favorite Oktoberfest beers below. Prost!
Avery Brewing The Kaiser
At 8.0% ABV, Avery’s The Kaiser is the booziest Oktoberfest on this list. That’s because it’s an Imperial Oktoberfest Lager that blends traditional Vienna and Munich malts with Hellartau and Bravo hops. The dark malts (and the booze) lend it a bit of sweetness, but the hops come through at the end and give it a dry finish. It’s not the most cookie-cutter version of an Oktoberfest you’ll find, but if your celebration has to be capped at just a couple beverages this year, this one will definitely provide the most bang for your buck.
Brooklyn Brewery’s Oktoberfest is an easy-drinking Märzen with a nice malt character and a crisp finish. You’ll pick up hints of caramel and toasted grain, along with some floral hops and toffee flavors. It’s brewed traditionally with all-German hops and malts, making it perfect to pair with a bratwurst or a Bavarian pretzel.
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
The 2021 edition of this annual favorite is the real deal; for the first time in packaged form, the beer was lagered in French oak barrels from a Napa Valley cabernet producer, giving it a smoother mouthfeel. It’s got a nice toasty, biscuity flavor to it, making it one to pick up if you’re a little wary of overly sweet Oktoberfests.
Great Lakes Brewing Oktoberfest
Great Lakes Brewing’s Oktoberfest is one of the best examples of a Märzen you’ll find stateside. It’s an extremely well-balanced, award-winning brew — it has medaled four times at the World Beer Championships — and it stays true to the malty, bready style while also adding a touch of hoppy bitterness and a slightly higher ABV than you typically find in an Oktoberfest.
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend Octoberfest
Jack’s Abby’s Copper Legend takes its name from the rich copper color it pours. It’s more toasty and bready than it is sweet and caramel-flavored, and it expertly toes the line between the two subcategories of an Oktoberfest, the heavier and maliter Märzen and the lighter, crisper festbier. It’s an extremely tasty beer that joins together the best of both worlds.
Karbach Karbachtober Fest
This Texas brewery’s seasonal Oktoberfest is a traditional Bavarian-style Märzen, made with Vienna and Munich malts and cold fermented and aged for six weeks. It’s crisp and sessionable, with just the right about of malty sweetness, which means you can easily crush several of them without worrying about getting too sloppy.
Sam Adams Octoberfest
Sam Adams’ Octoberfest has been around for more than 30 seasons, and rightfully so. It’s an extremely good example of the style, and because it’s so widely available, it’s a great entry-level beer for Oktoberfest virgins. And who knows? Maybe by this time next year you’ll have an opportunity to experience the real thing: This year, the brewery’s holding a Willy Wonka-style contest where those who find a golden bottle of the beer will win a trip to the 2022 edition of Oktoberfest in Munich.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
The 2021 version of Sierra Nevada’s annual seasonal is a little different than it has been in years past. Typically, the brewery’s Oktoberfest is closer to a festbier, but this year’s version is an amber Märzen. It’s darker and maltier, with a nice graham cracker aroma on the nose, and it’s got some herbal and floral hop notes to provide a little balance.
Surly Brewing Oktoberfest
Surly’s Oktoberfest is a little more traditional than the brew it replaced, their SurlyFest beer, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. It’s well-balanced and very drinkable — which is good, because, like most Oktoberfests, it’s designed to be consumed in larger quantities. It’s sweet enough that it goes down smooth, but hoppy enough that it’s not cloying.
Victory Brewing Festbier
Like all the best Oktoberfest beers on this list, Festbier is brewed with traditional German malts. Those malts are never overpowering, though, and it’s got a crispness and a slight bitterness to it that sets it apart from some of its sweeter peers and gives it an extremely pleasant, dry finish.
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