Sept. 23 may be the first day of autumn, but craft breweries have been shipping Oktoberfest lagers, pumpkin ales, and other popular beers of the season for more than a month. As usual, the demand for these malty and spicy beers is high.
Several Atlanta brewpubs, including Five Seasons, Max Lager’s, and Gordon Biersch, make very good draft versions of the German Oktoberfest style. Since the demise of Dogwood Brewing Co., though, no local brewery has bottled an Oktoberfest beer.
Red Brick Brewing Co. changed that with the recent introduction of Red Brick Oktoberfest, available in limited edition seasonal six-packs. The copper-colored lager, made with German bock yeast and Vienna malt, exhibits a sweet aroma and a clean, rich flavor, with a moderately dry finish.
Other perennial Oktoberfest favorites to look for in bottles and on draft include offerings from Ayinger, Bell’s, Brooklyn, Harpoon, Samuel Adams, Victory and Weyerbacher.
New to the U.S. this year, Paulaner’s Wiesn-bier, packaged in1-liter cans, is the same beer served on draft in the official Paulaner tent during Oktoberfest.
Of course, nowadays, American craft breweries are pumping up the malt and hops to create bigger, more extreme Oktoberfest-style beers. Avery the Kaiser and Heavy Seas Prosit! are good examples, while the blood-red Hebrew Freaktoberfest may be more suitable for Halloween.
Pumpkin beers have come a long way from simple spiced ales, grabbing the attention of beer geeks as craft brewers experiment with a variety of takes on the style.
Terrapin’s new hybrid seasonal, Pumpkinfest, is described as having “all of the malt of a German fest beer and all of the spice of Grandma’s pumpkin pie.” It’s brewed with German malts, Vanguard and Hallertau hops, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves.
Hoppin’ Frog Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin, Jolly Pumpkin La Parcela No. 1 Pumpkin, Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin and Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin ales are going to be harder to find, but worth seeking out for a taste of some strong spiced beers.
At Five Seasons Prado, brewer Kevin McNerney will tap his 2010 Fest Bier on Sept. 25 at the brewpub’s annual Oktoberfest celebration. But for a different kind of autumn kick, try McNerney’s 6.5 percent alcohol by volume hard cider, made with fresh North Georgia apples. It should be available in late October.