There are plenty of biergartens where you can ring in Oktoberfest, but you can also toast Germany in your own home, thanks to the multitude of Oktoberfest specialty beers in stores.
The traditional Oktoberfest brew is a Märzen beer style that originated with the Oktoberfest in 1872, says World Class Beer. It was the first time a beer was brewed specifically for the event, by a brewer named Gabriel Sedlmayr. The Märzen beer gets its name from the month that it’s brewed in — March, or Märzen — while it ages over the summer in preparation for the festival. When the Oktoberfest brew was originally brewed, German brewers would brew it extra-strong, with plentiful hops, so it would keep over the summer months. By the time October rolled around, they had to empty the Märzen beer into kegs to make room for a fresh batch of brewing — thus turning the month into an official party.
Think of the Oktoberfest Märzen style as a stronger amber lager, which has an even balance of a malt backbone and hops. While only beers brewed in Munich can technically be authentic Oktoberfest beers (and served during Munich’s celebration), that hasn’t stopped German and U.S. brewers from releasing their own versions. Samuel Adams may be one of the most foreknown Oktoberfest brews in America, but other U.S. brewers, like Saranac and Magic Hat, offer a twist on the style. And then there are the traditional German beers, released in small quantities, which bring back memories of a true Munich celebration. Get your hands on these while you still can, and make your own Oktoberfest at home — schnitzel and bratwurst not included.