You might not be flying to Munich to take part in the festivities, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a delicious Oktoberfest-style beer when the historic festival kicks off on September 17th. Back after a two-year hiatus, Oktoberfest will begin in Germany and at various venues, random farm fields, and breweries all over the world. And while you can spend the middle of September until early October drinking the likes of Spaten, Hofbrau, and Ayinger, we’re here to offer an alternative.
Today, we’re delving into American-made Oktoberfest-style beers. The goal isn’t to dissuade anyone from trying the great European beers that came before, simply to highlight the American craft beers that draw inspiration (and ingredients) from their German counterparts.
Since we’re looking for the best, most authentic take on the Oktoberfest style, I thought it was only right to take the blind taste test route. I picked ten well-known American Oktoberfest-style craft beers, nosed them, tasted them, and ranked them. Keep scrolling to see how everything turned out.
- Founders Oktoberfest
- Shiner Oktoberfest
- Odell Oktoberfest
- Schell’s Oktoberfest
- Troegs Oktoberfest Lager
- Jack’s Abby Copper Legend
- Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest
- Great Lakes Oktoberfest
- Samuel Adams Octoberfest
- Saint Arnold Oktoberfest
Part 1: The Taste
Dried fruits, fresh bread, vanilla, and toffee are prevalent on the nose. No hops presence could be found. Drinking it revealed more sweetness with caramel and vanilla taking the center stage alone with more bready malts and just a hint of spice at the finish. It’s a flavorful fall beer, but a little sweet and spicy for my liking.
Not surprisingly, like in many Oktoberfest-style beers, I was met with a nose of sweet grains, freshly-baked bread, and floral, slightly piney hops. But that was about it and none of the flavors stood out. The palate is all bread-like malts, some light caramel, and floral hops. Sadly, none of the flavors really shined.
It’s kind of a boring beer.
On the nose, I found biscuit-like malts, fresh bread, toffee, and a nice presence of floral, slightly spicy Noble hops. The palate is sweet, malty, and loaded with yeasty bread, caramel malts, cereal grains, and gently spicy, slightly bitter hops that tie everything together nicely.
My only qualm is that I wish it wasn’t slightly less sweet.
Complex aromas of grassy hops, fruit esters, toasted malts, and sweet caramel malts met my nose before the first sip. Drinking it, I found cracker-like malts surrounded by caramel candy, bread, and lightly floral, herbal hops. The finish is dry, slightly nutty, and highly memorable.
Bread, toffee, and dried fruit on the nose. But I couldn’t find anything else of note. The palate was more of the same with bready malts, sweet caramel, and a slightly dry, floral finish.
This definitely wasn’t a bad beer. It just felt a little thin and watery for a real celebratory beer.
Aromas of freshly-baked bread, sticky toffee, and vanilla beans great your nose before your first sip. There doesn’t seem to be any hop aroma that I could find. The palate was more of the same with cereal grains, caramel, vanilla, and bread. It was sweet and easy to drink but lacked that extra kick from floral, Noble hops.
A nose of toasted malts, bread, fruit esters, vanilla, caramel, and grassy, herbal hops met my nose before diving in to take a sip. The welcoming aromas were just a preface for the freshly-baked bread, dried fruit, caramel malt, vanilla, and floral, slightly spicy Noble hops flavors to come.
The finish is a perfect mix of sweetness and bitterness.
Toasted malts, fresh-baked bread, caramel, and earthy, herbal hops are prevalent on the nose. Sipping it, I found notes of bready malt, toffee, toasted malts, vanilla, and gentle, floral, slightly spicy hops at the finish. The ending is a nice mix of sweetness and bitter hops.
Overall, a very well-balanced beer.
Surprisingly light on the nose, I noticed aromas of bready malts, cereal grains, and slight floral hops. The palate makes up for the mild nose with wave after wave of buttery caramel, bread-like malts, vanilla, slight spices, and herbal, piney, slightly bitter hops.
Surprisingly balanced and dry at the finish — this is a great take on the popular style. Albeit a little more bitter than most.
On the nose, I found caramel malts, doughy bread, fruit esters, and light nutty flavor. But it lacked hop aroma. While the nose had a few flavors, the palate was a bit of a one-trick pony with freshly-baked bread and caramel dominating any other potential ingredient. It wasn’t abrasive and undrinkable, just a little sweet and one-dimensional.
Part 2: The Rankings
10) Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest (Taste 2)
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack
This 5.1% Oktoberfest-style beer is only available from August to October. This Marzen-style beer is the brewery’s homage to its German heritage relying on a balance of sweet malts and floral, spicy hops. It was created to be enjoyed with grilled brats and Bavarian pretzels.
It would seem that Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest had all the makings of a classic late summer beer. It was… just okay, though. Nothing bad about it. Just overall kind of boring.
9) Shiner Oktoberfest (Taste 5)
Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack
Besides this brewery’s iconic Bock beer, I haven’t encountered many of their beers over the years. Like many American breweries, Texas’ Spoetzl Brewery has its heritage in Germany. That’s why they take great pride in this 5.8% Marzen-style beer.
Shiner makes a really great Bock beer. Its Oktoberfest beer is simply okay. It’s fairly muted. Not the kind of beer you’re going to run to your friends and tell them to try.
8) Samuel Adams Octoberfest (Taste 10)
Average Price: $11.99 for a six-pack
Jim Koch takes his beer seriously. And it’s no surprise this 5.3% Marzen-style beer is brewed with Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops from Germany as well as Samuel Adams Lager Yeast, two-row pale malt blend, Munich-10, Sam Adams Octoberfest malt, and Caramel 60.
Samuel Adams Oktoberfest skews surprisingly in the sweeter, maltier realm. I definitely expected to smell and taste more hops than I did. I wish it had a little more balance.
7) Founders Oktoberfest (Taste 6)
Average Price: $19 for a twelve-pack
This 6% Marzen-style beer is available from July-October. Why you’d want to drink an Oktoberfest-style in July, I have no idea. But that’s on you. This traditional German-style beer was brewed using imported German malts and hops in an effort to create the most classic Oktoberfest-style beer possible.
Like some of the beers that have landed lower on this list, Founders Oktoberfest doesn’t have the balance and flavor profile I’d prefer in an Oktoberfest-style beer.
6) Odell Oktoberfest (Taste 1)
Average Price: $10.99 for a six-pack
Odell’s take on the classic Oktoberfest-style beer is a Marzen brewed with Munich malts and Noble hops. It’s only available from August to October and the folks at the Colorado-based brewery believe it’s a great beer to drink as you head into fall.
Once again, Odell’s take on the classic Oktoberfest-style beer skews a little too far into the sweet, malty area for my liking. I didn’t find a single hop aroma or flavor at all.
5) Schell’s Oktoberfest (Taste 3)
Average Price: $8.50 for a six-pack
This seasonal, award-winning brew is only available in late summer and early fall and the flavor profile is appropriate for the end of summer weather. This Marzen-style beer is brewed with Munich, Pale, and Vienna malts to create a rich, caramel, malty backbone.
Schell’s Oktoberfest is definitely a good take on the classic style. It’s loaded with traditional malts and hops. It’s just a little sweet for my liking.
4) Great Lakes Oktoberfest (Taste 9)
Average Price: $9.99 for a six-pack
Higher in alcohol than many of the other Oktoberfest-style beers on the market, this 6.5% celebratory beer is a mix of old-world and American brewing techniques with 2-row, Munich, and Caramel 45 malts, as well as Mt Hood Hops.
As American takes on the Oktoberfest-style go, this is hard to beat. This is a beer for American hop fans as it’s a West Coast hop-based beer and not the usual German Noble hops.
3) Saint Arnold Oktoberfest (Taste 8)
Average Price: $9.50 for a six-pack
This seasonal 6.6% ABV Oktoberfest style is known for its high malt content and full body. Available from August to October, it’s the kind of beer you want to sip on a cooler fall evening as it’s a little heavier than some of the other Marzen-style beers on the market with Munich malts as well as Czech Saaz and Tettnanger hops.
If you’re looking for a more potent (6.6% ABV) Oktoberfest-style beer with a full, fairly heavy body and decent hop bitterness, this is the beer for you. Otherwise, opt for something lighter.
2) Jack’s Abby Copper Legend (Taste 4)
Average Price: $9.50 for a six-pack of 16-ounce cans
This beer is called Copper Legend for a reason. Not only is it copper in color, but it’s also a legendary beer that is eagerly awaited each fall by Jack’s Abby fans. This 5.7% ABV lager is malty, sweet, slightly bitter, and surprisingly crushable on a cool late summer or early fall evening.
It’s tough to find a better example of an Americanized Oktoberfest-style beer than Jack’s Abby Copper Legend. It’s malty, slightly sweet, and has the right amount of floral, slightly spice hop bitterness.
1) Troegs Oktoberfest (Taste 7)
Average Price: $12.50 for a six-pack
Few American breweries take the time to make an Oktoberfest-style beer as authentic as Troegs’. Brewing using decoction and with their house lager, Munich and Pilsner malts, and Hallertau Tradition hops, this is a beer worth waiting until late summer for.
This is by far the most balanced beer on this list. It’s sweet, malty, and bold enough for a cold evening, but also has fruity flavors and grassy, herbal hops to remind you that summer isn’t over just yet.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
I think we’re starting to see a trend when it comes to my blind taste tests. When all is said and done and all of the beers have been revealed it seems that I always go for the traditional, most balanced beers. This is especially true when it comes to Oktoberfest-style beers as it appears I was looking for a beer that most resembled the classic, German beers I know and love.