Oktoberfest is all about the booze and the merriment. What Christmas is to presents, gingerbread, and candy canes, Oktoberfest is to drunken frivolity. Sure you could go the easy route and just stock up on Oktoberfest beers, but there are so many more fish in the sea. To help wade through the options, a couple beverage pros weigh in on the ideal beers and wines for Oktoberfest antics.
More so than most any other time of year, save for perhaps St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest is all about the beer. But where to begin? There are too many good ones out there for you to just get blackout drunk off a boot filled with swill. Here to help with some suggestions is Anthony Norkus, the craft and specialty brand manager at Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. As Norkus explains, the famous Oktoberfest beers, or biers, are the Marzenbier fall-style beers. The German word for "March," it signifies how the beers were brewed in March and stored in caves before summer heat made brewing difficult. The beer would be sipped throughout the summer and eventually depleted in October. So while not all Oktoberfest beers nowadays adhere to the same formula, there are a number of reputable versions out there paying homage to Germany. For American craft beers, Norkus recommends Capital Oktoberfest, a traditional Marzen beer with a fiery hue and a toasty flavor from the malt. Norkus likens the Great Lakes Oktoberfest to the "crazy but lovable relative you only see once a year," and a "heartwarming reunion in a glass." Aww. This rich, malty beast is nicely balanced by the noble hops. Then there's the Hinterland Oktoberfest, a Vienna-style beer with a silky smooth mouth feel and rich flavors from the malt. For imports, Norkus likes the Ayinger Oktober Fest Marzen, a full-bodied brew served at German beer festivals in September and October with the likes of roasted chicken and sauerkraut. It's mildly sweet, lush and golden, and radiant with malty aromas. The long maturation process ensures a soft dryness. Lastly, check out the Hofbrau Oktoberfest, the same lager beer Hofbrau serves at its largest Oktoberfest tent in Munich. Rife with notes of toasted nuts and lemon, it's a potent quaff perfect for fall drinking.
Who says beer is the only beverage for Oktoberfest? Tell the naysayers to take a hike and go pick up some Oktoberfest wines. Mitch Einhorn, owner of Lush WIne & Spirits, is your guru when it comes to selecting applicable wines. Considering Germany's affinity for wine-making, it's only natural to celebrate that wine culture through Oktoberfest. Some of Einhorn's selections include the Dr. Weingut Heydon Silvaner, Rheinhessen, a crisp and refreshing dry wine with aromas of white flowers, green banana, and honeysuckle that just beg to be paired with bratwurst. The Huff Kerner, Rheinhessen is well-balanced and fruity, with notes of sweet apple giving way to citrus. A nice Wienerschnitzel is the perfect foil for all that fruity joy. Spring for the Jacob-Kuhn Riesling, Rheingau, a wine containing an amalgam of wild fruit flavors, spice, florals, and minerals. Representing the 11th generation of wine-makers in the Kuhn family, it's an alluring Riesling from a time-worn vineyard, nicely paired with kartoffelsalat, a hot and spicy Bavarian potato salad. Another intriguing Riesling is the Keller Riesling, Rheinhessen. One of the most famous estates in Germany, the Keller brand is renowned for their dry Rieslings, and particularly the Von Der Fels Riesling wows with its layers of complexity and depth, toeing the lines between citrus, minerals, stone fruit, and freshly cut flowers. For a pairing, Einhorn suggests muscheln, mussels cooked in white wine with vegetables. It's not all about Germany though. Einhorn also recommends the Huber Dornfelder from Santa Rita, California, one he calls a big, bold, and inky red wine with potent earthy notes. Its velvety texture provides supple flavors of pepper, sweet tobacco leaf, dried fig, blueberry, and spiced plum, making it a nice match with schweinsbraten, aka roasted and sauced pork loin. For something sweet, try the Dr. Loosen Eiswein, Mosel. This vibrant dessert wine brims with notes of Anjour pears and baked tart apples, finishing with essence of spice and golden raisins. Drink it alongside Bavarian apple tart and die happy. All wines are available for purchase at Lush Wine & Spirits, either for takeaway or for drinking at the bar.
(Go drink Oktoberfest wines here. Photo: Lush Wine & Spirits)