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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Toasting Oktoberfest

With Munich’s famed Oktoberfest in full swing and fall officially beginning, we’re eager to join the seasonal festivities with copper-colored Oktoberfest (aka märzen) beers. A German-style lager traditionally brewed in March and laid to rest in cool cellars until fall, Oktoberfest beers are malty, medium-bodied and an ideal match to the rich flavors of the season. Thankfully you don’t need to dig out your lederhosen or book a transatlantic flight to partake. Our September/October cover story on the 50 best seasonal beers highlights a few of our favorite Oktoberfest brews, and here’s a list of even more good bets.

Avery The Kaiser
Boulder, CO, 9.3% ABV
Every year, Avery makes one lone lager—and this big, malty Oktoberfest is it. Part of the brewery’s Dictator Series, The Kaiser sports a gorgeous copper hue with notes of caramel and a wallop of floral hops. It’s the perfect partner for rich soups and roasted chicken.

Ayinger Oktoberfest Märzen
Aying, Germany, 5.6% ABV
Märzens are known for their slightly sweet, malty character, and this classic from Bavarian brewer Ayinger doesn’t disappoint. Its rich color is matched by its full body, with a slightly drying finish that makes it a great match for fall fare like sausages and roasted meats.

Bear Republic Late Harvest Lager

Healdsburg, CA, 6.3% ABV
The traditionally hop-heavy brewery, Bear Republic balances out bready, caramel malts with a healthy dose of hops, adding a distinctively grassy undertone to their märzen-style beer. Released annually each fall, this heady brew is currently available on draught across the country.

Bell’s Octoberfest Beer
Galesburg, MI, 5.5% ABV
Fermented over a six-week period, this full-bodied brew combines roasted apple and pear flavors with warming caramel notes on the finish. Seek it out on nitro and be rewarded with a pillowy white head and a silky mouthfeel that you’ll want to curl up with all the way into winter.

Brauerei Spezial Rauchbier Märzen
Bamburg, Germany, 5.3% ABV
In a word: alluring. Sure, being a märzen-rauchbier hybrid makes it a bit of a stretch in the Oktoberfest category, but one taste and you’ll be smitten with this intriguingly smoky, malty brew. Crafted with organically grown, Franconian barley by the Spezial brewery, which was founded in 1536, this beer’s a perfect match for a Reuben—extra kraut, of course.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest
Brooklyn, N.Y., 5.5% ABV
True to its märzenbier style, this beer is brewed in late spring and allowed to rest before its fall release. Toasty malts and a hint of nutmeg spice are great paired with fall stews and end-of-the-summer grilled brats.

Odell Brewing Co. Woodcut No. 4 Oak-Aged Double Märzen-style Lager

Fort Collins, CO, 11% ABV
This limited-edition beer from Odell Brewing, though released this past May, tastes like it was made for fall. A slightly sweeter version of the more traditional märzen-style beers, it offers lingering notes of dried fruit, vanilla and spice and comes in at a whopping (and comfortably warming) 11 percent alcohol.

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen
Munich, Germany, 6% ABV
More than a million pints of this beer are poured during Munich’s Oktoberfest, making it a palate pilgrimage for any true fan of the classic style. Pick up a bottle for balanced notes of sweet caramel, bread and a slight hop bitterness on the finish—this is one highly sessionable brew.

Sly Fox Oktoberfest

Phoenixville, PA, 5.8% ABV
Oktoberfest gets canny with this portable brew from craft-canning pioneers, Sly Fox. One sip and you’ll swoon for its smooth, creamy body, mildly floral flavors and brown sugary finish. Pair it with chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy.

Victory Festbier
Downingtown, PA, 5.6% ABV
As its name suggests, this is one celebratory beer. Comprised of nearly all-German ingredients, this brew offers sweet malt aromas, a layered mid-palate and a dry, nutty finish. And lucky for local fans who can keep the party going all year long, since the Festbier is on draught year-round in Victory’s Pennsylvania taproom.