We held an Oktoberfest dinner this past weekend. That’s because even though the name says October, the fest begins in late September and lasts for 16 days, through early October. This year it’s September 19th through October 4th in Munich, where an annual festival has been held since 1810. (It was originally held to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, the future King Ludwig I.)
In the beer category, seasonal beer styles are called…seasonals. For fall, full-bodied beers replace the lighter brews of summer. Three craft beer fall seasonals that immediately come to mind:
Harvest Ale, an American craft brew category made with German-style malts and hops, or else with fall spices.
Pumpkin Beer or Ale, sometimes brewed with real pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, sometimes with only the spices (allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg). Samuel Adams’ Fat Jack has more than 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel.
Oktoberfest Beer, or Märzen: Traditionally the first beer of the brewing season, it is an amber lager, smooth and malty and about 6% or higher ABV*.
In addition to these styles, other popular fall beers include:
Fat Jack brewed with more than 28 pounds of pumpkin per barrel. Photo courtesy Samuel Adams.
Brown Ale, made with dark or brown malts that produce caramel and chocolate flavors (more).
Dunkelweizen, a dark version of a wheat beer (“dunkel” is the German word for dark)
English Pale Ale or India Pale Ale, assertively hopped and stronger (higher in alcohol—more)
*To be labeled Oktoberfest beer in Germany, a beer must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law), which dictates a minimum of 6% alcohol (by comparison, America’s Budweiser has 5%). The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich.