Oktoberfest originated Oct. 12, 1810 in Munich, Germany for the public commemoration of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese’s wedding. Two hundred years later, Oktoberfest is held over a 16-18 day period that involves eating a lot of German food — such as würstl, potato pancakes and sauerkraut — and, of course, plenty of beer.
Many breweries make their own version of an Oktoberfest beer this time of year, so we decided to try a few each and review them for you all. We’re no experts (although we did take a wine class once), but we hope you’ll enjoy what we put our “hard” work into. Prost!
Hofbräu Oktoberfest by Hofbräuhaus
(6.3% alc. by volume)
The original home of the Hofbräuhaus is in Munich, Germany and its Oktoberfest brew was made specially for the royal wedding. Today it’s made a little paler. I’ve been to the Hofbräuhaus in Pittsburgh, one of only a handful of locations in the world. The atmosphere is über festive and the house polka band always encourages the crowd to stand on their benches and raise their mugs.
Impressions: The first thing I noticed about the lager is that it’s a bit hoppy and slightly bitter. It has a spicier flavor (a hint of orange?) than their house lager. Went well with my homemade pizza — even though it wasn’t traditional German fare — and a football game on TV.
(5.1% alc. by volume)
Leinenkugel’s can be purchased at just about any grocery store, and I’ve tried a bunch of their other varieties before I tried the Oktoberfest brew. I like that this company includes a list of tips for buying and tasting beers on its website. I followed tip #3: “The best time to try a new beer is mid-morning.” I work the night shift, OK?
Impressions: This copper-colored beer looks beautiful in glass. My first sip had a little sting to it, but a few sips in, I caught the aromas of wheat, caramel and … apricot, maybe?
(5.7% alc. by volume)
I was watching Frontline while I was drinking my Erdinger and one of the men in the show was discussing how advertising is sort of pointless because this or that will always be good. He said, “beer will always be good… well, unless it’s American.” Good thing that when I laughed at his remark it was imported beer from Germany that went up my nose.
Impressions: One of the first things I noticed was how soft this was. Not even smooth, but soft. Really wonderful. It had an earthy flavor (no, not dirt) and I tasted a bit of pear.
Samuel Adams Octoberfest
(5.3% alc. by volume)
This is another seasonal variety of a classic grocery-story beer. And it feels like a very American beer (it’s brewed in Boston), accented by the fact that it’s the only beer on our list that spells Oktoberfest with a “c.”
Impressions: When I got my first whiff of this beer, it smelled like sparkly apples. After a sip, I smelled toasty caramel and sweet malty aromas. The aftertaste was just slightly bitter. I drank this alongside a BLT lunch. Darn tasty!
Penn Brewery Oktoberfest
(5.6% alc. by volume)
Penn Brewery is located right in my backyard of Pittsburgh. Last year its Oktoberfest was brewed in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. but was brought back to Pittsburgh this season. Penn Brewery won the 2008 Great American Beer Festival bronze for its Oktoberfest.
Impressions: This wasn’t my first time trying it (nor would it be my last). This beer screams fall to me. It has a slightly metallic aftertaste, but that doesn’t take away from this smooth beer. Its rich gold color makes it even appear autumn-y. This time I had it with spaghetti squash, but I loved it the most a couple of weekends ago when I had it with some bratwursts and chili.
Magic Hat Hex
(5.4% alc. by volume)
This isn’t actually considered an Oktoberfest-style brew, but a Red Ale. Hence why Magic Hat calls it “Ourtoberfest.” Their website mimics the design on the bottle right now, all spooky and hip.
Impressions: If Penn Brewery’s Oktoberfest tasted like autumn, then this tastes like Halloween. It has a very apparent caramel/toffee taste. My biggest complaint is that a bitter taste lingers in your mouth a little longer than I’d prefer, and I didn’t really start to enjoy a beer for a few sips. Not my favorite Magic Hat brew, but I love that they put their own spin on the Oktoberfest season.
(5.9% alc. by volume)
Brewed in Munich, Germany, Spaten is the straight up essence of Oktoberfest. The brewing company has been around since 1397, and, in 1807, it was acquired by Gabriel Sedlmayr, master brewer (awesome) for the royal court of Bavaria. Spaten’s website is almost halfway dedicated to Oktoberfest and has a glossary of German drinking words and phrases. Oans, zwoa, g’suffa! Look it up.
Impressions: This beer was the only import I tried for this listing, and I’m glad I did. It was bittersweet with rye and pear aromas and had a hoppy finish. I was eating an apple, too, and the pair was a match made in heaven!
All reviews and photos by Caitlin Saniga and Sarah Steimer.