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Oktoberfest beers were traditionally brewed in the springtime, laid down in caves during summer, and pulled out in the fall to celebrate the harvest season. Before refrigeration, beer couldn’t be brewed in the summer since it would spoil too easily, so drinkers had a lot to celebrate once there was a chill in the air again. These beers are usually golden to light amber in color, with a little more body and sweetness than pilsners. The alcohol is still relatively low though, as Oktoberfest beer is brewed to be quaffable. A few picks:
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen This is one of the most traditional Oktoberfest beers out there. It's on the lighter side of medium bodied, and a beautiful golden amber color. There's a slight caramelization from the malt, with wonderful hints of spicy toffee and rye bread. It's juicy and smooth on the palate, with an assertive, yet pleasant floral bitterness on the finish.
Two Brothers' Atom Smasher Two Brothers adds a nice twist to their Oktoberfest brew by aging Atom Smasher in large oak casks called foudres. The result is spectacular, with a little more alcohol than usual, well- rounded malts and a fuller body, and nice tones of toasty oak and restrained fruits on top of the classic Oktoberfest flavors.
Victory Festbier To my mind, Victory brews one of the finest representations of the style on this side of the Atlantic. With its classic orange-amber hues and a medium body, bready malts and spicy hops, this Festbier is smooth, creamy, and satisfying.
Jason Baldacci is beverage director for Webster's Wine Bar, the Bluebird, and Telegraph Wine Bar.