Before there were beer festivals, there was the beer festival. Instead of tasting 30 different shot glasses of beer, you drank ONE type of beer in a large 1-liter mug (called a Mass)… or a couple. My personal record was nine in a day. Yes, that beer festival is Munich’s famous Oktoberfest, or Wiesn, as Bavarians call it. Oktoberfest actually begins in September in Germany and runs into the beginning of October. This year’s festivities began on September 16. If you haven’t been to the Oktoberfest in Munich yet, it should definitely be on your beer bucket list. Walking into one of the football field-sized beer tents initially overloads the senses, but it is three solid weeks of the best Bavarian beers and sometimes drunken festivities (I haven’t forgotten you, Ana from Dusseldorf…).
Oktoberfest kicks off the unofficial start of the fall season, which means cooler weather and heartier autumn beers—but heartier doesn’t mean stronger or more alcoholic. The most popular Oktoberfest style is the Marzen, a lager that is light enough to enjoy in the waning summer heat but toasty enough to welcome the cooling autumn days. Traditionally, the Marzen was brewed in March, hence the style’s name, cellared (or lagered) through the summer months, and ready in time for Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, a really good domestic Marzen is hard to find. There are a bunch of Oktoberfest-style beers on the market beginning in August but few that capture the original essence of the Festbiers produced in Germany.
AYINGER’s Oktober Fest-Marzen is a great example of the traditional German beers produced just for this time of year. The beer pours a clear amber and gives off aromas of sweet roasted malts. Swirl the beer in your glass a bit and you get more distinct malt aromas with a bit of sweet fruitiness. The hops are mild and nicely balance out the bready malts, leaving a distinct bitterness at the back end, but this is definitely a malty beer. Smack your lips after a few sips and you’ll feel the sticky sweetness on your lips. This beer is so flavorful, yet so crispy and light, that you can easily see yourself putting away a couple liters of this at an Oktoberfest celebration. As the beer warms, the carbonation mellows and more fruity aromas are released, making it delightfully more complex in its flavor profile.
Oktober Fest-Marzen is a delicious lager and hits all the right notes for an end-of-summer, autumnal brew. There are going to be a lot of Oktoberfest-style beers taking up shelf space at your local markets, but most of them will have nothing authentic about them save their labels. I’m getting a few more bottles of the real thing before they’re gone. —J.A.
Find this beer at a store near you, or purchase on the internet: