Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Oshkosh Shopper's Guide to Oktoberfest Beer

Some folks look to the first robin of Spring as a reassuring sign that another harsh winter is nearing its end. And then there are those of us who possess a less sunny disposition. We’re the  people who thrive in the dark and cold. We prowl liquor stores in anticipation of seeing that first six-pack of Oktoberfest hit the shelves. This is our liquid symbol encouraging us to hang in there, that the miserably hot and too bright days of late summer will soon be over. I saw my first Oktoberfest on August 12th and when I did I issued a groan of relief. The guy stocking the shelves scowled at me as if I were a creep.

Anyway, Capital Brewery takes the ribbon this year for placing the first batch of Oktoberfest in Oshkosh. It arrived during the second week of August and since then the rich, amber fluid of fall’s beer has been flowing into town unabated. At the moment, you’ll find no less than 12 different Oktoberfest beers on sale in Oshkosh stores. Some of them are good, some of them are not so good. A few of them are great. To help the Oshkosh beer buyer find their way through this maze of seasonal beer, we convened a panel of tasters to determine the best Oktoberfest of 2010 available for purchase in Oshkosh.

Just a couple of notes before we get to the list. First, this list only includes bottled beer. There are a number of taverns in Oshkosh with Oktoberfest on tap, but for the sake of continuity none of those were included in these tastings. Second, where our tasters could not come to agreement on rankings we used composite scores from Beer Advocate and Rate Beer to resolve disputes. So without further ado, here are the top Oktoberfests of Oshkosh ranked in order from best to... not so best.
  1. Sprecher Oktoberfest
  2. Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen
  3. New Glarus Staghorn
  4. Capital Oktoberfest
  5. Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen
  6. Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Märzen
  7. Lakefront Oktoberfest
  8. Samuel Adams Octoberfest
  9. Point Oktoberfest
  10. Berghoff Oktober Fest Beer
  11. Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest
  12. Beck's Oktoberfest
Sprecher's Oktoberfest was the runaway favorite of the bunch. Malt-rich and creamy, this is a beer lover's beer. There's nothing "extreme" about it, this is simply a delicious and incredibly balanced traditional brew. If you drink one Oktoberfest this season, it ought to be this one. Beers two through four wound up in a virtual dead heat with Hacker-Pschorr getting the slight edge, but each of them was so good that at any given tasting the rankings could be quite different. Actually, there wasn't a bad beer in the top 10. We were surprised just how consistent they turned out to be. Each of the top 10 beers were quite drinkable and in-line with what they should be style-wise.

Finally, if you'd like to stage your own Oktoberfest tasting check out the BJCP Style Guidelines for Oktoberfest before you begin. Understanding what these beers are all about will deepen your appreciation of them and enhance your drinking pleasure. Prosit!


  1. Awesome! I purchased my first "pick-6" of Octoberfest brews a little over a week ago and enjoyed it greatly. Thanks for the list! You guys ROKK!

  2. Thanks! I'll tell you, I'm really getting into the Oktoberfests this year. I don't know if it's this weather or what, but I'm just craving the stuff.

  3. Hmm forgot to make one this year but I too am craving some,Oktoberfest. I'm heading down to Chicago this weekend so hopefully goose island has one on tap.