If you don’t know much about Oktoberfest, you might simply think it’s an annual beer-fueled event created to ring in the start of fall with all the bratwurst and Marzen you can drink. Well, if you think that, you’d be half right. It is a beer, sausage, lederhosen, and oom-pah-music-fueled festival that takes place every fall. It’s also more than that. Technically, it’s a two-week festival (the dates change yearly but usually fall at the end of September and beginning of October) that was first celebrated to pay homage to the marriage of crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, which took place on October 12, 1810.
While you can imbibe any Oktoberfest-style beer and pair it with schnitzel, Sauerbraten, currywurst, Spaetzle, potato salad, and pretzels as big as your head, you should probably drink some true German Oktoberfest beer. It is their festival after all. A good place to start is with the Oktoberfest beers from the six Munich breweries that are officially part of Oktoberfest: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr.
That said, a region with such a long and stories brewing history is home to a ton of iconic breweries and many of them make some version of an Oktoberfest-style beer. We’re talking Marzens, helles lagers, weissbiers, and other crisp, refreshing, flavorful fall beers.
This classic, bottom-fermented, 6.3 percent seasonal beer is only available from July through September. Brewed with Munich malt and light barley malt as well as Herkules, Perle, Magnum, and Select hops, it’s known for its nose of caramel, honey, and floral Noble hops. The palate is crisp, refreshing and loaded with caramel malts, honey, citrus peels, and floral, earthy, herbal hops. It’s a thirst-quencher well-suited for the remaining summer days and nights.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen
This 5.8 percent ABV Marzen is brewed to celebrate the season. While some breweries list myriad, over-the-top ingredients, the folks ate Ayinger keep it simple by simply listing water, barley malt, hops, and yeast. That’s it. The result is an award-winning beer with an inviting nose of freshly baked bread, barley, and toffee malts and a palate of caramel malts, fresh bread, honey, and a gentle hit of floral hops. The finish is dry, refreshing, and memorable.
This beer might not have the name recognition stateside as some of the other beers on this list. But don’t let that stop you from trying it. This 5.8 percent ABV beer is referred to as a festbier, but the brewers refer to it as a “fuller-bodied” helles lager. The result is a seasonal offering that beings with a nose of clover honey, fresh bread, and floral, earthy hops. Drinking it reveals notes of caramel, biscuit-like malts, honey, citrus peels, and a healthy dose of floral, herbal, earthy hops at the finish. It sets itself apart from the pack due to the bigger hop presence.
This isn’t your typical Oktoberfest beer. It’s a Weissbier brewed with wheat, barley, specially selected hops, and top-fermenting yeast. This creates an epic fall seasonal beer with aromas of fruit, caramel malt, floral hops, and rustic yeast. The palate follows suit with notes of bready malts, funky yeast, fruit, gentle spices, and floral hops. Overall, it’s a very unique beer that needs to be tasted to be believed.
The brewers are Warsteiner take their Oktoberfest beer very seriously. This annual favorite is brewed with specially selected Noble hops, Munich-grown spring barley malt, and soft water from the nearby Arnsberg forest nature park. This creates a one-of-a-kind fall beer that carries aromas of caramel, biscuit-like malts, and floral hops as well as a palate of freshly baked bread, honey, toffee, and floral Noble hops. The finish is a mix of sweetness, bitterness, all with a refreshing dry last sip.
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen
If you’ve never had a beer from Aecht Schlenkerla, you might be wondering why this beer was added to the list of Oktoberfest beers. Traditionally, Oktoberfest beers are often Marzens and Aecht Schlenkerla makes one of the best. Most unique versions in all of Germany. That’s because this is a smoke beer. It’s brewed with barley malt that’s kilned over beechwood logs. This creates a very aromatic beer with a nose of caramel, roasted malts, campfire smoke, and smoked bacon. The palate continues this trend with hints of bready malts, toffee, dried fruits, grassy, herbal, floral malts, and even more smoke.
A true German classic, Paulaner has been brewing this bottom-ferment Oktoberfest beer the same way every year since 1818. It’s known for its mix of caramel malts, floral, earthy, herbal hops, and crisp flavor profile due to being brewed with soft water, Pilsner malt, Munich malt, and Herkules and Hallertauer Tradition Noble hops. It’s brewed for the actual Oktoberfest in Munich, but you’re lucky enough to get to enjoy it in the privacy of your own home. No plane ticket required.
If you didn’t know it already, Weihenstephaner is the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world with its inception way back in 1040. Yes, you read that right. It’s almost a thousand years old. While it’s well-known for its helles lager and various other traditional styles, you can’t go wrong with a few bottles of its Weihenstephaner OktoberFestbier. It’s a bready, honey, floral, crisp, easy-drinking lager that’s perfect for the waning summer days. It’s a great beer to bridge the gap between hot summer days and chilly fall evenings.
Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Märzen
One of the most well-known Bavarian breweries, Spaten makes one of the best Oktoberfest beers on the market as well. While it’s not the golden lager the brewery makes for the event, it’s actually a more suitable, malty, darker Marzen perfect for sipping on a cool fall night. Brewed since 1872, it’s known for its mix of caramel malts, honeyed sweetness, roasted malts, and floral, herbal, Noble hops. It’s a great mix of malt sweetness and floral hops.
If you only try one Oktoberfest beer on this list, make it Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest. Brewed following the traditional Bavarian Purity Laws of 1516, it’s one of the most well-known, awarded Marzens in the world. While it’s brewed for Oktoberfest, it’s so good you’ll want to drink it all year long (sadly you can’t). This simple, elegant, malty fall seasonal is well-known for its nose of yeasty bready, toffee, toasted malts, and sticky, floral, herbal, earthy Noble hops. Drinking it reveals more of the same with a ton of toasted malts, fresh bread, honey, and floral, earthy hops. The finish is dry, crisp, and lightly bitter, tying everything together nicely.