Despite the name, Munich's Oktoberfest begins Saturday, Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 3. It started in 1810 as a celebration marking the marriage of Kronprinz Ludwig to Princess Therese. The festival beverage of choice is Marzen, a medium-bodied beer traditionally brewed in the spring then stored over the summer. While several German examples are available, I focused on three American tributes:
Firestone OAKtoberfest, $2.50-$2.90
This orange tinged, amber brew sports the most generous head of the three, showing good retention and leaving a nice lacing. It opens with heady herb aromas followed by sweet malt and a hint of hops. On the drier side, it offers wheat toast flavors with a dollop of honey. Beautifully balanced, the soft malt melds nicely with the smooth hops.
Ninkasi Oktoberfest, $1.70-$1.90
A slightly hazy, straw colored pour with a thin head, the aromas are a mix of sweet, fruity malt and grain. The palate features silky malt and bright fruit (ripe citrus and cherry) with a touch of honey. For a Marzen, there's an uncharacteristic hit of hops—especially on the finish—but, hey, it seems appropriate for a Northwest take on the style.
Odell Brewing Oktoberfest, $2-$2.20
A bright amber in the glass, it's topped by the thinnest of heads. The aromas are a muted mix of cereal grain and herb. You get lots of caramel malt and sweet biscuit on the palate, backed by a bit of citrus tang. A touch of mineral and nut comes through on the creamy finish. This smooth brew tastes great and, with very light carbonation, it's less filling.