What is Oktoberfest Beer?
You don’t need to be German to enjoy Oktoberfest—or a good Oktoberfest beer, for that matter.
This year marks the 185th Oktoberfest, an annual 16- 18-day folk festival. This event is always held in Munich, Bavaria, Germany and runs from mid or late September to the first weekend in October. Every year, more than six million people from around the globe attend the official Oktoberfest where they enjoy a variety of food, attractions, and of course beer. Oktoberfest is all about that beer .
What makes an Oktoberfest beer?
Finding an Oktoberfest beer to celebrate the season is easy—just as easy as finding a pumpkin spice latte in October. From the American breweries’ take, like Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest , to a more traditional German-style that follows Reinheitsgebot, there is sure to be an “Oktoberfest” that tickles your fancy.
What, exactly, is Reinheitsgebot? It’s a food purity law dating back to the 16 th century. This beer purity law only allowed brewers to use barley, hops, and water to make beer. Because people in the sixteenth century didn’t know about yeast yet, the current law allows for beer to be made only using malted grains, hops, water, and yeast.
Of course, what makes an Oktoberfest an Oktoberfest might depend on who you ask. Technically, "Oktoberfest Beer" is a registered trademark of the Club of Munich Brewers. The Club of Munich Brewers consists of six breweries. These are the only ones who can produce “Oktoberfest beer” for the Oktoberfest festival:
- Staatliches Hofbräu-München
These breweries above brew beers that conform to the Reinheitsgebot and do so within the city limits of Munich.
Oktoberfestbier and its imitators.
When it comes to classifying all other Oktoberfest beer, such as those produced outside of Germany and those that don’t necessarily conform to the Reinheitsgebot, Oktoberfest is more so characterized by the time of brewing. These types of beers are either specifically brewed for serving, or in the style of those served, at Oktoberfest.
Still, these beers tend to be lagers. More specifically, they are often Märzen, or Märzenbier, which is a medium to full body lager originating in Bavaria. Its color may vary from pale through amber to dark brown with a malty flavor and a clean, dry finish. Traditionally, the beer was brewed in March ( März is German for March). Oktoberfestbier refers to Märzen-style beer.
The Brewers Association, an American trade group for craft brewers, breaks Oktoberfest into two styles: German-style Oktoberfest/Wiesn and American-style Maerzen/Oktoberfest. The German-style is medium-bodied, straw to golden in color, and similar to Dortmunder/European-Style Export beers. On the other hand, the American-style is medium-bodied, pale to reddish brown, and has more pronounced hops than its German counterpart.
At the Oktoberfest festival Munich, the beers are more typical of a German lager and tend to be pale, whereas American Oktoberfest beers are often more reddish in hue.
While the Reinheitsgebot limits what German brewers can put in their beers, sometimes you need a little bit more. You can find additional beer ingredients at ingredi.com