Oktoberfest began in 1810 as the wedding reception of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and has evolved into an annual celebration of lager and lederhosen observed worldwide. Each year more Oktoberfests, as the beers in the classic Marzen style are known, become available in the States. And according to RICHARD SCHOLZ, owner of Bierkraft, a beer specialty store, U.S. brewers are making truer, more traditional Oktoberfests than their Teutonic counterparts. Scholz, New York City bartenders M.J. KEANE and RORY FARRELLY, and amateur microbrew aficionado MEGAN CLARK tasted 12 currently available brews and chose their favorites for TIME:
Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen (German) got high marks from Bierkraft and Clark for its classic taste. Farrelly and Keane agreed that it would get you through an October night. (But it is available year round.)
Victory Festbier (American) ranked first with Keane and Farrelly, who liked the smooth texture. Bierkraft said this one was a hit at its tastings, and Clark liked the sweetness.
Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Marzen (German) was a close fourth in the Bierkraft tasting and is a favorite back in Munich, but the barkeeps were unimpressed with its subtle taste.
Brooklyn Oktoberfest (American) proved to be Clark's favorite. It had a nice head and looked healthy in the glass to Keane and Farrelly, who also appreciated its yeasty taste.
Pete's Wicked Oktoberfest (American) impressed all with its bright, clear copper color; nice, foamy head; and crisp yet creamy smooth caramel malt flavor.
Wurzburger Hofbrau Oktoberfest (German) was a hit with the bartenders, who likened the scent to that of a botanical garden. Farrelly warned, "I could drink an awful lot of this." --By Lisa McLaughlin