EDIT: 9/5/9:51 PM There were pictures of each beer but on some devices they displayed sideway so I took them down for now.
It’s almost time to set aside the session IPAs, the Pilsners, and the fruity over hopped ales and start thinking about warmer maltier beers. Yes, Fall is here and that means only one thing. Your beer store is full of 4 month old pumpkin beers already. Blech….its time to start drinking Marzens better known as Oktoberfest beers. But which ones are worth your time? Well, that’s almost impossible to answer. Untappd shows over 300 different beers identifying as Okotberfest/Marzen. So I grabbed 8 locally and nationally available ones and decided to give them a taste test. There’s another big caveat to this list and that is it’s missing Leinenkugel and Samuel Adams. I’ve had both before and Leinenkugel wasn’t very good but the Sam Adams Oktoberfest is outstanding. I would place it in the top 3 of this list but since I didn’t drink it yet this year I can’t say for sure if it holds up.
So here are 8 Marzens ranked from worst to best. Feel free to let me know what else I should try. I’m definitely a bit of a Marzen novice. Prost!
8. Ballast Point Dead Ringer
I’m just as surprised as you are. Ballast Point has been knocking it out of the park all year. Unfortunately their Oktoberfest has no aroma, a lackluster appearance, and a bland taste. At best I could drink one of these and where’s the Oktoberfest spirit in that?
7. Excel Brewing Company Oktoberfest
Excel is a brewery I’ve never heard of from a town in Illinois I’ve never heard of. So I thought I’d give this new to me brewery a shot. Unfortunately they did not deliver. The taste of a traditional Marzen was there but they stumbled on the aroma and mouthfeel. Again, I would probably only drink one of these.
6. Spoetzl Brewery Shiner Oktoberfest
The taste is there on Shiner Oktoberfest but it seemed more watered down than the other beers we drank. Nothing really wrong with it I just wanted more….flavor? It reminded me of Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest something you could drink a bunch of because it didn’t overwhelm your palate.
5. Metropolitan Afterburner
I was expecting big things from the Kings and Queens of Chicago Lagers but what I got was a more flavorful version of the Shiner offering. They were tied in my mind. It was really the mouthfeel that pushed it over the edge. Afterburner had a weight to it that I liked. I could have a couple of these on a Fall night and be satisfied.
4. Baderbraü Oktoberfest
Baderbraü’s offering lands right in the middle. Nice toasty grains which I love but then the flavor just evaporated. It felt like I was chasing the ghost of an Oktoberfest beer. The flavor that I did taste was 100% what I want from a Marzen it’s too bad it couldn’t stick around.
3. Great Lakes Oktoberfest
Most people consider this the quintessential Oktoberfest beer and I could totally see that. I dinged it points on the aroma and the appearance but everything else was there. An absolutely solid beer there is no reason you shouldn’t pick this up if you’re interested in the style.
2. Revolution Brewing Oktoberfest
I’ve had Rev’s Oktoberfest before and thought it was a great example of the style. They said they had tweaked the recipe a bit and boy did they. There’s a nice hit of spice mixed in with the malty sweetness that is just what I wanted. If you live in an area where you can get this beer you absolutely should pick some up immediately. As soon as we get a nice crisp night in Chicago I can’t wait to throw a hoodie on and enjoy one of these.
1. Goose Island Oktoberfest
I really didn’t expect Goose Island to take number one. Figured this would be a decent attempt at the style brewed by Anheuser-Busch but I was wrong. It’s as good as Revolution’s but where it shines is a bit of toastyness and a mild fruitiness. This is a Marzen I could drink all night.
If I’m being completely honest all of these beers were solid except the Ballast Point I would never drink that again. They all had a great base flavor but since I scored them using the Beer Advocate scale some got dinged for their appearance or they were too carbonated. Goose Island and Revolution definitely are the best of the eight but the other ones aren’t going to kill you.