Best American Oktoberfest Beers
Sierra Nevada/Faust Miltenberger Oktoberfest (Chico, CA)
You wouldn’t expect a 37-year-old brewery to continually produce the country’s most exciting Oktoberfest. Nevertheless, each year Chico beer pioneer Sierra Nevada does, perhaps because they always pick a different German brewery to collaborate with. 2017’s partner is Brauhaus Faust-Miltenberger, a 350-year-old Bavarian brauhaus. With so much knowledge and prestige, the result is a deeply caramel offering that is still beautifully balanced by German-grown whole cone hops.
Urban Chestnut Oachkatzlschwoaf (St. Louis, MO)
Urban Chestnut is surely America’s best German-style brewery. That’s probably because Urban Chestnut’s founder and brewer is an honest-to-goodness German, Florian Kuplent, who learned his trade in Bavaria. Oachkatzlschwoaf wouldn’t be out of place poured into steins at the Theresienwiese. Translated as “tail of the squirrel,” the slightly darker, boozier märzen (6.5 percent ABV) initially appears quite sweet and malty, though that is pulled back into balance by a hint of smoke and drying hops.
Live Oak Oaktoberfest (Austin, TX)
A legend in Texas, Live Oak Brewing still doesn’t have the national fame it deserves. They might not want it or need it, though, as their Germanic beers have been slaking the thirst of Hill Country folks for two decades. You won’t find any bells or whistles in their brews—just clean, flawless execution—and their Oktoberfest—Oaktoberfest—is no different. It uses traditional Munich malts, Noble hops, and Bavarian lager yeast to produce a classically malty quencher. For this one, skip the stein, and just crush it out of the can.
Surly SurlyFest (Minneapolis, MN)
The Twin City’s most famous brewer made their bones on non-traditional hop bombs and boozy stouts—and you’d expect no different from their Oktoberfest. Brewed with three types of rye and generously dry-hopped with Sterling, the festbier is flowery on the nose with a spicy rye bite. One of the hoppiest märzens around, it’s perfect for pairing with a comically large pretzel, perhaps in the brewery’s gorgeous beer hall.
Jack’s Abby Copper Legend (Framingham, MA)
An all-lager brewery might seem anathema in this day and age, but Framingham’s finest manages to make it work. That’s because they are making some truly avant garde lagers, like apple brandy doppelbocks and an invention known as “lager wine.” Their take on the märzen is a tad more restrained, but none less tasty. Produced from locally-grown wheat and Munich malts, the brew is extremely drinkable.
New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest Beer (New Glarus, WI)
Set in a small Wisconsin community that looks like some Sound of Music set the von Trapps never quite explored, New Glarus’s beer is not distributed outside of the heavily German state. It doesn’t matter, Dan and Deborah Carey’s 25-year-old brewery is still the 16th best-selling craft brewery in the entire country (read: Teutonic Wisconsinites love to drink beer). The Careys’ Oktoberfest is made using an extra-slow lagering process, giving it strong roasty note, yet with a crisp finish.
Von Trapp Oktoberfest Lager (Stowe, VT)
Did somebody say the von Trapps? Believe it or not, the von Trapps escaped the Nazis to end up in...Vermont. Seriously. There, youngest son Johannes von Trapp eventually opened a family lodge, which added a brewery in 2010. Of course, the beers are influenced by the taste of the Trapps’ homeland, and their award-winning Oktoberfest fits the Austro-German ethos. Strong on toffee notes, Hallertau and Tettnang hops add a nice spicy zip on the finish. Now those are a few of my favorite things! Ugh.
Great Lakes Oktoberfest (Cleveland, OH)
Here we have another Oktoberfest coming from a mostly German-style American brewer working in a market with a lot of Bavarian émigrés. The pioneering Ohio brewer initially made their Oktoberfest to accompany the many local street fairs and outdoor beer gardens that become packed for the month-long celebration. Today, the amber lager has become a staple of the season, creamy, smooth, and way less cloying than lesser-accomplished options.
5 Rabbit Vida y Muerte Muertzenbier (Bedford Park, IL)
One of world’s strangest Oktoberfests comes from a Latin-inspired Chicagoland brewery. The self-dubbed “Cervecería” brews a märzen with a nice dose of dulce de leche (caramelized milk) and other flavors inspired by hoja santa (an aromatic herb popular in Oaxaca). A uniquely autumnal combination, the dulce de leche melds beautifully with the traditional caramel malts. Fittingly, this märzen doesn’t just celebrate Oktoberfest, but also the October-based Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).