Notes on Five Oktoberfests

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

If you look at the menu at Buster’s on 28th, you’ll soon notice that a) it has an awful lot of draught beers available, and b) you can order a custom-made tasting flight of five beers for about $10.

And as it turns out, while there are five beers in a flight, there are also five Oktoberfests on the menu at the moment. Coincidence? Unlikely. Destiny? Sure, we’ll call it destiny.

Märzen beers (so-called because they were traditionally brewed in March to be held and served in the autumn) are typically rich, toasty, and copper in coloration. They tend to have a medium to high alcohol content. But within those general guidelines, there’s a fair bit of room for play.

From my least to most favorite, here are five takes on Oktoberfest (with apologies to Surly, whose reputedly excellent SurlyFest wasn’t available):

Schell’s Oktoberfest

A sentimental favorite of locals who want to celebrate the crusty old brewing culture that (utterly) pre-dates the craft beers we’ve come to love, Schell’s often surprises. Not here, unfortunately. This is a bit bitter, somewhat washed out Oktoberfest that — in its defense — is a good thirst quencher. In an absolute sense, not a bad beer, but there were four better ones in the same category…

New Belgium Hoptoberfest

The makers of the decent but wildly overrated Fat Tire also brew a decent but underwhelming Oktoberfest. Hoptoberfest has the firm, grapefruit bite of a hop-bomb beer, but is otherwise flat and unidimensional, particularly considering that it boasts four different malts and five hops. How can a beer with so much going on taste as though there’s so little going on?

Summit Oktoberfest

Middle of the pack, and a fun glass to kill. Mild and crisp, Summit’s take on the Oktoberfest suggests grape soda with a twist of cranberry — it’s also a bit malty, and nicely balanced. This could be consumed by the pint, no question.

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

This stuff is wild. Tilting hard toward the “malt” side of the hops / malt teeter-totter, this imported Oktoberfest has a rich, sweet finish that strongly suggests raisins and honey — it’s almost like Oktoberfest meets mead. It’s not over sweet, and wonderfully suggestive of baking bread, or the early stages of brewing.

Bell’s Oktoberfest

Now this is what we’re talking about. A mature, balanced beer with a Scotch-like depth, a full-bodied malty flavor, and an impeccable sense of balance. Complex without being brainy or crazy — a truly mature beer, the perfect drink for the onslaught of cold weather.

Don’t trust this non-accredited beer poseur’s opinion? Head out to Buster’s and try the Oktoberfest flight for youself.

Buster’s on 28th
4204 28th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406

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  1. Kate

    Hacker-Pschoor Oktoberfest has always been one of my favorites. Haven’t had one in ages, and now I feel a craving coming on!!

  2. Kris

    I’m not an Oktoberfest fan in general, but after reading this and finding that some of the Schell’s variety had appeared in my beer fridge I was interested in trying it. And yes, it was true to the description of “a bit bitter, somewhat washed out” and right up my alley.

  3. Kristin

    Mmmm Hacker-Schorr! Fantastic! I gotta say, I have tried on numerous occasions to find something from Schell’s that I would even consider a “mediocre” beer, and can’t even find that. I’ve been disappointed every time.

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