Beer Town: It’s time to start picking out Oktoberfest brews

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen is a full-bodied amber-gold lager that elegantly represents the classic Bavarian style. (Courtesy of Merchant du Vin)

Credit: Handout

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Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen is a full-bodied amber-gold lager that elegantly represents the classic Bavarian style. (Courtesy of Merchant du Vin)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Whether you think it’s big fun, or just kind of funny, Oktoberfest is one of those adopted holidays that’s become as American as Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day.

And even though the annual Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, Germany, has been canceled for a second year in a row, due to the pandemic, there are plenty of Oktoberfest beers on the shelves at grocery and package stores, and on offer at bars and restaurants around Atlanta.

The classic style is called Märzen, “March” in German, because that’s when it was brewed — then lagered over the summer, and served during Oktoberfest, which is traditionally celebrated in September and October.

Around the U.S., many Oktoberfest beers start shipping in August, and are often sold out by October. And while German Märzen is the gold standard, some of the best American craft breweries make very good takes on the style, plus it’s hard to beat the freshness of an Oktoberfest from a local brewery or brewpub.

A German classic, Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen from Ayinger Brewery in Aying, is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a full-bodied lager in the rich Bavarian style, with a coppery-gold color, and a rocky head. It’s also extremely food-friendly, with a clean, malty aroma, and a smooth flavor that’s not too sweet and definitely not too bitter.

Other German Oktoberfest beers to look for in cans, bottles or on draft include Bitburger, Erdinger, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Spaten, and Warsteiner.

From an American craft brewery, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is always solid and readily available, shipped fresh from Mills River, North Carolina. In 2019, Sierra partnered with Germany’s Bitburger for an Oktoberfest collaboration. This year, it’s back to basics with a rich, biscuity, caramel Märzen made with German malts and hops.

Other American Oktoberfest beers to try include Bell’s, Founders, Left Hand, Sam Adams, and Victory.

Round Trip Oktoberfest is a Märzen with moderately toasted bread flavors and a pleasant sweetness. (Courtesy of Round Trip Brewing)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

On the local front, New Realm Bavarian Prince is a Märzen made with all German ingredients. Named for Crown Prince Ludwig, the honoree of the first Bavarian Oktoberfest, it’s deep amber in color, with malty flavors and aromas, and a floral hop character. It’s currently available on draft and in a German beer sampler pack.

Other local packaged Oktoberfest beers include Arches Festbier, Printer’s Oktoberfest, and Reformation Oktoberfest.

Certainly, even with COVID-19 restrictions, there will be plenty of Oktoberfest celebrations around metro Atlanta this fall, including the big one at Historic Fourth Ward Park, Sept. 24-26. But some of my perennial favorites take place at bars, breweries and restaurants, such as Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Halfway Crooks in Summerhill, and Kurt’s Bistro in Duluth.

New this year, one of Atlanta’s newest breweries, Round Trip, recently announced that its inaugural Oktoberfest will be celebrated at the brewery over the course of 10 days, Sept. 24-Oct. 3.

I first visited Round Trip shortly after it opened in late February 2021, and I was immediately impressed with the array of German-style lagers from CEO and brewer Craig Mycoskie — including his takes on Alt, Dunkel, Helles, Pilsner, Rye Alt, and Smoked Doppelbock.

With all that, I wasn’t at all surprised that Mycoskie could make a classic Märzen, too. He’ll also have two new beers on tap for Oktoberfest. Oak-Aged Oktoberfest will be released on Sept. 24, and Oktober Haze, an autumn-tinged hazy IPA, will be released on Oct. 1.

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