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Oktoberfest: Beers to Try

This is the first in a series of articles this month about the beers, festivals, and what-not of Oktoberfest.

Last Friday was the biggest event of the year. No, not the release of “Facebook! The Movie!” but the first of October, which is beginning of the month-long celebration of beer called Oktoberfest. To celebrate, I’m going to help you find beers, festivals and more beers so that you can make this month beertastic.

The Great American Beer Festival just finished September 18th in Denver, CO and announced their gold, silver and bronze winning beers in seventy-nine categories. In the spirit of this time of the year only one type of beer really concerns me, and that is the Oktoberfest beer, a symbol of drunkenness and tastiness that only happens once a year. Well, generally, as you’ll see.

With the spread of Oktoberfest out of Germany and out of its traditional roots, there are now three types of beers that can be labeled as “Oktoberfest.” There’s the original Marzen (brewed in March and kept all summer in cold storage when it is too hot to brew and runs out in October), the remade German Oktoberfest bier (still amber colored like the Marzen, but more pale) and the American Amber Lager (colored like the Marzen, but actually characterized as its name would suggest as a lager.)1 Without further ado, here are the winners and where you can find them.

German-style Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest rules

Oktoberfest rules

Well, Wasatch Beers Summerbrau, part of the Utah Brewers Cooperative, won the gold in this category, but unfortunately, after spending WAY too much time at the site thinking, “It has to be available in October,” it is not.

After looking through the Dry Dock Brewing Co. website, I was beginning to think that this was a trend throughout the mountain states, as Noble Stuff Export, the silver award winning Oktoberfest beer, is also not currently on tap, or for that matter, even listed in their beer list.

For a clean sweep, Rolling Thunder Dortmunder from Snake River Brewing in Jackson, Wyoming is also not currently on tap, but at least their website shows that it exists in some form at some time probably at their brewery. I hope.

Conclusion: If you want an award winning German-style Oktoberfest beer in the United States, celebrate October in June.

German-style Marzen

The gold medal winning German-style Marzen went to Flor Hosen of The Sandlot in Denver, Colorado. It is located in a corner of Coors field and only open from 11 am to 2 pm Monday through Saturday, and doesn’t even have its own website. (I found it mentioned here.) Well, if you’re in Denver, stop by and let me know if you can buy it.

Oh! Fest, brewed at Schooner’s Grille and Brewery in Antioch, California won the silver medal and also won the gold during the 2008 GABF. That’s because, besides that mention for its 2008 success, I couldn’t find this beer on tap or mentioned anywhere else on the site.

Is Bronze medal winning Munsterfest from the Three Floyds Brewing Co. in Munster, Indiana available? Are you there? Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s even on tap and available in 64 oz. growlers!

Conclusion: Apparently if you want an award winning German-style Marzen, go to Munster, Indiana. You folks in Chicago are lucky.

American-style Amber Lager

Manana brewed by the Del Norte Brewing Company of Denver won the gold in American-style amber lager. It should come as no surprise that Del Norte Brewing Company specializes in Mexican-style beers, because, if you’re going to celebrate a German holiday like Oktoberfest with something that tastes better to Americans, it’s going to have a Mexican influence. (For further examples see Bell, Taco.)

Reading that Schell’s Oktoberfest, brewed by the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota is only brewed once a year makes me a bit worried. But, the fact that their website actually lists the beer and its recent silver medal award, makes me think that they probably realize that offering an Oktoberfest beer in October makes good business sense. I’m betting that the fact that New Ulm hosts an Oktoberfest means they know what they’re doing.

Foothills Oktoberfest, aptly named from rel=”nofollow”Foothills Brewing of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, won the bronze and my admiration for offering a beer called “Sexual Chocolate.” I know if I’m ever in North Carolina, I’ll be looking for a pint of both of those beers.

Conclusion: All of these beers are regional, but unless you live in the Northeast or the West Coast, you’ll probably be able to find one of them, which is more than you can say for any of the other categories.

So, that ends the first part of my look at Oktoberfest. Next time I’ll look at the places where you can be sure to find an Oktoberfest beer – an actual Oktoberfest celebration.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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