This weekend is the beginning of the traditional Octoberfest celebration which runs until Sunday, October 4th. It is a celebration that began in Munich, Bavaria in the year 1810. It is a celebration of Bavarian culture, Bavarian food and beer. The style often associated with the celebration is generally called an Octoberfest here in the U.S. but is more precisely known as a Maerzen (Märzen).
The Maerzen style is a lagered beer that originated in Germany. The beers name derived from the fact that it was often brewed in the Spring to last through the Summer into the Fall. The remaining stock would often be used up about the time brewing could begin again and the style coincided nicely with the Octoberfest celebration.
You may have little to no familiarity with the style but are caught up in the exuberance of Octoberfest and wish to celebrate with a tad more authenticity. Never fear I am here to share my opinions of the half-dozen brands I have tested so far.
1) Sam Adams' Octoberfest - Hard to miss with its orange and blue label. Sam Adams is usually an very acceptable Octoberfest seasonal. You can often find it at our local pubs and restaurants on draft or in bottles. Never a disappointment unless tasted in direct comparison to other favored choices.
2) Schlafly's Oktoberfest - I had the good fortune to have this seasonal on draft at the Bottleworks in St. Louis a few weeks ago. It was as close to Octoberfest heaven as a poor Springfield boy can get without travelling more than 1.5 hours. Pubs and restaurants that regularly carry a Schlafly seasonal will likely have this now or very soon. At least one informed us they were waiting for their Schlafly Summer seasonal to tap out.
3) Capital Brewery's Oktoberfest - A very acceptable version of the style and, with Capital's prevalence around town in our local stores, it is a bit easier to obtain. It has not been my favorite but I definitely grab it again.
4) Bell's Octoberfest - This is good as is much of the Bell's lineup. I cannot decide whether I prefer this one over my last year's top choice: Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest.
5) Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest - This was my favorite Octoberfest from last year. It hasn't remained so this year although it is very good. It is on my second tier along with Bell's. I imagine its exposure in Springfield will be limited but I picked up my sixer at Friar Tucks and had a bottle at The Brewhaus.
6) Left Hand's Oktoberfest - Other than the draft Schlafly, this has been my favorite Octoberfest beer so far this season. It seems to have that right amount of malty flavor on the nose and the tongue with enough bitterness to wipe out any extra sweetness.
Maerzens are a great style that sadly is relegated to 'seasonal' status by most breweries. Ultimately that means, if you love it, like it or just lookin to try it, grab it now while you can. Order one up at your local restaurant or pub. Grab a six at our local shops and grocery stores. If you are a fan of the range of beer styles or are looking for something a little different and a little warmer for this coming autumn, you cannot go wrong with grabbing a Maerzen (Octoberfest).
Our local shops with weekly tastings that include a beer or two will likely be featuring an Octoberfest seasonal or one of the other harvest/autumn styles.
You could also swing on by Party House Liquors on October 2nd when they are having their Fall and Octoberfest Beer Tasting ($5). Bier und Brats! Sehr gut!
Update: I have tasted a few more of the US Microbrewed Oktoberfests.
7) Rogue's Maierfest - Sold in 22oz. bottles. I thought this was rather excellent and will likely consider it one of the tops in my tastings this fall. It was so good I had to grab a bottle to save for my wife who can enjoy it this Spring. Let's hope it keeps.
8) Boulevard's Bob's 47 - I missed seeing this seasonal in my last few trips to Tucks and only stumbled across it in the back of the cooler. Floyd's has/had it on tap and it was good but I actually found the bottled version to be a bit better. This is definitely a very solid Octoberfest and well worth picking up. Supporting Boulevard is an added touch since they have some pretty considerable penetration into Springfield's markets.
9) Three Floyd's Munster Fest - I had this at the Brewhaus and it was served in a 22oz bottle. This definitely stood apart in the Octoberfest lineup but not to my tastes. I find it hard to describe the diversion from the norm other than to say it seemed 'spiced'. Bad descirption, I know, and the beer was technically well done but I just was not fond of the taste.
10) Schmaltz Brewing's Coney Island Freaktoberfest - This came in a 22oz. bottle and was downright interesting. It pours 'blood' red and has a pink head. It looks odd but tastes good. It seemed a little more hopped than the traditional Octoberfests. I think the great taste will be overshadowed by the look of the beer but this would be one excellent brew for All Hallowed Eve.
11) Schell Brewing's Octoberfest - Another solid if uninspiring Octoberfest. This was near the bottom of my list but only because I stay away from the mass marketed (Leinenkugel) and import (Spaten) Octoberfests. August Schell produces a solid go-to brew that I'd definitely pick up more often if I didn't have a good crop to choose from.
I think I am petering out on Octoberfests as well as running short of season. Eleven different brews were tasted this year and I will likely call the Rogue Maierfest as my favorite but I'll likely grab more on Left Hand's offering if I can find it. Twelve ounce bottle for the Win!