Like many seasonal beers, Oktoberfest lagers seem to crawl onto shelves and sneak onto draft lists earlier and earlier each year. By the time you’ve picked up this issue of The Laurel, some breweries will have released their Oktoberfest more than a month ago. Although I associate these beers with foliage and football, I can’t say I’m disappointed when I come across one while summer appears to be in full swing.
Oktoberfests are known for their lively, rich color teetering between liquefied gold and copper. They are slightly toasty and malt-forward lagers, but surprisingly dry. Here are four beers, two from traditional German breweries (Weihenstephaner and Hacker-Pschorr) and two from local breweries (Hi-Wire and Burial Beer), that will give you a great overview of the style from Western North Carolina to its birthplace in Germany.
The brewery describes their Festbier as “a full, rich-bodied, hoppy, seasonal lager. Especially brewed for the Festbier season… Deep gold color, great mouthfeel and lots of flavor.” This is a great place to start. As the oldest brewery in the world, Weihenstephaner has been making these Oktoberfest lagers longer than almost anyone else. Drinking a beer with this kind of legacy is almost like tasting history.
Something to note: when using the word “hoppy” in this context, the brewery is referring to the character and aromatics of noble hops. These hops, which originate from Germany and the Czech Republic, have an earthy, spicy quality, quite unlike the modern American hops you often find in IPAs.
Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest
Hacker-Pschorr is another long-established German brewery. Though they merged with another brewing company in 1972, they were originally founded in 1417. Their Original Oktoberfest is maltier than the Weihenstephaner Festbier, but a pleasant hop character comes through at the finish with slight bitterness. It is also one of only six beers featured at the famous Oktoberfest in Munich. Grab yourself a glass for a taste of what the festival-goers are drinking!
Hi-Wire Zirkusfest Oktoberfest
This beer provides a great example of a very old style of beer. The judges at the Great American Beer Festival in 2016 thought so as well, and awarded Hi- Wire the gold medal in the German-Style Maerzen category. Hi-Wire’s website explains, “This traditional Märzen boasts all the flavors one wants in a rich Oktoberfest lager without the heavy finish. The use of Munich malt provides upfront biscuit and honey flavors that fade into a dry finish.”
Burial Culture Keeper Festbier (in collaboration with Creature Comforts) Burial is constantly honoring and breaking tradition in the beer world. This collaboration with Creature Comforts, a brewery out of Athens, GA, falls deeply into the traditional category and will not disappoint. Packaged in a 16-ounce can, it is moderately toasty yet crisp at the finish.
For a local Oktoberfest experience, check out Asheville’s Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 6, at Pack Square Park. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit AshevilleDowntown.org/oktoberfest. Chris Heagney is the owner of Daidala Ciders, located in The Historic Cotton Mill Studios at 122 Riverside Drive in Asheville.