Bier ist gut. For those German challenged, it means what it sounds like. Beer fricken’ rocks.
It’s the 200th anniversary of the German Tradition of Oktoberfest. That’s right, in 1810, some beer loving German royalty decided to get hitched and that’s how we ended up with the rich, amber, copper seasonals that are Oktoberfest style beers. It’s like a really long, international game of telephone that started with a traditional German marriage and horse race and ended up being a bunch of people gathering around to drink beer, roast sausages and wear the most hideous outfits you can think of.
Celebrating 200 years of debauchery in lederhosen! Because come on, what says style, like shorts that are held up by suspenders, connected at chest level, by the most dainty flower design, in puke green or UPS brown? After you’ve had 8-10 Oktoberfest style beers, who the hell cares?
Over six million people fill the tents and bierhalls of Munich, starting Sept. 18th. Without a leafy vegetable in sight, the culinary superiority of the swine reigns during September and October. After all, it tastes divine being washed down with a pumpkin beer, fresh hop pale ale or Märzen style lager. In 2007, beer consumption in Munich was just shy of approximately 15 million pints. Gotta hand it to the Germans, that’s some serious liver achievement.
Oktoberfest or Octoberfest –doesn’t matter which way you spell it, it just means a lot of tasty fall beers.
At the official Oktoberfest in Munich, the only beers permitted to be served come from six local brewers: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten and must conform to some specific limitations. But, you don’t have to go to a crowded beer garden to partake in the celebration, or more importantly, the beer.
Spaten is Munich’s original brewery and is responsible for producing the first Oktoberfest beer in 1872, its Ur-Märzen. Spaten also brews a paler, golden Oktoberfestbier. The Oktoberfestbier Ur-Märzen is slightly bready and grassy. Mild hops come through with some malt sweetness. Much like other authentic German beers brewed in Munich, Spaten pours an amber color and is crystal clear.
Another traditional German Oktoberfest style beer comes to you by Hofbräu. I remember chugging this style beer in the legendary tourist mecca – as one of those tourists – the Hofbräuhaus. Stronger than your average lager but lighter than usual for a Märzen, this beer is the one they produce for its Oktoberfest tent, the Hofbräu Festhalle. This Märzen style beer weighs in at a healthy 6.30% ABV. Brewed according to the German Purity Law, it pours a clear, light, golden color. The trend is to sell more of a lighter bodied Helles at Oktoberfest in Germany these days. If you’re searching for a rich, fall flavor Oktoberfest beer, well, this isn’t it. Rather, it’s probably the beer you imagine when you think of those busty chicks roaming the beer halls with five or six beers the size of your head. It’s like a frat party, in a glass….not a whole lotta’ depth, a little gritty, but can be a lot of fun.
Germany’s largest single brewer, the Warsteiner Brauerei has been operating in Warsteiner, Germany for more than 250 years. Like many other German brewers who can’t sell their versions at the Munich Oktoberfest, Warsteiner Brauerei released their Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest (5.90% ABV), to sell in the U.S. Savvy. A Marzen beer in style, Warsteiner Premium Oktoberfest pours a clear amber and is pretty mild flavored with some Märzen malts showcased in the finish. It’s a totally average, yet decent, beer.
Märzen (pronounced “mahr-tsen”) is the traditional beer of the season in Bavaria. A brown lager with spicy hops and unsubdued, yet smooth malt character that was historically brewed in March and aged in Alpine caves over the summer. Typically, a Bavarian Märzen will be copper-red, with a full-bodied maltiness and a touch of spice. However, this style is no longer served at the Munich event. Instead, a decent but cheaper light lager (much like Hofbräu) is guzzled by thousands.
Lucky for those located stateside, many craft brewers have embraced the old traditional style of Oktoberfest beers. Ironically, in a country more or less obsessed with yellow, fizzy beer (thanks Budweiser), we Americans don’t mess around when it comes to Oktoberfest beers. Here, they usually pack a stronger malt flavor and can also contain a decent amount of hop character. Turning towards the colors of the season, a slew of craft brewers are making beers in rich coppers, deep reds and nutty browns.
Available from August through October, Sam Adams Oktoberfest is one of these beers. Having introduced this seasonal in 1989, this was one of the craft Oktoberfest style beers that started the trend of bringing back the rich flavor of the season. It contains a blend of four malts – Harrington, Caramel, Munich, and Moravian and a grin worthy amber hue.
Coming in at 5.6% ABV, Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest uses 100% 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. Some caramel flavor and spice make this a perfect fall beer. Having won the 2005,2008 and 2009 Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the German-Style Märzen category has helped make this Märzen one beer to seek out….and it goes great with Oom-pah bands. 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?
Left Hand Oktoberfest in Colorado starts brewing their Oktoberfest in the Spring to achieve liquid bliss. Pouring a gorgeous copper hue, Left Hand Oktoberfest is biscuity and like many this style, malty. The noble pedigree hops add a properly spicy, dry finish. If you haven’t tried this Märzen, I highly recommend you pick some up. I’d imagine it’s made with love…and hugs.
These following beers deserve honorable mention, as well.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Clipper City Balto MärzHon, Harpoon Octoberfest and Thomas Hooker Octoberfest are all stand up, fall (pun, intended) beers. A couple friends + several of these beers + bratwurst = instant Oktoberfest party.
The change of seasons from summer to fall is a beautiful thing, as is the harvest of these fine beers. Fall heralds the arrival of some awesome seasonals that should not be missed. Beers, bratwurst, and babes; I mean, how could you go wrong?
I couldn’t say it better than the Germans though. Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi!