Cheers to the most festive time of year! Oktoberfest in Munich, an annual event that brings in 1.25 billion euros for the Munich economy, starts September 16 so to get you prepared, lay out your dirndl and your lederhosen and get ready for the best time of year for beer lovers.
Oktoberfest encompasses two styles of beer: festbier and märzen. Märzen was served at Oktoberfest until the late 20th century when the golden festbier took its place. Don’t try to order a märzen in the Oktoberfest tent in Munich because you will not find one. In America, if you order an Oktoberfest beer, you are most likely to be served an amber märzen but if you order an Oktoberfest beer in Munich, you’ll get the golden festbier (yes, it’s confusing). Look for “märzen” on the label when you are looking for amber beers and if you want the more modern version, look for “fest” on the label or for beers made in Germany, it’ll just say “Oktoberfest.”
“I think Oktoberfest beers offer something unique that gets regular beer drinkers and enthusiasts equally excited because of its easy connection to the season of fall and tradition,” says Bryan Roth, an analyst for Feel Goods Company and editor of its newsletter, Sightlines+. “Also because these are just really good beers.”
Here are five excellent Oktoberfest beers to help you get in the spirit and get you ready for autumn, football on the TV and sweater weather.
There’s nothing like fresh Hofbrau beers (I had a particularly enjoyment experience with their helles at the Munich airport of all places) and their festbier is bready, drinkable and dangerous at 6.3% ABV. Even if the temperatures are still hot out, this beer will cool you down and the golden color of this beer looks beautiful in a glass.
Von Trapp Oktoberfest
Vermont based Von Trapp is mostly a lager brewery so it would make total sense they would have a great Oktoberfest. Last year in my annual Oktoberfest tasting (aka me drinking at my dining room table), this märzen style lager came out on top as my favorite of the season. I hear they also throw a wicked good Oktoberfest celebration at their facility in Stowe.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest
Samual Adams Octoberfest is one of the original go-tos when the autumnal colors show themselves. One of my favorite things about this beer is that it’s everywhere, meaning you can cheer good times with this beer throughout the United States.
“Sam Adams’ Octoberfest is easily the best-selling märzen,” explains Roth. “In 2022, Sam Adams’ Octoberfest sold the equivalent of about 18,500 barrels of beer in chain retail, roughly the same size as the 150th largest Brewers Association-defined craft brewery in the country. Pretty wild given the short timeframe it’s sold, but emphasizes how popular this style can be.”
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Festbier
The seasonals of Sierra Nevada are some of the best beers in America and each year, their Oktoberfest is a different collaboration with a German brewery. This year it’s Berlin based Kehrwieder and the beer is a refreshing deep golden festbier, slightly similar in line with what is served under the tents in Munich albeit a little darker in color. The 12 oz. cans are great for tailgating and it’s a must drink for any beer lover.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen
My favorite of the German made märzens, Paulaner’s amber lager is toasty and drinkable. It’s one of the first beers I buy when this style hits the shelves in late summer. Paulaner is also one of the breweries that pours at Oktoberfest and they import their festbier to America (in 500mL cans!) as well if you want to recreate the rowdy vibe of the real thing at home.
Here’s to good times this autumnal and harvest season and celebrate safely with the people you care most about. Prost!