Experts Weigh In on the Best Oktoberfest Beer You Can Buy
Almost 200 years after Oktoberfest beers were originally introduced in Munich, beer lovers around the world still can't get enough of the brew that best embodies fall imbibing. But not all Oktoberfest beers are created equal—most American Oktoberfests have strayed from the traditional German golden-hued ales toward sweeter, amber ales.
"The Germans mastered [Oktoberfest-style beers], and it's hard for Americans to imitate," Daniel Torres, bar manager of D.C.'s Biergarten Haus, says. "To me, they are really hoppy and watered down in the U.S."
"Märzens and Festbiers, the beers most synonymous with Oktoberfest in the United States, are not easy to make, and it's really important that they are consumed fresh," says Ramon Manrique Hung, bar manager of Proletariat, one of New York's top beer bars. They should be light to medium bodied, have a toasty malt flavor and have hints of caramel or toffee that aren't overwhelmingly sweet.
Before you book your plane ticket to Germany in search of the perfect stein, seek out these choice American Oktoberfests that beer experts say really hit the mark and will have you saying prost all October long.
"Their Märzen has mild toffee and caramel notes. Residual sweetness is balanced by the addition of noble hops," Hung says. "They really make the malt factor without being grainy."
This Massachusetts-based brewery (one of the few that specializes in lager brewing on the craft market), uses locally grown Massachusetts wheat, Munich malt and noble hops. "Their Märzen has a subtle malty profile," Hung says. "It's like toasted bread, but not cereal-y."
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Last year, Torres was a fan of Goose Island's Oktoberfest, a copper ale with notes of toffee, burnt sugar and sweet dried apricots with a dry, malty body. "They really focus on the barley," Torres says. "They do a really good job, but then again, they got help from the Germans." Like traditional Oktoberfests, Goose Island's versions are light and easy to drink all day and night. "German Oktoberfests are made to enjoy and binge, but most American versions are too heavy," he says.
This year, Goose Island has a new light-bodied, crisp, Märzen-style beer called Fest Bier, which features notes of toasted malt and freshly baked rye bread.
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