This content was originally published by The Hop Review, a digital magazine that joined the Hop Culture family in March 2020.
This piece was written by Nick Costa.
September 16, 2016 marks the opening of the world’s largest and most famous beer festival, Oktoberfest. For more than two weeks, millions of drinkers will converge on Munich, Germany in their lederhosen and dirndl to raise several liter steins in celebration.
While the festival has evolved over its 200-year history, the beer has remained consistent. Your local bottle shop is likely to be filled with dozens of craft Oktoberfest options at this point. But in Germany, the style designation is taken seriously. Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot (celebrating its 500th anniversary this year, to boot) and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the festival and claim the coveted, true ‘Oktoberfest’ moniker. To learn more about traditional Oktoberfest beers, check out our Style Guide detailing this German Märzen Lager.
Can’t make it out to Bavaria this year? No problem, of course. There will be plenty of local celebrations over the next month serving up old world Märzens and local craft interpretations–and Chicago is no exception. Nearly every local brewer has taken a shot at the ‘Fest’ beer this year, so we’ve compiled a list of a few Chicago versions to imbibe, over pretzels and a schnitzel. We’ve also got a few local Fest celebrations worth checking out, alongside some tried and true Bavarian bar spots.
Burnt City Oktoberfest Lager
5.3% Abv – LINCOLN PARK, CHICAGO
Toasted malt with hints of caramel and toffee. Smooth with an underlying bitterness that lingers, plus a light sweetness. Closest of the Chicago area brews to the traditional Bavarian offerings, in our opinion.
5.2% ABV – LYONS, IL
Spicy and earthy hops take over the rich toasted malts on the nose. The flavor matches the aroma, as the malts take a back seat to the hops. And overall, this beer has a clean snappy finish. Just like being in a Munich beirgarten.
6.1% ABV – RAVENSWOOD, CHICAGO
The Chicago lager stalwarts, Metropolitan doesn’t disappoint with its Afterburner either. A delicate balance of sweet caramels, toasted nuts, and doughy breads round out the palate. It’s smooth, soft and pillowy–with a refreshing crispness to complete each pour. How could one go wrong here?
5.4% ABV – LEMONT, IL
Southwest Chicagoland’s Pollyanna brings you a mild aroma of sweet breads with a light fruitiness, with their German inspiration. Clean with a dry and refreshing finish, a great representation of the traditional Märzen is showcased from this suburban favorite.
5.7% ABV – AVONDALE, CHICAGO
At this point on Chicago’s craft revolution timeline, you’re well aware of the seasonal offerings from the brewery of the same name. Revolution Brewing presents toffee and toasted malts with a mild hop aroma, for the simply dubbed Oktoberfest. Definitely the hoppiest of the bunch, Rev highlights noticeable grassy hops that lingered throughout. The craft Oktoberfest, for those who prefer to sway a bit from tradition.
Two Brothers Atom Smasher
7.7% ABV – WARRENVILLE, IL
Atom Smasher is a great Märzen from the Two Brothers gang, but with a mild twist. The beer is aged in oak to add subtle complexity to an already stellar beer. Reach for this if you’re feeling like turning it up a notch, or looking for something with a few more layers.
September 23 & 24
The Oktoberfest Party will be in the back lot held at the production brewery located at 3340 N. Kedzie Ave. $10 gets you in the door and a half liter stein. Beer tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20. Oktoberfest and Rev staples will be pouring, as well as some specialty tappings during each session. More info and tickets are HERE.
The unofficially official Oktoberfest celebration will be held at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, IL on Sunday, Sept. 18 and will feature live German Oompah music from The Happy Wanderers and Jimmy’s Bavarians. Enjoy a beer stein full of Atom Smasher, while eating authentic German food and playing classic Oktoberfest games. Oh, it’s also free admission.
September 8 – October 8
Visit the Loop classic, The Berghoff, where they are celebrating Oktoberfest all month long, indoors. Specialty Oktoberfest lunch and dinner menus, available from September 8 to October 31 will provide you with a delicious array of traditional Oktoberfest fare to choose from. Oktoberfest music will be live every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Lastly, a handful of our favorite German bars in the city to lift a stein.