While the original Munich Octoberfest celebration was cancelled again this year due to the pandemic, we can still celebrate that wonderful fall beer style here in West Virginia with locally made brews.
Produced seasonally, Oktoberfest beer is a malt-forward lager beer. West Virginia brewers tend to make a richly amber-colored version of the beer called Märzen. There is also a lighter colored style simply called Festbier.
The good ones drink very clean and easy with no strong or lingering flavors. They have moderate alcohol content in the 5% to 6% range. Their color runs from golden to a more copper-like tone. They are bready or toasty in flavor, often with a touch of caramel without being sweet.
The beer has a mild, soft bitterness. Hops definitely take a back seat to the malt. Because the beer is stored cold in tanks for many weeks/months after brewing (called lagering), the beer comes out clean, bright and clear. This allows the beautiful fall colors of the Märzen to shine in the glass.
Several excellent Märzen examples available in the southern West Virginia market come from our local breweries. In fact, as a group, these are some of the best beers for style consistency that we find in the state. Search out these beauties now through October and let your taste buds do the happy dance:
Oktoberfest — Bridge Brew Works
Made with traditional German malts, noble hop varieties, and German lager yeast. A beautiful, richly malty amber lager. Refreshing and complex. Crisp, clear flavors. Draft only. Available at their Fayetteville taproom and a limited quantity out in distribution. 5.6% Alcohol By Volume
Forestfest — Big Timber Brewing
Dark amber color. A bold, rich interpretation of the style. Big notes of toast and Maillard reaction with a mild sweetness and a dry finish. Munich, Pilsen, and a variety of caramel malts with Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. Their most popular seasonal by sales. Draft and 16-oz. cans. Available widely in distribution and at the brewery taproom in Elkins. 5.6% ABV.
Prost Alle — Bad Shepherd Beer Co.
Made with pilsner malt as the base, and just the right proportion of Vienna and Munich malts to give color, flavor, and aroma. German Tettnang hops and a German yeast. Lagered since last March. Comes out crisp and clean, with a nice mineral quality to round out the caramel notes of the Munich malt. Draft only. Available in distribution locally and at Bad Shepherd’s taproom in Charleston and in Black Sheep Burritos and Bahnhof in Huntington. 5.8% ABV.
AJ’s Fest Bier — Weathered Ground BreweryAn amber lager made with North Carolina malts and German hops. Nice toasty, nutty flavor with medium body and a pretty crisp finish. It’s a Märzen-style even though it’s called Festbier. Primary fermentation at a cool 48 degrees with the Weihenstephan lager yeast, then cold lagered for many weeks. Naturally carbonated by collecting the carbon dioxide produced in fermentation. Draft and 16 oz. cans. Available In distribution and at the brewery taproom in Cool Ridge. 6.0% ABV.
Oktoberfest — The Peddler
A pretty amber lager, clear and clean, with plenty of toastiness. Made with Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna malts and U.S. Liberty hops. Lagered four weeks. Draft only. Available in regional distribution and at the brewpub in Huntington. 5.7% ABV.
You will likely find some of these Oktoberfest beers at upcoming beer festivals in our region, such as OktoberWest (Sept. 25), Kegs 4 K9s (Oct. 3), and Foam at the Dome (Oct. 9) in Charleston; Chili’n on the Elk (Oct. 2) in Clendenin; and Corks & Kegs (Oct. 23) in Barboursville. Due to the pandemic, please confirm that festivals are still scheduled before you head that way.
We’ve also been seeing lots of Oktoberfest beers on the shelves at area Fruth and Drug Emporium stores. They carry an impressive array of this seasonal beer style from local, regional and national craft brewers and importers. These stores also sell many as single cans or bottles making it an excellent way to take home several different brands and compare. Prost!
If you are interested in hearing even more about Oktoberfest beers, check out the most recent West Virginia Beer Roads videocast on the Brilliant Stream Youtube channel. Co-host Erin McCoy and I, along with Charleston homebrewer Chris Brown, taste and discuss five W.Va. Oktoberfest beers. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Send them to email@example.com.