It's that time of year again, when the weather could hit 90 degrees or threaten to freeze (and often both), and hordes of German Oktoberfest beers line the shelves of your local liquor stores and Costcos.
In prior years, it would've been wise to stock up on many of those German imports. This year, though, there are two reasons to go local instead: 1) The German beers are being brewed earlier than ever, in order to logistically make it overseas while taking into account increased shipping challenges. This often causes the beers to be less fresh and vibrant, or, in the worst case, a shell of what they were meant to taste like during their peak. 2) Local breweries are brewing these beer styles more authentically, with better ingredients that result in a higher quality than ever before. Go local this year and you'll be rewarded with fresh lager.
This list is separated into the two main styles of Oktoberfest beer. Märzen is the Oktoberfest style that most people are familiar with. The amber-colored lager is rich in flavor but easy to drink. The best of these have a great malt complexity and sometimes a touch of toast, but they're fermented clean, with a dry finish that invites you to take another sip.
Festbier style is a pale lager that is similarly dry and drinkable, but usually comes in with a bit more hop character and slightly less malt richness and body. Both beers are traditionally around 5.8 to 6.3 percent ABV, though you'll see more variation from local breweries.
Festbier took over as the primary beer being served at Munich's Oktoberfest around 1990; up until that point, you could still find Märzen at the fest. Nevertheless, Märzen remains the more popular choice throughout the United States. In recent years, however, more and more festbier versions are being brewed. More breweries are labeling these beers appropriately today, too, though you'll still find beers simply labeled "Oktoberfest." If you cannot find information on the color of the beers (amber being a dead ringer for Märzen), you can usually assume that a simple "Oktoberfest" label means Märzen, not festbier.
2875 Blake Street
While you'll see many of the other beers on this list on tap now, Bierstadt is one of the breweries in Denver that eschews sales for tradition, something the imported German beers don't even do in the U.S. Bierstadt releases its Oktoberfest beer every year at the traditional time of noon on the second-to-last Saturday in September. The Märzen-style beer taps at noon on September 16, along with a huge, all-day celebration that includes axe throwing, stein hoisting, polka, hammerschlagen and music. This Märzen is one of the best you'll find, consistent year to year as a rich but quaffable beer, perfect for drinking mug after mug. The brewery is selling a special Oktoberfest bundle as well. For $65, drinkers get two mugs, four event tokens good for any lager, a four-pack of Oktoberfest to take home, an Oktoberfest hat and two bottles of water. With an all-day bash like this, those two water bottles will be quite valuable.
Blue Spruce Brewing
4151 East County Line Road, Centennial
10577 West Centennial Road, Littleton
Oktoberfest Lager is a 6 percent ABV traditional interpretation of the style, with German hops providing a clean hop bitterness to help balance the bread-and-biscuit aromas and flavors.
Bull & Bush Brewery
4700 Cherry Creek Drive South
One of Denver's oldest brewpubs is celebrating Oktoberfest throughout the month of October. Stop by to try Tik-Tok Toberfestbier, a Marzen-style Oktoberfest, along with the other five German beers on the menu, all of which are available in half liter and liter-sized mugs.
7667 East Iliff Avenue
Comrade's Hunt for Red Oktoberfest releases later in the season, around mid-September. At 5.7 percent ABV, this Oktoberfest is brewed with pilsner and Munich malts, hopped with East Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz hops, and lagered for eight weeks.
Copper Kettle Brewing
1338 South Valentia
Oktoberfest Lager from Copper Kettle is rich and malty, with a touch of sweetness, and comes in at 5.7 percent ABV.
Elevation Beer Company
115 Pahlone Parkway, Poncha Springs
Arktoberfest is a 5.5 percent ABV beer, with a deep, clear copper color and an off-white head. Bready aromas and subtle grassy Noble hop character rounds out this beer. The brewery will also celebrate Oktoberfest on October 1 with music from the Alan Polivka band, a special fest menu and limited commemorative glassware.
Fiction Beer Company
7101 East Colfax Avenue
Fiction offers its MAV Märzen, one of the more unique interpretations on the list. At 6.6 percent ABV, it's a stronger version, but it also uses cashmere hops at the end of the boil, adding flavors of lemon and ripe melon.
Great Divide Brewing
Hoss Oktoberfest Lager clocks in at 6.2 percent ABV. The brewery notes that the beer is rich, with layered malt notes and hints of cherry and dark fruits. The twist on this beer is that it contains rye, an unusual ingredient for the style, which adds subtle notes of dry earth and spice to the mix. Porch Drinking awarded Hoss Best in Show along with two other beers in a 2021 blind tasting, and it has won a slew of other awards, including a 2009 GABF Bronze Medal and a 2010 World Beer Cup Bronze Medal, both in the rye category.
Green Mountain Beer
2585 South Lewis Way, Lakewood
Green Mountain's offering is malty and slightly sweet, with a generous amount of hops. The Oktoberfest is also cold-lagered for over eight weeks. Green Mountain will celebrate Oktoberfest with a party on September 9 and 10 featuring live music, German food, imported beers and even a lederhosen pop-up shop.
5370 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village
801 Brickyard Circle, Golden
Holidaily has a 4.5 percent ABV version out. Its Oktoberfest is malty and refreshing, with just a hint of caramel sweetness coupled with a light biscuity note in the aroma and taste before finishing dry. This gluten-free beer will be featured at Holidaily's Oktoberfest celebration at its Golden location on September 9 and will be available at both taprooms. Gluten-free sausages, brats and soft pretzels will be available, as well as music, cornhole and a stein-holding competition.
2501 Sheridan Boulevard, Edgewater
Rogtoberfest is named after Joyride's beloved mascot, Roger the Elephant. High-quality German Munich malt combined with a restrained use of hops results in a beer that really follows the traditional track. And at 5.5 percent ABV, you can have a few. Joyride will have its Oktoberfest and street party on September 29 at noon, with live music, food trucks and games.
Left Hand Brewing
1245 Boston Avenue, Longmont
Left Hand's Oktoberfest is a 6.6 percent ABV beer, with rich copper hues and breadcrust aromas. Left Hand is also hosting a big Oktoberfest bash on September 29 and 30 at the Garden at Left Hand Brewing. The festival will include polka, live music from four local bands, food trucks and contests that include stein holding, brat eating and best costume.
14715 West 64th Avenue, Arvada
LUKI brewed its In Like a Lion all the way back in March. The brewery uses a handful of German malts, as well as Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. The brewery is hosting Oktoberfest-themed baby goat yoga on September 23 at 10:30 a.m. and then a full celebration on September 30.
New Image Brewing
9505 West 44th Avenue, Wheat Ridge
5622 Yukon Street, Arvada
New Image is hosting Small-Tober Fest at its Wheat Ridge taproom on Saturdays, September 9 through October 7. The namesake beer will be featured, brewed with malts from local maltster Troubadour Maltings. At just 3.5 percent ABV, it's perfect for kicking back and socializing without overindulging. The brewery will offer lager service, along with live music and food specials.
5535 West 56th Avenue, Arvada
This Oktoberfest lager was made slightly maltier this year, giving it a rich, deep and toasty flavor that clings to the palate in a pleasant way. Odyssey recently had Arvada Mayor Marc Williams tap the first keg, similar to how the mayor of Munich taps the first keg to kick off Oktoberfest in Germany. This has become a yearly tradition at Odyssey, though Mayor Williams is bound by term limits, meaning a new mayor will hopefully continue it next year.
225 Girard Street, Durango
Ska's 2018 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Oktoberfest (which won in the Vienna-style Lager category) is made with European Munich and Vienna malts using traditional German lagering techniques. The amber-brown beer is nutty, bready and toasty. The beer will reach local markets in limited quantities.
1802 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins
Available on September 30 for an all-day celebration, Stodgy's Oktoberfest is a 5.8 percent ABV beer, amber-colored and smooth, made with all Colorado hops and malts.
508 8th Avenue, Greeley
WeldWerks has Märzen, a 5.9 percent ABV beer that is light in body and "ridiculously crushable," the brewery says. The beer pours a dark amber hue and has a malty, nutty quality to it.
Westbound and Down Brewing
Simply dubbed Oktoberfest, Westbound and Down's version is very traditional, with rich malt aromas and flavors of fresh toasted bread and brown biscuit, all held together with a clean hop bitterness. It clocks in at 5.8 percent ABV.
1634 18th Street
The OG Colorado brewery has Fest Friends Forever tapping in mid-September, an Oktoberfest on the lower-alcohol side, at just 5 percent ABV. With German specialty malts and hops, this beer has the classic flavors one would expect from the style.
Beyond the Mountain Brewing
6035 Longbow Drive, Boulder
At 5.9 percent ABV, Festbier has a rich, toasted, bready body with a hint of honey-like sweetness on the finish.
Call to Arms Brewing
4526 Tennyson Street
CTA has a unique take on Oktoberfest, with Seshtoberfest, a lighter, more sessionable interpretation of festbier at 4.4 percent ABV. With a biscuity malt backbone and just a hint of caramel, Seshtoberfest finishes bright and crisp, with a touch of hops.
1477 Monroe Street
Cerebral created a paler version of a festbier-style brew with a blend of pilsner, Munich and Vienna malts. The brewery says it has notes of wildflower honey, sesame bagel and orange marmalade.
Horse & Dragon Brewing
124 Racquette Drive, Fort Collins
Horse & Dragon's Festbier is made with grains that are 100 percent from Colorado maltster Root Shoot Malting. Featuring Munich, Pilsner and Vienna malts, along with Saaz and Mandarina Bavaria hops, Festbier is light-bodied, with biscuity notes and a touch of lemon on the finish. The beer finishes at 5.9 percent ABV.
Our Mutual Friend Brewing
2810 Larimer Street
OMF has a 5.6 percent ABV festbier brewed with 100 percent Colorado ingredients, including Troubadour Malt and Colorado-grown Tettnanger and Crystal hops.
River North Brewery
6021 North Washington Street
3400 Blake Street
River North was one of the first breweries in Colorado to make the pale festbier style of beer. It clocks in at 5.5 percent ABV and uses all German malts, hops and yeast to create a delicious and complex brew. River North is also pairing this beer with its Dogtoberfest event on September 9 starting at 1 p.m.; come on down and drink mugs of festbier with all of the doggos in Denver.
Spice Trade Brewing
8775 East Orchard Road, Greenwood Village
Spice Trade is offering its Festbier, brewed with Pilsner, Munich and Vienna malts, along with food options like Bavarian pretzels, bratwurst and schnitzels through October 31.
1898 South Flatiron Court, Boulder
1501 Lee Hill Drive, Boulder
Upslope's 5.5 percent ABV Festbier features Leopold Brothers' floor-malted pilsner malt, as well as German Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hops. The brewery's description includes fresh-baked bread on the nose followed by a light herbaceous hop character and smooth finish.