This Saturday kicks of the 179th Oktoberfest — the largest and, quite possibly, the most drunken party in the world.
As with many regional designations in the alcohol world (Bourbon, Bordeaux, Trappist to name a few), the label “Oktoberfest” is reserved for only the beer produced within the city walls of Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest Beer is a registered Trademark by the Club of Munich Brewers — meaning only said brewers can use the name. The only breweries qualified to use the name are as follows:
- Staatliches Hofbräu-München
As with Bourbons and Bordeaux, Oktoberfest-biers are also subject to production rules. The official Oktoberfest-biers must be produced according to the Reinheitsgebot — the German Purity law that states beer can only be made from a combination of barley, hops, yeast and water (no extraneous ingredients). Also, these beers must not exceed 6% alcohol per volume.
And last but not least, the only the official Munich Oktoberfest beers are the only beers allowed to be served at the traditional Oktoberfest celebration. Quite the exclusive club, if you ask me.
Alas, what happens to the poor little heathen brewers outside the Munch city limits? Well folks, a rose by any other name. Technically speaking, any brewer can brew the Oktoberfest-style, also known as a Marzen. They just can’t call it Oktoberfest-bier. All Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Bourbon — get me?
Although my favorite not-official-but-traditional Oktoberfest-style is from Ayinger, I also love many American interpretations. As with most traditional styles of beer, the Americans have a tendency to push the recipes limits, typically by giving them a dose of American hops. Instead of plugging the corporate-owned, not-technically-craft-beer producers of the official Oktoberfest beers, this post is dedicated to promoting the awesome O-Fest brewers in the U.S. (sorry Canadians).
It is important to note that the nature of these beers makes them extremely enjoyable while very fresh — but not so fun when drank old. So get your fill now, and please don’t cellar them unless otherwise instructed by the breweries!
10 American O-Fest Beers Worth Trying
Commercial Description: Seductively smooth, this medium-bodied amber beauty is akin to the great Oktoberfest beers of Munich. All German malts and whole flower European hops make this lager true to style.
Commercial Description: Brewed using the time honored methods and an extra slow lager to release the smooth flavor of our roasted malts. Expect this bier to pour with a rich head of foam that will enhance its incredible spice bouquet. Staghorn Octoberfest combines a smooth amber body with a clean crisp finish. Abv: 6.25%
Commercial Description: An amber lager with rich malt flavor balanced by fragrant noble hops.
Commercial Description: We took all that is good in a traditional Oktoberfest – gorgeous, deep copper sheen, massive malty backbone and spicy, floral, pungent noble hops – then intensified each into this, an Imperial Oktoberfest.
Abv: 9-10% (please note, this is an Imperial)
Commercial Description: A subtle hop bouquet and toasted caramel malt flavors create a well balanced beer that finishes fresh and clean. With a pleasant nose and medium body, this brew is a taste of the season.
Commercial Description: Traditionally brewed to celebrate the harvest season, this reddish-brown lager has a rich caramel character and a long flavorful finish. Its delicious malty sweetness is nicely accented by a slightly fruity bouquet and a mild hop flavor. Abv: 5.75%