Although Oktoberfest was founded in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of the crown prince of Bavaria, these days it’s arguably a celebration of German tradition, including the production of well-made lager. As I’ve written in the past, Orange County is home to many award-winning lagers, and the end of summer marks the time of year when I wish I could cannonball off a high dive into an Olympic-sized pool of them—in German flag-colored speedos, for good measure.
Although true Oktoberfestbier must be made in the city of Munich, don’t be shocked to see American breweries abuse the appellation. Historically, Oktoberfest beer was all Märzen (pronounced mairt-zen), which is amber/copper in color, and brimming with toasted malt notes. Nowadays, fest beer is mostly pale gold, lightly hopped, and highly quaffable. Sadly, our award-winning local lagers don’t find their way into local Oktoberfest celebrations; instead, some serve sub-standard macro brands that don’t pass Rheinheitsgebot, Germany’s beer purity law. How does that happen?
Whether you’re doing the chicken dance in a big local Oktoberfest or out brewery hopping, here’s five local German-style festbiers that fill my lederhosen (leather shorts) with gemächlichkeit (the chill feels):
Barley Forge: Dog Days is back again this year! Copper in color, the beer is all about the dog days of summer, which in true Oktoberfest tradition is all about finishing up last year’s beer to make room for the new. As Barley Forge’s kitchen makes some of the best bratwurst in the county, the pairing shouldn’t be missed.
Noble Ale Works: The Fest Bier Ever was brewed in collaboration with Chapman Crafted Beer in Orange. Rumor has it that it was made for head brewer Evan Price’s baby shower; Evan and wife Aubrey are expecting twins in October. Drop off some spare diapers while grabbing a pint, he’ll need them.
The Bruery:,One doesn’t necessarily think of The Bruery as a German beer stop, but you’ll be shocked to hear they have a whole flight of Deutschland-inspired beers, plus special edition boot glassware to kick you in das booty. Check out their export Märzen, Kölsch, dry hopped Pils, Schwarzbier (black beer) and Dunkelweizen (dark wheat beer) for a limited time.
Anaheim Brewery Oktoberfest:Legend has it the 100 year-old beer recipe was found in the basement of the historic Paulaner brewery in Munich, Germany. Anaheim’s version follows this classic Oktoberfest Märzen recipe with Munich malt, noble hops, and a clean-finishing house lager yeast. It’s toasty, bready, and stein-worthy throughout fall.
Unsung Brewing: A pebble’s throw from the Anaheim Packing House (and Anaheim Brewery) in the new black “Make” building is Unsung Brewing, which just opened doors in August. Known for its incredibly crushable Anthia IPA, Unsung will release Batch 002 of beer made on its small pilot system, a very traditional Märzen. I happened to get a small sample out of the tank, and it’s incredibly delicious. It should be ready by Sept. 23.
Got a favorite Oktoberfest celebration here in Orange County? Let us know by leaving a comment!