Oktoberfest is the most popular town fair in the world. The town, in this case, is Munich, and the party attracts about five million people, yearly. Oktoberfest started when Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony in 1810. That party has been repeated ever since - 201 years as of last week - and continues through the first few days of October. Only beers brewed inside the city limited of Munich are allowed in the enormous tents constructed on the Theresienwiese each year, but thankfully we have no such restrictions in the 203. Let's dive in.
It's only fitting that we start with an actual Munich Oktoberfest beer like Paulaner. Paulaner has been brewing since 1634, so it's pretty safe to say they've perfected the styles they make according to the ideals of the brewers. This Oktoberfest bier pours the proper color, like Grade A maple syrup, and foams up with the thick head you'd expect from a German example of the style. It has a pilsner-like aroma, and a similarly mild taste - like an up-malted pils. It's not an overly interesting beer by and stretch, but "interesting" is what happens when you're drinking it by the liter with 40,000 other people in the Paulaner tent with a pretzel on a string around your neck, attempting to make sign language conversation with a fraulein in a dirndl. It's a mild beer and mildly alcoholic at less than 6%, both of which are good things, considering the quantities of expected consumption. I give it two beer steins out of three, and call it the best of the easily locatable authentic German seasonals.
From a city much closer to home we have Brooklyn Oktoberfest, a marzen made from specially imported Bavaria Heirloom Munich and Pilsner malts.The Hallertauer hops aren't very apparent, but the malts come through the aroma in a big way. It's a deeper amber than the Paulaner, almost mysterious, and with a more moderate head - although that could have just been the pour. The aroma is noticeably sweet, and suggests a hellishly high ºPlato, but the end result is a more reasonable 5.5% alc. All that malt would be much too much if it weren't expertly balanced by a toasted grain flavor almost stoichiometrically balanced with the malts. It's an impressive level of craftmanship, and a "big" beer. There is a ton of flavor here, and drinking a liter of this would take c-o-mmitment, as my track coach used to say. You really have to want it, you know? And tust me: you want to try this. It's a great O'fest beer. I give it three beer steins (which you can actually get from the brewery, and call it the best in flavor, which is arguably most important.
From our home state comes Thomas Hooker Munich Style, a golden Helles-style lager akin to several popular Bavarian brands. It's very light in color, but has that familiar, malty nose and an unusually dry finish to the flavor. Again, there's a pilsner feel to this beer, but Hooker adds Munich Light and Vienna malts, along with a certain amount of what malts to the beer, along with the Hallertauer hops. The maltiness is like the Paulaner, but unlike that beer, the Hooker displays evidence of the hops. It's not an O'fest beer, but it could almost be one in disguise. It's not as perfected as the Paulaner, it's not as good a beer as the Brooklyn, but it is a stand-up and worthy offering in its own right. This one's a bit of a quirk, especially hailing form a state not really known for its beer, and it's well worth checking out this fall if you can find it. I give it two steins out of three, and I'll call this one the best of the three for taking the road less traveled this Oktoberfest.