Oktoberfest will look mighty different this fall. Germany’s annual beer-and-sausage blowout is canceled, and large American gatherings will likely remain limited—but don’t see the glass half-empty. Instead, fill it to the top with festbier, the golden lager that’s designed for celebrations.
Americans mostly associate Oktoberfest beers with the richly malted Märzen (meaning March), a copper-toned lager historically brewed in early spring and lagered, or cold-conditioned, throughout summer. However, the robust brew has long had an Achilles’ heel: They’re a little on the heavy side. That’s why Germany’s go-to Oktoberfest lager is now festbier, lighter in color, loaded with flavor, and suitable for a liter or four on an autumn afternoon.
“It’s full-bodied but very, very easy-drinking,” says Steve Hauser, CEO of Paulaner USA.
With imported-beer aisles now brimming with freshly brewed German takes, stateside breweries have also embraced the more assertively hopped festbier. It’s time to go for gold.
“It’s full-bodied but very, very easy-drinking.”
WEIHENSTEPHANER FESTBIER Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan Freising, Germany • 5.8% ABV This German brewery—reportedly the world’s oldest, dating to the 11th century—makes its richly golden festbier with several varieties of Hallertauer hops. They lend the hearty lager a oral, spicy profile that IPA fans will appreciate.
COMMERZIENRAT RIEGELE PRIVAT Brauhaus Riegele Augsburg, Germany • 5.2% ABV Established in 1386, this family-run Bavarian brewery makes its year-round festbier with Germany’s heirloom Stef barley and its own unique yeast strain. Riegele cold-ferments Privat for more than 60 days, creating a clean and snappy lager with a fragrance of blooming flowers.
OKTOBERFEST BIER Paulaner Brewery Munich, Germany • 6% ABV To recreate Oktoberfest at home, hoist a hefty glass mug of Paulaner’s trophy-gold Oktoberfest Bier. It’s the same lager they serve at the festival, and balances a bready base with a grassy, herbaceous scent—a bratwurst’s best friend.
HOFBRÄU OKTOBERFESTBIER Staatliches Hofbräuhaus München Munich, Germany • 6.3% ABV Roast chicken shines with the excellent Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier, a festival lager as strong and warming as late-summer sun. Despite its heft, the lager drinks soft and easy, with a slight lip-smacking sweetness that’s balanced by a bit of bitterness from a quartet of German hops.
FESTBIER Three Weavers Brewing Company Inglewood, CA • 5% ABV Brewmaster Alexandra Nowell looked to the blonde German lagers of Oktoberfest for her moderate-strength festbier, which she says is “brewed to be incredibly drinkable and refreshing.” Expect crystalline clarity, notes of biscuit and light toast, and a oral fragrance that’s as appealingly mellow as a Sunday afternoon.
OKTOBERFEST Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Chico, CA; Mills River, NC • 6% ABV Sierra Nevada makes America’s most widely available festbier, keeping things fresh by annually tweaking the recipe. A mix of four grains gives the latest lager a toasty profile that’s twinned to a fruity, oral fragrance supplied by several German hops. It’s a great grilling companion.