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Build the Ultimate Oktoberfest Beer 12-Pack

By Mathew Katz | September 19, 2012 7:27am

BROOKLYN — Oktoberfest is more than lederhosen, bratwurst and pig roasts — it's also a time to educate yourself first-hand on the range of fall brews available by putting together a dream 12-pack of your best beer bets.

DNAinfo.com New York has consulted some of Brooklyn's experts for their top picks for local and imported Oktoberfest suds, including the darker, flavorful marzens that feature in fall (a marzen is a lager that is a halfway point between the lighter brews of summer and the thick stouts of winter).

Autumn is also when many breweries release their pumpkin beers, making them an essential part of any Oktoberfest mix. And with more beer shops allowing you to buy individual bottles, it's easy to assemble a taster pack.

Use the 12 suggested beers below to build the ultimate Oktoberfest 12-pack, or build a selection of your own: from light to dark, as a selection of pumpkin brews, or even a sampling of German breweries.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest — Marzen, 6.3 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). From Munich, Germany.

It might not be the original Oktoberfest brew, but it is the most well known. Described by beer experts as "a classic," this brew comes from Hofbrauhaus, a massive beer hall in Munich, and can be found in bodegas and beer stores around the country. Unlike many American Oktoberfest brews, Hofbrau is light and easy to drink by the steinful.

"Hofbrau's so light, it's almost a pilsner," said Erik Olsen, a beer-lover and manager at Greenpoint beer store/pub Brouwerij Lane.

Hofbrau owns the second-largest tent at the Bavarian celebration in Germany, so you're justified in making this crisp beer a part of any celebration.

Shipyard PumpkinheadWheat Ale, 4.5 percent ABV. From Portland, Maine.

A lighter take on the traditional pumpkin beer, this uses fruit, pumpkin and spices to create a lighter ale that goes down easy while still feeling autumnal.

"It's delicate, with clover, coriander and ginger," said Mike Descarfino, manager at Prospect Heights Beer Works. "It's got an apple cider feel."

The beer's lightness means it may not be the best for the colder fall nights, but it's a great transition beer for warmer days and evenings.

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier — Marzen, 5.4 percent ABV. From Schlenkeria, Germany.

This flavorful beer is made using beechwood-smoked malts, giving it a heavy, earthy flavor and a deep brown color.

"It tastes like a barbecue," Olsen said, adding that it was the most unqiue marzen he's tasted.

This exotic, imported beer is one that's difficult to find and a bit pricey, so be sure to snatch it up if you can find it — it's sure to add something unique to your selection.

Southern Tier Pumpking — Ale, 8.6 percent ABV. From Lakewood, New York.

Big, strong and boozy with an intense caramel flavor, this is a pumpkin beer that will get you drunk. This stout-like ale gives you the pumpkin pie experience with loads of fall spices.

Ayinger Oktoberfest — Marzen, 5.4 percent ABV. From Aying, Germany.

A little bit sweet and a little bit malty, this golden-hued German beer is as close to a compromise between light and heavy as you're going to get in a fall beer.

Ayinger was the first Oktoberfest beer suggested by Ben Granger, the owner of Park Slope's Bierkraft who has become something of a legend in the Brooklyn beer scene.

"It's something a lot of people like," he said of the beer.

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin — Ale, 8.0 percent ABV. From Easton, Pennsylvania.

If Southern Tier Pumpking is a pumpkin pie in a glass, this pumpkin ale is almost like a pint of apple pie. Almost as strong as Pumpking, this beer is also sweeter than your traditional pumpkin ale, with less of an intense fall flavor and more fruitiness.

"It's big, it's strong, it's what I like," said Prospect Heights Beer Works' Descarfino.

Brooklyn Oktoberfest — Marzen, 5.5 percent ABV. From Brooklyn, New York.

You can't have a Brooklyn Oktoberfest without Brooklyn Oktoberfest. While locally-brewed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Brewery's Oktoberfest uses malts and hops imported from Germany.

This marzen is more ale-like than others, with a hoppy aftertaste that pays homage to the brewery's more well-known India pale ales. 

This beer may be a bit easier to find in bodegas and grocery stores than some of the others — if there's one thing Brooklyn Brewery is good at, it's dominating the local market.

Uinta Punk'n — Ale, 4.0 percent ABV. From Salt Lake City, Utah.

The little brother to some of the stronger pumpkin ales, the adorably named Punk'n is a sweet treat of a brew. With notes of nutmeg, honey and vanilla, it's got a unique flavor not found in some other pumpkin beers.

"It's very roasty, with not too much spice," said Descarfino.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest — Marzen, 5.4 percent ABV. From Boston, Massachusetts.

Beer snobs may choke on their drink when they hear it, but the country's largest craft beer company makes a more traditional Oktoberfest brew than many German beer makers. According to Prospect Heights Beer Works' Descarfino, it's the best and most authentic Oktoberfest beer in the country.

"German marzens aren't rich and hearty these days," he said, pointing out the Hofbrau Oktoberfest, which is lighter than many American-made Oktoberfest brews.

"They've had to water it down to appeal to the masses," Descarfino said.

By contrast, Sam Adams' offering is rich and hearty, with a darker, malty look and taste.

Kelso Kellerfest — Marzen, 6 percent ABV. From Brooklyn, New York.

Bierkraft's Granger gives this unfiltered Oktoberfest brew top marks.

"There are not very many well-crafted Oktoberfests from American brewers," he said. "They don't go into it with a great understanding of the malt complexity."

But with its light caramel hoppy flavor, Granger said Kellerfest was "true to the style" of an Oktoberfest brew.

"Oktoberfests are about subtlety," he said. "This one gets it."

Sly Fox Oktoberfest — Marzen, 5.8 percent ABV. From Royersford, Pennsylvania.

Made with traditional Vienna malts and German hops, this beer smells like freshly baked bread, caramel and toffee.

Sly Fox has been a longtime pioneer of craft beer in cans, and its medium-bodied brew is so easy to drink, you can have a few cans of the stuff — or a massive stein or two — without sacrificing flavor.

Weissenohe Monk's Fest — Marzen, 5.0 percent ABV. From Weissenohe, Germany.

Weissenohe is a place where beer purity laws are still in effect, where brewers embrace painstaking techniques that are hundreds of years old. The result is a dark, yet refreshing masterpiece — Oktoberfest lager that's largely unchanged from its Bavarian ancestor.

"It's the best lager I've ever tasted," said Bierkraft's Granger, praising the beer's complex, malty flavor.

"It's really just amazing."

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