Best Oktoberfest Beer: Prost! to the 6 Best Oktoberfest Beers

The best Oktoberfest beer is malty, pairs well with rich, German foods, and has a reasonable ABV (alcohol by volume). We popped open ten different Oktoberfest beers from Germany and the U.S. to try and find the best Oktoberfest beer to buy this festival season.

Who’s ready for a lesson in beer? (That’s why you love beer, right? The academia of it all.) First, let’s get this out of the way: Oktoberfest (the festival) usually occurs in September. It began in 1810 as a wedding party and evolved into the massive beer festival that celebrates sausages, pretzels, tuba-driven music, lederhosen, and, of course, Oktoberfest beer. Now, if we’re talking German Oktoberfest beer, we’re talking märzen (which translates to March and nods to the month in which the beer is brewed). It’s a malty, amber ale that generally comes in around 6%—though many Oktoberfest-specific märzens have a lower ABV because they are designed to be gulped by the liter. German rules dictate that only six breweries in Munich can actually label their brews as Oktoberfestbier: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofrbauhaus, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten. Other breweries can only call their Oktoberfest-style beers festbiers. And, of course, with any German beers, brewers must follow the Reinheitsgebot or German Beer Purity Law, which says that water, barley malt, and hops are the only ingredients brewers can use. 

Phew. 

But what about American Oktoberfest beers? Do they have to follow any rules? This is America, baby. We do whatever we want! While American brewers typically try to deliver on the Oktoberfest vibe (malty, moderate ABV, amber), they don’t have to do anything to call their beer an Oktoberfest beer. 

So, when I was looking for the best Oktoberfest beer, I was looking for one that hit those classic malty notes. I was looking for something that was gulpable and food-friendly—something that fits that autumnal solstice timing. I tried ten different bottles and cans and these were the best Oktoberfest beers that made me want to grab a schnitzel and yell oompapa. 


Best Oktoberfest Beer: Paulaner

Best of the Best

Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen (5.8%)

One of the OG Oktoberfest beers is, indeed, the best Oktoberfest beer. Created for Oktoberfest in 1818, Paulaner’s offering is extremely quaffable. It has an inviting, malty nose that’s toasty and warm. It tastes full and rich; the malty notes tingle on your tongue, leaving you with just a touch of tang—perfect for food. To my mind, it tastes exactly like Oktoberfest beer should taste. And the bottle? It’s so pleasing. It’s slightly smaller than others with beautiful sloping shoulders. This bottle is my new comfort object. 

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Total Wine

Rating:

10/10

Sporks

Golden Road Oktoberfest

Best Cali Style

Golden Road Oktoberfest (5.8%)

Here’s a real Cali take on an Oktoberfest beer. Created in collaboration with Spaten, the märzen-style brew is heavy on the malty flavors but finished with a crisp, refreshing note. “It’s almost peanut buttery,” said Sporked managing editor Gwynedd Stuart. She also noted how fresh and bright it tasted. It really has that just-tapped flavor rather than any hint of staleness or that homebrew-y quality some German-style beers can have. This is the best Oktoberfest beer for an above 80-degree Oktoberfest.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Vons

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Hofbrau Oktoberfest

Best Fall-tastic

Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier (6.3%)

This one smells like a picturesque fall festival—colorful leaves, damp and fragrant underfoot, bright rays of light from a low afternoon sun, apple cider mulling away somewhere off in the distance. It’s vest weather in a bottle. It’s the best Oktoberfest beer for day drinking, and the bright, bitter notes pair well with foods like rich sausages and salty beer cheese. This one holds back on the malty notes more than the others, so if you’re looking for a crisper, brighter Oktoberfest beer, try this German classic.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Bevmo

Rating:

9/10

Sporks

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest

Best Fruity

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest (5.6%)

Flying Dog might skirt the naming issue by calling their Oktoberfest beer a Dogtoberfest beer, but they don’t deviate too far from the standard in the making of the beer. Brewers use all German ingredients to make this märzen. But they still put their own spin on the style. It’s fruitier than other Oktoberfests, with some apricot notes to it. Gwynedd noted some floral flavors as well. It’s the best Oktoberfest beer that gives punchy, American flavors—bright and a touch bitter, it goes down easy and it has an undeniably good label, thanks to artist Ralph Steadman.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Total Wine

Rating:

8.5/10

Sporks

Weihenstephan Festbier

Best Dank

Weihenstephan Festbier (5.8%)

Made by the world’s oldest continuously operating brewery (originally part of a Benedcitine monastery), this beer smells like..well..weed. There’s just no other way to put it. It has a distinctly marijuana-esque quality. It’s grassy (ah, there’s the drug-free way to describe it) and not as heavy on the malt as some others. Be sure to pour it from the bottle into a frosty mug to get that foamy head that helps disperse the concentrated aromas and flavors.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Total Wine

Rating:

8/10

Sporks

Erdinger Oktoberfest

Best Wheat Beer

Erdinger Oktoberfest (5.7%)

Erdinger tastes more like a wheat beer than the others (probably because it is a wheat beer). So if you often find yourself reaching for a Blue Moon or a Hoegaarden, give this one a try. The bubbles are extremely delicate and give the beer a crisp, refreshing bite. Erdinger’s website says the beer sets the stage for the classic Bavarian drinking song, “Prosit der Gemütlichkeit,” which translates to “here’s to good cheer” or “a toast to comfort.” That’s really the vibe I’m looking for in a festival beer.

Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Total Wine

Rating:

7.5/10

Sporks

Other Oktoberfest beers we tried: Sam Adams Oktoberfest, Firestone Walker Oaktoberfest, Trader Joe’s Josephsbrau Oktoberfest, Leinenkugel

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About the Author

Justine Sterling

Justine Sterling is the editor-in-chief of Sporked. She has been writing about food and beverages for well over a decade and is an avid at-home cook and snacker. Don’t worry, she’s not a food snob. Sure, she loves a fresh-shucked oyster. But she also will leap at whatever new product Reese’s releases and loves a Tostitos Hint of Lime, even if there is no actual lime in the ingredients.

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