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Summer is good for quaffing easy-drinking American-style lagers and pilsners, but fall is a good time to turn to fuller-bodied beers with a wider range of flavor profiles. Malts and hops can be adjusted in recipes to get a variety of styles and results. Malts provide the fermentable sugars to make beer and add flavors ranging from sweet to grainy tastes. Hops are the "spice" of the beer. They give beers a bitter taste but also more unique flavors such as citrus and spices. The hops are important because they help balance sweet malts, keep out spoiling bacteria and act as a filter. Here are some Oktoberfest beers and recommendations for fall drinking.


Abita Fall Fest
Abita Brewing Company
Abita Springs, La.

Abita Fall Fest is a Marzen-style beer brewed using German Hersbrucker hops and pale, crystal and chocolate malts. Typically brewed during March and placed in cold storage during the summer months, Marzen is full-bodied, rich and toasty. Abita Fall Fest is true to the style — a full-bodied, malty brew with balanced hop character.

Otter Creek Oktoberfest
Otter Creek Brewing
Middlebury, Vt.

Otter Creek Oktoberfest is an American amber. This style of beer focuses on the malts with a low-to-medium hop character. The Otter Creek uses Hallertau and Tettnang hops, which give the beer a nice hop spice that balances the sweetness from the malts.

Heiner Bräu Festbier
Heiner Bräu
Covington, La.

Heiner Brau Festbier is another Marzen-style beer. Heiner Brau founder and brewmaster Henryk Orlik uses three different types of hops (Spatel, Hallertau perla and northern brewer), which leads to a mild hoppiness that allows the sweet maltiness to come through. Orlik produces beers for several area labels. Heiner Brau brews strictly in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot — the German purity law of 1516. This means he uses malted barley, hops, yeast and water, and no adjuncts, artificial carbonation or other additives.

Paulaner Oktoberfest
Paulaner Salvator Thomas Bräu AG Brewery
Munich, Germany

Started by Pauline monks and named in honor of Saint Francis of Paula, the Paulaner Salvator Thomasbraeu AG Brewery brews this Oktoberfest Marzen. This is a classic example of Marzen style, with a nice interplay between the caramel maltiness and spicy hop bitterness. It's a truly original Oktoberfest beer.

Weihenstephaner Festbier
Brauerei Weihenstephan
Freising, Germany

The Weihenstephaner Festbier is another German Marzen. This one differs from the other Marzens in that it is more hop focused, using Saaz hops, which bring out a bitter citrus flavor that cuts through the sweetness of the blended malts.

Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale
Buffalo Bill's Brewery
Hayward, Calif.

Generally released as a fall seasonal beer, pumpkin ales are brewed using actual pumpkin or pumpkin puree. Depending on the brewer, spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and allspice may be incorporated. Buffalo Bill's uses fresh, roasted pumpkins and adds cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to give it a true pumpkin-pie taste.

Many of these beers are widely available. Bars and stores with big selections include the Bulldog, Cooter Brown's Tavern, d.b.a., Lagers International Ale House, Martin Wine Cellar, Stein's Market and Deli, Whole Foods Markets, Dorignac's and World Market.

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