As a beer drinker’s right of passage, the famed Oktoberfest beer festival is unlike anything else in its class. On second thought, the celebratory throw-down of seismic proportions could, in fact, exist in a class all on its own – thanks in part to the nearly 6 million attendees each year spread out over the Bavarian festival’s 16 to 18 day running period from mid-September through to the first week of October. Safe to say, thousands of gallons of Oktoberfest beer is drunk, festive tunes were sung, and cheerful toasts are made in a slightly-slurred yet merry manner. Prost!
And with this world-renowned festival occurring right now as you’re reading these words, we felt it a bit pertinent – albeit mandatory – to provide you, our cherished beer-drinking reader, with a bit of insight into the beers that actually follow the Oktoberfest tradition and are happily served by dirndl-clad barmaids and Lederhosen-wearing gentleman. We made this decision because too often we find our fellow countrymen and women imbibing on our own American iterations of the beer that don’t fall in line with the traditional profile. The overly spiced lager, occasionally featuring pumpkin flavored spices is one such common error as well as the heavier Oktoberfest options our there. On the contrary, the majority of authentic Oktoberfest beer is lite in nature, easily swilled and drunk by the masses in accordance with tradition Bavarian recipes. Care for more insight? Continue on dear friend, for there’s much more to this unique festival than chugging contests.
The World's Longest Wedding Reception
It’s no secret the German people enjoy a few beers from time to time. So when Kronprinz Ludwig (who was later crowned King Ludwig in 1825) married Princess Therese von Sax-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, there was, naturally, a series of festivities scheduled to celebrate the event. And of course, to help promote prosperity and garner public support, the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the event. Also, horse races were conducted in addition the extended festivities hosted by the royal family. It was this celebratory event that later led to an anniversary festival during the same period the following year in 1811 and from here, well, the rest is history.
From the beginning, the original fairgrounds outside the city of Munich were chosen for their natural topography and suitability for the event (including the annual horse races). Additionally, as the years wore on the festival took on more familiar characteristics such as various shows and dancing for entertainment purposes along with an implementation of the iconic beer halls we still see today.
Of course, there’s also the beer, which the Germans take very seriously in accordance to the Reinheirsgebot, otherwise known as the German Beer Purity Law. Think of it as the beer equivalent to the American Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits outlining regulations under which American bourbon must be produced. At any rate, the German Beer Purity Law states that the only ingredients that can be used in the production of beer are water, hops, and barley. That means no wheat, no rye, no fruit, no abnormal spices to create a “fall flavor,” and certainly no coffee, chocolate, molasses often used by craft breweries today.
No, instead Oktoberfest beers were and still are traditionally larger beers called Marzens. These are beers brewed in March and are fermented over the course of the summer months and are brewed and distributed to the patrons of Oktoberfest by only a handful of authentic German breweries. Some of which, of course, are outlined below.
Augustiner Brau Oktoberfestbier
As a traditional Marzen style beer, this enjoyable Oktoberfest brew is a light option that stays true to the style. It pours a bright, straw hue with notable clarity and moderate carbonation and boasts a mildly sweet malt profile along with the unmistakable aroma and palate profile of German hops. Floral, light on the palate, and highly drinkable. It’s certainly a beer that can be consumed in a couple iconic Oktoberfest mugs without worry.
As one of the more iconic Oktoberfest beers out there, this Marzen pours a little darker than some of the other common options made available. It’s meant, obviously, as a session beer over the course of the festival mainly because there is nothing too overpowering about the lager – a good thing when you’re drinking several 32-ounce mugs of this stuff. It boasts a crisp and dry mouthfeel, complete with a malty profile followed up with light earthy hops that make themselves known toward the finish. A reliable selection indeed.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen
Brewed as a German amber-style lager for over 200 years, Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Marzen is commonly referred to as one of the beers that started it all and continues to support the grand tradition of this yearly festival. It’s a more full-bodied option that’s available for those looking for a bit of enhanced flavor in their Marzens and even boasts some light fruitiness and toffee notes from the roasted malts in conjunction with Paulaner’s mastery of hop balance. Surely not one to disappoint.
Head to Oktoberfest and odds are you’ll end up in the Spatenbrau beer hall before too long. That’s because their enjoyable brew has been enjoyed for many years since Oktoberfest became a tradition during the 19th century. Naturally, the Marzen is going to be balanced, with an enjoyable crisp flavor in conjunction with an aesthetically pleasing amber hue once poured into a pint glass. Tasting notes also include a bready profile with a bit of caramel malt included and a medium body that’s fully carbonated and fairly dry as a whole.
Since its founding by William V. Duke of Bavaria back in 1589, Hofbrau Munchen is one of the few original Munich breweries still in Bavarian ownership. Clearly, all those years of experience have resulted in traditional offerings from the German brewery that are simply unmissable during this festive season. Here, Hofbrau has been brewing a festive full-bodied beer for the event that pairs perfectly with the iconic Bavarian cuisine served during Oktoberfest. It’s deliciously balanced with a hint of bitter taste along with a 6.3% ABV that’s not too intense but just enough to get you dancing the traditional anvil dance underneath the Hofbrau tent.
5 Best Beers According To Brewers
Despite our best efforts to put together thoughtful lists on the best beers out there, a little expertise on the subject never hurts. So, we let the brewers themselves provide us with their favorite beer currently on the market in this Ask the Experts piece.