Break out the dirndl and lederhosen. Strike up the oompah band and brush up on your polka steps. Oktoberfest is upon us.
You may think my enthusiasm premature, but the Bavarian celebration actually begins in mid-September and runs through early October.
It originally celebrated a royal wedding and became a broader festival focusing on the harvest and the community before exploding into the beer hall, brat-infused ruckus we know and love today.
Though its historical significance has dwindled, Oktoberfest still plays a crucial role in the pantheon of beer-centric holidays along with Cinco de Mayo and Saint Patrick’s Day.
Märzen is the official style of Oktoberfest. Named because it was brewed in March, the brew tends to be full-bodied and malty eschewing the extreme hop profiles prevalent in many, domestic craft beers. Even so, there is some variability.
European brewing powerhouses Warsteiner, Spaten, Ayinger and Weihenstephaner (to name a few) produce fiestbier of varying hue and alcohol punch. Predictably, American brewers have put their own spin on things as well.
Pick up these five local beers and check out these joints for easy ways to get you märzen fix this Oktoberfest season.
Pours a pale copper with a lighter body. A märzen version of their flagship Toasted Lager. Finishes clean and crisp.
Rich and malty with a “snappy finish” (as brewmaster Garret Oliver might say). It would pair perfectly with all sorts of fatty goodness.
Due out soon, head brewer Pat Alfred provides his tasting notes: “The beer pours a nice medium amber, nose wafts aromas of toasted, hearty bread. A touch of caramel sweetness to play with the grassy/spicy European hops.”
As with other märzens, this one is malty but reigns in the sweetness and finishes clean and dry. This beer will also be available in the next week or so. Keep your eyes peeled.
Not a true Oktoberfest beer, this pumpkin ale deserves honorable mention because it’s that good. At 9.5% ABV it could potentially flatten you. Pair it with pumpkin pie or a session by the fire pit. No need to rim the glass with brown sugar and spices (which is an abomination anyway). There’s plenty of flavor in the beer itself. Created as a jab to the increasingly earlier appearances of seasonal beers, it was released in July and is the best pumpkin ale you will probably not be able to find. It’s canned and has a high ABV so buy some next July and save it. Trust me. I’m a professional drinker.
And if you don’t feel like grilling your own brats and chicken, there are a couple of spots on the North Fork that will sate you need for malty goodness and fatty sausages.
2218 Sound Avenue, Calverton
Weekends Sept. 10 through Oct. 23, Cooperage Inn will host its Fall Festival. They offer seating in their outdoor “biergarten” and serve Oktoberfest-style chow (brats with slow-braised sauerkraut, potato pancakes, roasted chicken). Oktoberfest beer on tap too!
4362 Route 25, Calverton
Starting the last week of September and running through October, J&R’s celebrates with a German-themed menu as well as specials on Oktoberfest beer. Live music Thursday through Sunday is sure to keep things lively.
1830 West Main Street, Route 25, Riverhead
Hotel Indigo throws its own Oktoberfest bash on Sept. 30. Entry is $15 ($20 at the door) and gets you a souvenir stein and a complimentary fill of Warsteiner. There will also be live polka music and traditional German fare as well as a mug holding contest (those suckers are big!) Start your biceps workout now, meine damen und herren!