Bier ist gut. For those who don’t know German, here’s a rough translation: Beer frickin’ rocks.
It’s the 184th anniversary of Oktoberfest in Munich. In the 1800s, some beer-loving members of the German royalty decided to get hitched—and that’s how we ended up with the rich, amber and copper seasonals that are Oktoberfest-style beers. (It’s kind of like a really long, international game of telephone that started with a traditional German marriage and horse race, and ended with a bunch of people gathering to drink beer, roast sausages and wear some of the funniest outfits you’ll ever see.)
Even if you can’t make the trek to Munich for the pretzel-and-beer bacchanal, you can enjoy some of these fall beers while wearing lederhosen (or not). Oktoberfest-style beers, also known as Märzen, were originally brewed around March (März is the German word for March) and stored to be consumed in the fall, before modern refrigeration.
Here are some of the beers I’ll be enjoying this October.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, 6.1 percent alcohol by volume: Every year, Sierra Nevada teams up with a different German brewer to craft a delicious Oktoberfest-style beer. This year, the brewery partnered with the legendary Brahaus Miltenberger to produce a delicious golden Märzen lager that’s balanced by traditional German-grown whole-cone hops.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, 5.8 percent ABV: This brewery was founded in 1878 in the Bavarian village of Aying. This Oktoberfest Märzen is one of the most respected beers in this category.
Santa Fe Brewing Oktoberfest, 6 percent ABV: This classic German lager showcases the crispness of Munich malts mixed with Bavarian hops, giving the beer notes of lightly toasted grain and a bit of caramel sweetness—before a slightly spiced, floral hop finish.
Spaten Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen, 5.9 percent ABV: This brew features a toasted malt breadiness upfront, with a hint of sugar-cane sweetness. Few breweries in the city limits of Munich are allowed to serve beer there; the brews must conform to the age-old standard of Reinheitsgebot, or the Bavarian Purity Law. Like other authentic German beers brewed in Munich, Spaten pours an amber color and is crystal-clear.
Ninkasi Brewing Oktoberfest, 5.5 percent ABV: Celebrating the Pacific Northwest with Pisner malt and regional Sterling, Willamette and Mt. Hood hops, this seasonal beer highlights notes of toasty yet sweet pale grain, with some slight bitterness.
Hofbräu Original, 5.1 percent ABV: Enjoy this Munich helles lager-style beer brewed by Hofbräuhaus München in München, Germany. It has a crisp, clean aroma and taste, and is extremely easy-drinking. I remember chugging this style of beer in the legendary tourist mecca, the Hofbräuhaus. If you’re searching for a rich Oktoberfest beer … well, this isn’t it. Instead, it’s the beer you imagine when you think of those busty chicks roaming the beer halls holding five or six beers the size of your head.
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest Märzen, 5.6 percent ABV: Flying Dog uses 100 percent imported German ingredients for an authentic flavor. Specialty malts like Vienna, Munich 90, Munich 100 and Light Munich help make this brew a dark-amber color. Caramel flavor and spice make this a perfect fall beer. After winning the 2005 bronze, and 2008 and 2009 gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in the German-Style Märzen category, this beer has become one to seek out. Besides, how can you not like beers that showcase the artwork of gonzo artist Ralph Steadman (best known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson) on the bottle?
Surly Brewing SurlyFest 2017, 6 percent ABV: This is not your typical Oktoberfest beer. Surly’s version is a dry-hopped rye lager with an earthy, biscuity flavor profile. Brewed with three different types of rye and one variety of American hops, the beer has a nice, peppery bite, with notes of caramel, and a decent amount of citrus and pine.
Left Hand Oktoberfest, 6.6 percent ABV: This beer-maker in Colorado starts brewing its Oktoberfest in the spring to achieve liquid bliss. With a gorgeous copper hue, Left Hand Oktoberfest is biscuit-y and, like many beers of this style, malty. The noble pedigree hops add a properly spicy, dry finish.
The change of seasons from summer to fall is a beautiful thing, as the new season heralds the arrival of awesome seasonals that should not be missed.
Beers, bratwurst and babes … I mean, how could you go wrong?