The true Oktoberfest in Munich wrapped up on Oct. 4, yet festivals imitating the German celebration run throughout the month of October. While the beer served in the tents at “die Wiesn,”—as the Munich locals call their annual festival due to its location, Theresienwiese—is festbier, the vast majority of Oktoberfest beers brewed in America are Märzen lagers, which are generally darker in color than their golden cousin and feature more rich, toasty, bready malt depth. Here are six U.S. takes on the classic style from Deutschland:
Upslope Oktoberfest Lager: Part of the Boulder, Colorado, brewery’s Tap Room Series, this Märzen presents a yeast-heavy scent of rising dough, light honey and a perfectly toasted English muffin. A sweet malty splash quickly coats the mouth before being tempered by Noble hops’ soft bitterness.
Smuttlabs Oktoberfest: The limited release from Smuttynose Brewing Co. in Hampton, New Hampshire, visually resembles a festbier with its bright golden hue, but returns to style with a sharp, sweet nose of warm nut bread and honey mixed with a faint peppery hop bite. A bold banana bread sweetness is balanced by just enough grassy bitterness.
New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest: While this lager from the celebrated Wisconsin brewery strays somewhat from most Oktoberfest beers (it even Anglicizes the spelling of the festival), it is both tasty and drinkable. The aroma’s quiet with whispers of wildflower honey and fresh flour, but on the tongue a honey-coated cookie malt blast earns a snappy, dry finish.
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest: Complementary fragrances of toasted nuts and soft bread swirl up from this Maryland-based brew’s rich copper pour. The swallow’s simple but balanced, with an intense honey-like sweetness for the briefest of moments before an earthy, dry finish gets it under wraps.
Short’s Noble Chaos: The name of this Oktoberfest offering out of Elk Rapids, Michigan, also aptly describes its aroma; toasted notes, a nutty mix of pistachios and raw peanuts along with a very faint whiff of melon all rumble around in the bouquet. The flavor is really quite a departure: Lightly roasted coffee beans mingle with a subdued honey flavor in the malty backbone.
Fort Collins Oktoberfest: Perhaps the most refreshing of the half-dozen, this lovely lager touches on all the right points. The yeasty scent of dough in the oven blends well with a slightly toasted crust tone. The taste dives deep into honey-drizzled bread and then resurfaces with a dry conclusion courtesy of a touch of moderate earthy hops. The beer accomplishes the rare feat of a flavorful richness while remaining extremely easy-drinking.
If knocking back a few of these session-ready brews isn’t really your thing, then Avery’s Kaiser, which bills itself as an imperial Oktoberfest lager, might be more to your liking. Heavy syrupy notes of caramel, rich toffee and honey precede a boozy ending that showcases every bit of the 9.3% ABV. The ramped-up flavors more resemble an Oktoberfest-themed liqueur than a Märzen’s typical soft, elegant tones, but will certainly suit some American palates.