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Oktoberfest Brews

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It's billed as the world's biggest fair, but you've got to wonder why they call it Oktoberfest when it starts in September. Blame it on history. The first festival back in 1810 celebrated a royal wedding on Oct. 12, and the party lasted five days. As the years went by, it was pushed back into September to take advantage of better weather and warmer evenings. That said, the malt-driven beer at its center has remained much the same. Here are three to try:

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen, $2.99-$3.49

A slightly hazy, orange-tinged amber in the glass, this brew is topped by a generous head that leaves islands of porous froth. There's a touch of spice on the nose, along with cracked wheat and caramel-laced malt. The palate offers balanced sweet malt, toasted grain and biscuit flavors, with just a bare kiss of hops. It's a classic Marzen.

Odell Oktoberfest Marzen Style Lager, $1.79-$2.09

This is a copper-colored pour bright as a new penny, with a decent head that leaves little lacing. The aromas are an enticing mix of lightly sour malt, soft hops, toffee and rich, dark fruit. The flavors follow suit with smooth malt, creamy caramel, lightly bitter hops (a bit more than most Marzens), fresh-baked bread and dried fruit.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, $1.59-$1.89

For four years running, Sierra Nevada has collaborated with a German brewery, and this time around, it's the world's oldest: Bavaria's Weihenstephan. A thick head covers this bright amber pour. It opens with subtle aromas of malt, toasted grain and light, spicy hops. The flavors are a rich combination of smooth malt and dark bread, with just a hint of hops. Delicious.