Every year, citizens of Munich and travelers from all over the world descend on the massive fairgrounds in Munich known as “the Theresienwiese.” They drink giant liters of frosty beers; eat their weight in bratwurst, schnitzel, and sauerkraut; and don dirndls and lederhosen while they sing along to oom-pah music all in celebration of the date when Prince Ludwig of Bavaria wed Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen way back on October 12, 1810.
Obviously, the biggest party is in Munich. But if you can’t find your way to Bavaria this year between September 16th and October 3rd (yes, the party lasts for two whole weeks), you can still enjoy smoked sausages, giant pretzels, and pints (or liters if you’re feeling brave) of Oktoberfest beer.
Clearly, if you’re truly going to celebrate, you should imbibe some traditional German festbier (only six breweries can officially serve at Munich’s Oktoberfest). But after you’ve put away some Spaten, Hofbrau, and Paulaner, why not see what the American brewers have to offer? There are myriad crisp, complex, balanced American Oktoberfest beers just waiting to be chugged while you aggressively do the chicken dance.
The Best American Oktoberfest Beers
Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest
This 5.2 percent fall favorite gets its name because this Tradition and Spalter Select hop-driven lager is matured in French oak barrels after brewing. This results in an exceptionally smooth, crisp, easy-drinking Oktoberfest beer loaded with sweet caramel malts, oaky wood, and a nice kick of floral, noble hops to make you realize you’re enjoying a German-inspired brew.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
Not only is this beer great year after year, but each fall Sierra Nevada also chooses a different German brewery to collaborate with. This year’s version was made with popular German brewery Kehrwieder. This 6 percent ABV offering is filled with biscuit-like malts, caramel, and floral, herbal, earthy hops. It’s sweet, crips, and highly memorable.
Available July through October, this 5.8 percent ABV Marzen-style Oktoberfest beer is brewed to pay tribute to the countless German brewers who came before. Featuring Pale, Munich, and Vienna malts, it’s a true classic centered on a toasted malt backbone, toffee sweetness, and gentle, floral hops.
Green Bench Festbier
If you didn’t know it already, there are different types of Oktoberfest beers. While Marzens are most common in the U.S., in Germany they drink lighter festbiers. Green Bench’s version is brewed with German Pilsners, Munich, and Vienna malts. Made using the traditional double decoction process, it’s beloved for its flavors of freshly backed bread, toasted malts, and floral, noble hops.
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend
With a name like Copper Legend, you know this annual release is something truly special. Copper in color, this Marzen-style lager is only available from August through October. It’s known for its complex flavor profile featuring toasted malts, toffee, and floral hops. It’s a highly balanced lager. One that bridges the gap between summer and fall quite well.
Great Lakes Oktoberfest
The Great Lakes Oktoberfest is a 6.5 percent ABV take on the classic Oktoberfest beer that’s like old world meets new. That’s because it’s brewed with Mt. Hood hops from Oregon and 2-row, Munich, and Caramel 45 malts. This award-winning brew is renowned for its complex, well-balanced flavor palate featuring sweet caramel malts, toasted malts, honey, and a nice kick of floral hops at the very finish.
Pennsylvania’s Troegs is well-known for its limited release beers, especially those special brews that come along only once per year. Troegs Oktoberfest is one of those. Brewed using the traditional technique of decoction, this beer has a sweet malt flavor, floral hops, and dry, crisp finish. This is thanks to the use of house lager yeast, Munich and Pilsner malts, and a smattering of Hallertau Tradition hops in the kettle.
Victory has been a big name in the American craft beer world for quite a while. It’s the kind of brewery where you could randomly order any beer and be pretty sure you’d be happy with your pick. Its annual fall offering, Victory Festbier, is also not to be missed. This 5.6 percent Marzen-style lager is brewed with important 2-row, Vienna and Munich malts, all sourced from Germany. It’s hopped with whole flower noble hops also imported from Germany. This creates a truly authentic, traditional festbier that begins with toasted and caramel malts on the nose and moves into complex, toffee, honey malt flavors and floral, lightly piney hop flavors. This is a can’t-miss fall beer.