As summer slips through our fingers and the first brisk days signal the return of fall—and with it, apple season, football, sweaters, and all great things to temper our disappointment—we shouldn’t forget that along with taking out our window units, we also have to go out and try a new season worth of beers. Too often do breweries try to make a seasonal beer that fails to capture the essence of a season. But magic always seems to happen during Oktoberfest, when brewers try to find a marriage between a tradition that dates back to the the marriage of the Bavarian crown price in 1810 and the nascent fall winds. Below are a few beers you might want to try, most of which have used this famed drinking season as a chance to cook up something ingenious. These are the beers you will want sitting in your fridge this month.
Goose Island Oktoberfest—6.4% ABV
This one is darker than most Oktoberfest beers. There are some very discernible, and enjoyable hints of fruit that balance out how dark it would be otherwise. Goose’s creation is also hoppy but without most of the associated bitterness. It’s very refreshing, which makes it a lot more enjoyable for the earlier days of fall when the weather can still get muggy.
Harpoon’s traditional take on Oktoberfest sort of sets it apart from the more experimental side the brewery takes with beers like the incredibly alcoholic Ghost King or the sweeter Maple Tap. This one tastes like a very predictable, delicious German beer with a lot of hops. It’s bitter, but nowhere near double IPA territory. Overall, this one is a very safe beer for all of October.
Leinie’s Oktoberfest is the Oktoberfest beer against all others are measured. It is not the best, nor is it predictable or boring, but it’s exactly what it should be. Light and sweet, incredibly refreshing to drink even at less-than-fridge temperature, and still appropriately bitter. Best suited for those final days of summer dragging into fall. Definitely easier to drink in large quantities than most Märzen-style beers.
Coney Island FREAKTOBERFEST—6.2%
Coney Island did something as surprising and as hauntingly delicious as the shuttered carnival booths in Coney Island this fall. This is a pumpkin beer that doesn’t have those pulpy, sweet pumpkin notes that make you put it down 3/4 of the way through. It’s brewed with espresso beans—which are definitely present in taste—but tasting like a novelty beer. And beneath that, is a dark Oktoberfest beer that you can actually drink more than one of. In short, it accomplishes everything novelty beers seem to fail at—which is to stand on their own as a beer.
Blue Point Oktoberfest—5.7%
Blue Point’s branding is so busy that it might actually put someone off from picking it up, which would be a real pity because their Oktoberfest is probably the best after Sierra Nevada’s. It’s not heavy or bitter (or tinny, for that matter) like many new Oktoberfest beers, which makes it very enjoyable to drink along with the residual caramel taste. It’s also less hoppy than their famous Toasted lager, which makes it good for extended fall drinking sessions, in the true Oktoberfest spirit.
Samuel Adams OctoberFest—5.3%
This beer is incredibly rich, but also decidedly sweet with some caramel like Blue Point’s. Sam Adams has also made this one very malty in the best way possible. Behind that, there’s also a vague, discernible taste of something roasted, which really makes this one of the most seasonal beers of all. It tastes less like an Oktoberfest beer than it does like fall itself—in no small part helped by it’s gorgeous amber color.
This beer is a lot of fun—it’s rich but also refreshing, on par with the Goose for those early fall days. A lot of malt, and some light hoppy flavors. It’s warm and complex but not in the overzealous way that so many crafts often are. Brooklyn has consistently made an Oktoberfest beer that is a real pleasure to drink as fall comes on. This beer is one of the beers I’ll want in the fridge on Saturdays in fall.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest—6%
Sierra Nevada’s is the king of fall beers. Reducing it to an Oktoberfest beer would be doing it a huge injustice. It’s every beer I’ve ever wanted on a football Sunday in early October somehow bottled into one, and without feeling crowded. It has a pretty hoppy taste that is tempered by a sweet flavor, making it very refreshing to drink. It’s malty in that warm way that makes you welcome fall without any qualms about the end of summer. It’s the beer I’ll stock up on to drink throughout the winter.
Anchor BigLeaf Autumn Red—6%
This is perhaps one of the more truly seasonal beers, down to the color—the autumn equivalent of a summer ale. This one is lighter than most red ales. It’s sweet, and incredibly rich, but without the aggressive candy-like sweetness one might expect from a beer made with maple syrup. (Hints of maple are particularly noticeable in the smell).
Two Roads Roadsmary’s Baby—6.8%
Roadsmary’s Baby has a similar ethos as Coney Island’s FREAKTOBERFEST. It’s a pumpkin ale in every way, except for that it doesn’t overpower you with the sweet taste of pumpkin. You can actually taste the ale component beneath the pumpkin, which also incorporates some of the oft-missing spice flavor. It’s more of a brown ale with pumpkin spice notes. The one gripe with this beer is boasts rum- barrel-aging, which, as far as I can tell, is totally missing from the final product.