September means Oktoberfest is truly upon us, despite breweries and liquor stores trying to sell us the dark, malty lagers (Festbiers and Märzens) in July! I’ve gone one about seasonal creep in the past, but it seems earlier and earlier that beers appear outside of their designated season. My standard preamble on the differences between Festbiers and Märzens: Märzens typically have an ABV starting at around 6% ABV and are a little “heavier” while Festbiers are generally lower in alcohol and more “sessionable” in the 5% to 6% ABV range. I like them both. Most of the beers you’d find in Germany during the festival would actually be Festbiers, while those with the “Oktoberfest” moniker are mostly the American-ized versions.
I’ve tried to highlight a variety of Oktoberfest offerings this year, three Festbiers and three Märzens. I’ve also highlighted local (NJ), regional micro (PA & NY), a more widely distributed regional (VT), and a German brewery. What I’m saying is some thought went into the Oktoberfest beers I featured in 2022.
On to the Six Pack!
Festus Haggen (Festbier) | Ashton Brewing Company | Middlesex, NJ | 5.9% ABV
Ashton has been making great Lagers since they opened in March 2020 so it shouldn’t be a surprise they brewed a great Festbier. I had a taste of this a couple of years ago and was very impressed. Although they call it a Festbier, it had a bit more malt and felt more like a Märzen. Either way, it was quite tasty, so I may have to get a six pack of it this year.
What Ashton Brewing says about the beer:
Festus Haggen is a traditional Festbier like what would be served at Oktoberfest. It is a golden lager with notes of bready malt and herbal hops. A mild sweetness and a hint of bitter balance to make this one to drink by the liter. Prost!
Märzen/Eiszäpfle (Märzen) | Badische Staatsbrauerie Rothaus | Baden-Württemberg, Germany | 5.6% ABV
Rothaus makes one of the absolute best German Pilsners in the world so of course they make an excellent Märzen. I remember being extremely pleased to find this one on tap at a great beer bar a couple of years ago and this is the first year I can remember seeing bottles of this one on shelves. It is well worth seeking out. Just look at the bottle, it screams Germen Authenticity!
What Rothaus says about the beer:
Here we introduce you to the Rothaus Eiszäpfle. The best barley malt from southern Germany, spring-fresh brewing water and the famous aromatic hops from Tettnang and the Hallertau characterize the full-bodied taste of this beer. A higher original wort and a rather mild hopping ensure the distinctive, malty note.
The term “March” should also be mentioned. Beers of this type of brewing are traditionally brewed more heavily, since brewing was only allowed in the months from September to April. A longer-lasting beer was thus produced in March, which also survived the five months without a brewing process.
Bierstiefel (Festbier) | Three 3’s Brewing | Hammonton, NJ | 5.7% ABV
Three 3’s is based in Hammonton, NJ, which is a hub for quite a few NJ breweries. I’ve had and enjoyed the handful of beers from them, so I imagine their take on the classic Festbier is quite tasty.
What Three 3’s says about the beer:
The literal translation of Das Boot! Premium German malt and hops combine with our house lager yeast for this harmonious expression of all that is festive. Medium bodied, subtly sweet and crushable, a beer to be enjoyed amongst friends. Prost!
High Brau (Festbier) | Torch & Crown Brewing Company | New York, NY | 4.8% ABV
I’ve been hearing good things Torch & Crown, especially from Al Gattullo on his craft beer cast. Their beer is starting to creep over the Hudson River into NJ stores so I will definitely have to sample some in the near future. Maybe it will be this one?
Torch & Crown says this about the beer:
Highbrow and lowbrow…that’s our game. Like us, these two beers aren’t fussy, exclusive, complicated, or unapproachable. High Brau is our tribute to a traditional bavarian festbier, with a nutty, lightly sweet aroma and smooth, malty finish. The perfect beer to usher in the end of summer.
Oktoberfest (Märzen) | Workhorse Brewing Company | King of Prussia, PA | 5.4% ABV
Workhorse Brewing entered the NJ market last year through a distribution agreement with Cape Beverage and I immediately tried their delicious Helles Lager. I’m hoping this Märzen makes it to shelves around me.
What Workhorse says about the beer:
This Oktoberfest offering is inspired by the traditional ingredients and methods associated with a German Märzen. Flavorful Vienna and Munich malts are blended together in a decoction mash to produce a beer rich in toasted bread notes. An extended lagering phase and a touch of spicy German hops round the beer into form.
Oktoberfest (Märzen) | Zero Gravity Craft Brewery | Stowe, VT | 5.4% ABV
Zero Gravity makes and outstanding Pilsner – Green State Lager, as well as many other beers. I’ve only had a couple, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. Their Oktoberfest looks quite tasty and the can art evokes the classic German bierhall. .
What Zero Gravity says about the beer:
German malts and hops along with a long lagering give this beer impeccable drinkability. The superb malt flavor is balanced by just a hint of hop bitterness.
I hope to try a couple of these beers this year. Are there any other Märzen or Festbiers I should try?