Oktoberfest, the weeks-long Bavarian beer festival and fun fair that is to Germany what apple pie is to the USA, kicks off in Munich Sept. 17. Bend's own downtown Oktoberfest, somewhat smaller-sized but no less ribald and fun, takes place on the 16th and 17th. The main difference between the two: Germans will drink Märzen and other expertly-crafted seasonal lagers by the liter; Bendites will drink a lot of Fresh Squeezed out of plastic cups. This needs to change!
Technically speaking, the only outfits that make "Oktoberfest beer" are the six Munich breweries that supply the Oktoberfest: Spaten, Löwenbräu (both InBev brands nowadays), Augustiner-Bräu, Hofbräu-München, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. However—although one can't really tell from browsing Bend's beer aisles—U.S. craft breweries put out Oktoberfest-style beers by the hundreds this time of year. This is especially the case in places where the Germans had a strong influence on the local beer scene, such as Texas and the Upper Midwest. Märzen is also the top-selling beer from the Gordon Biersch brewery in San Jose, and that one's available at Trader Joe's here in Bend under the name JosephsBrau Oktoberfest. (It's not bad.)
Still, the Munich-born Märzen genre—which covers both light (Helles) and dark (Dunkel) lagers—isn't one commonly seen around this beer-laden city of ours. 10 Barrel's Pub Beer, for one, is technically a Helles lager. Deschutes' Bond Street pub currently has No Chance in Helles on tap, a nice and quaffable lager with a bit of spiciness to the hops, but their big fall seasonal release is Hopzeit, an IPA "inspired by" Oktoberfest. Bend Brewing, Crux, and Silver Moon can all be counted on for some A-plus lagers, but nothing fest-y's come out from them yet.
Thus, someone looking to drink with the season must turn to "imports" from outside of Oregon. A few worth tracking down:
Paulaner: One of the official festbiers, the Oktoberfest-Märzen (on tap right now over at Platypus Pub) pours a nice shade of amber and provides a deeply malty experience for its 5.8 percent ABV.
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest: Sierra Nevada teamed up with Mahrs Bräu in Bamberg, Germany, to make this year's edition, which uses the uncommonly-used Record hop type to add spiciness to the malt profile.
Avery The Kaiser: Not exactly a traditional Märzen, this—Avery's taken the basic Oktoberfest formula and revved up the intensity to create a 9.3 percent lager laden with intense Noble hop aromas. Hold on to your steins!