October isn’t here, but Oktoberfest beer (or bier) is!
Every year, people are aghast or joyful at the fact that this märzen bier (literally March beer) releases earlier and earlier in the season. A lot of the beers on this list have remained favorites of mine for years, but there are some new brews worth mentioning.
You may also have heard about a few proper fall celebrations coming up at local breweries. Little Thistle will host its Oktoberfest shindig on Sept. 21 with an Oktoberfest beer, German food, and plenty of lagers. The Rochester Craft Beer Expo takes place at the Fairgrounds Sept. 28. And Thesis Beer Project co-owner and head brewer Adam Fredericksen says to stay tuned for a "secret pumpkin beer and helluva Halloween party" coming in the future.
Most breweries in town will have a seasonal shindig of some sort to usher in the colorful leaves and chilly wind. But if you can’t make it to those events, there is plenty of great seasonal beer to find on shelves.
SurlyFest was this Minnesota giant’s fall beer seasonal for years. It had all the staples of an Oktoberfest beer – breadiness, biscuit, some spice – but with a nice dose of citrus flavor thanks to Surly’s love affair with hops. This new fall seasonal keeps the biscuit and adds some caramel and honey notes, even a hint of floral characteristics. It’s a bit toned down from what you’d expect from Surly, but probably a lot more crushable as a 12-pack.
When it comes to German styles of beer, you can always rely on Schell’s to hit it out of the park. Caramel, biscuit, and a hint of roast all combine to create a trifecta of delicious flavor notes. What’s even better is that this is another offering in cans, which means you can take it fishing while you try to hold on to the remaining strands of summer on the river.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
Since 2015, Sierra Nevada has been collabing with German brewers on Oktoberfest beers. Because of this, they’ve all been pretty darn good. These usually make it to our market, and though this is the only one I have listed, I saw a trusted beer reporter writing about how the latest brew might just be the best one yet. It even uses yeast from collab brewery Bitburger that has never left the brewery’s walls. Expect an authentic take on the märzen bier.
Bauhaus Brew Labs Schwandtoberfest
This has been a favorite lager of mine for a long time. Apparently, it’s a staff favorite at the brewery, and was an original, homebrew recipe the brewery’s founders loved to make. It really is unique, with more than just caramel, biscuit, and a bit of roast. It’s bready and malty, sure, but it gives off a slight orange twang from the hops that keeps it complex and interesting. Plus, it’s also now in 12-ounce cans, sold in six- or 12-packs.