Every September, millions of beer drinkers flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, a celebration of Bavarian culture that runs into the first weekend of October. The drink of choice is Marzen, a medium-bodied lager the same six German breweries have been churning out for the festival for decades.
New England’s Oktoberfest traditions are less stringent, marked by back-to-school traffic and loosely defined as that time you stop drinking Sam Summer.
While German Oktoberfest beers have traditionally been made adhering to strict standards, brewers here and elsewhere have long been riffing on the category. The following are locally available beers designed to get you into the Oktoberfest spirit.
Oaktoberfest, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
The Paso Robles, Calif., brewery, which took a one-year hiatus from brewing an Oktoberfest beer, is back with this traditional Marzen-style brew tweaked with West Coast hops. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson says drinkers should experience “subtle honey-like aromas” in addition to a fresh, grassy nose. A brilliant autumn-orange color in the glass and light on the palate, it finishes with a crisp bite not unlike the fall air.
Henzelmann’s Festbier, Down the Road Beer Co.
The Everett-based brewery is making sure the 10th beer it brings to market is as traditional as the ones that came before it.
“American fall seasonals are dominated by pumpkins,” says Down the Road founder and brewer Donovan Bailey, who wanted his Oktoberfest beer to be similar to the lagers poured at the festival in Munich. “Oktoberfests in this country tend to be sweet, thick, and amber, but Henzelmann’s Festbier is a dry, malty lager with a golden straw color.”
Down the Road will pour Henzelmann’s Festbier at this weekend’s Everett Village Fest (Saturday, 3-9 p.m.), joining Night Shift Brewing, Bone Up Brewing, and Short Path Distillery.
Festbier, Castle Island Brewing Co.
Norwood’s Castle Island Brewing has experienced rapid growth this year thanks to brews like Keeper and Candlepin, but founder Adam Romanow says the availability of a local malt inspired a take on the traditional German festival beer.
“It’s got this awesome nutty flavor,” Romanow says of the grain from Stone Path Malt in North Chelmsford.
Castle Island’s take on a festbier is an ale rather than a lager. While nontraditional, Romanow says, it straddles the line between styles. “It’s got a certain fullness and complexity to it that’s reminiscent of an ale, but has a degree of clean crispness that’s more lager-like,” he says.
In addition, anyone looking to drink traditional, German-brewed Oktoberfest beers from breweries like Hacker Pschorr and Hofbrau can do so all month long at Olde Magoun’s Saloon in Somerville.
gary dzenGary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen