What it is: It’s that sliver of the year when our minds are allowed to drift from hops, stouts aged in bourbon barrels and the latest craft brewery to release a pilsner, so that we can revel in the maltiness of Oktoberfest beers.
The style, which is also called Marzen, is traditionally brewed in March and then left to lager (or age) until fall. Any quality beer store will have at least a dozen on its shelves for the next six or so weeks, and they are an ideal companion to the arriving fall weather.
I tasted more than a dozen Oktoberfest beers in advance of choosing one for this column and settled on Oktober Fest-Marzen, a German classic from Ayinger for its exquisite richness and balance. Others to watch for: Afterburner (Metropolitan Brewing), Take Me to Your Liter (Hailstorm Brewing) and Oktoberfest (BuckleDown Brewing).
In the bottle: Sweet and grainy on the nose — think of fresh bread baked with honey and raisin — Oktober Fest-Marzen features a pronounced sweetness of caramel and caramelized pumpkin on the palate. Hearty, and even a bit creamy as it warms, Oktober Fest-Marzen features a touch of bitter hops and fresh straw upfront before veering into a long malty finish. However, the beer dries out nicely to avoid a sticky or cloying aftertaste. A perfect beer for fall nights.
Alcohol: 5.8 percent
Drink it with: Sauerbraten and spaetzle, of course! Though, in reality, this is a wonderfully versatile food beer, and arguably this is where it most shines. It accents any hearty dish nicely.
Find it: Oktober Fest-Marzen is available in four-packs of 330-milliliter bottles and individual 500-milliliter bottles at better beer stores.