Go ahead, drink up and say “Prost” to Oktoberfest. A tradition dating back to the 1500s celebrated by beer fans everywhere, Oktoberfest beer hails the coming of fall like no other libation. This German tradition has a following in Edina. “With customers here, it’s like one last hurrah before winter,” Bennett Porter, France 44 beer manager and certified cicerone, says. “A lot of people throw an Oktoberfest party and get all the traditional food.”
It’s hard not to work up a thirst just thinking about it. With the onset of winter looming, a refreshing German-style fall beer hits the spot. Oktoberfest beers “tend to have a certain richness to them, slightly stronger than your average lager,” Porter says. These festive brews were meant to be shared. Oktoberfest beers tend to be on the bolder side of the beer spectrum and a stronger style of lager, Porter says. But newer local breweries are changing that with Oktoberfest beers that break the mold.
Discovering a world of Oktoberfest or “fest bier” is easy. Just look for the Oktoberfest or Marzen-style name in a brand. Traditionally in Germany, March (Marzen) was the last month beer could be brewed before fall. Today, many breweries feature a seasonally inspired autumn brew. Oktoberfest beers start trickling in beginning in late August through September; the season runs through November, but a few brewers go year-round.
“We have some of the best craft brewers in the U.S. right here in Minnesota,” Josh Furbish, Edina Liquor general manager of liquor operations, says. Furbish describes the characteristics of his favorite beers with the passion and detail of a connoisseur.
- Consider the wildly popular fall brew from Minneapolis brewer Surly: The SurlyFest is unique, with an outright non-Oktoberfest style.
- The Oktoberfest Marzen Style by Third Street Brewhouse in Cold Spring is “very good, what you would expect from a traditional Oktoberfest ale.”
- The Bauhaus German-inspired line “comes up the glass and gets cloudy and settles in a minute or two.”
- Fair State “absolutely delivers with a very complex Oktoberfest style with orangey aroma and color.”
- For traditional Munich-made beers, Paulaner and Hofbrau make “me feel like I’m over in Germany.”
The revelry lasts longer with beers that invite a second round. How to drink? “Make sure that you ask when you come in about the proper serving temperature and storing temperature for these beers,” Furbish says. “There’s some variance.”
France 44 has at least 25 Oktoberfest style beers available in season “There are quite a few available from local brewers starting in August—seems like it gets earlier and earlier every year,” Porter says. “American brewers are trying to get on the shelf before October.”
While Oktoberfest is associated with German beer, there are plenty of local standouts that “recreate the wheel of beer for Oktoberfest.” Porter says. Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen is a proven winner. “It’s the strongest seller—very arguably the best flavor over all.” The beer has a depth to the malt character, golden with floral hop characteristics. Summit, Surly and Great Lakes feature other notable Oktoberfest beers.
The Oktoberfest celebration is a good excuse to try a few new brews. Discover some favorites this fall and let us know what you think.