Welcome to Like A Virgin, a column in which we recommend a different zero-ABV drink each week. They’re not “near beers,” they’re not “mocktails”—they’re delicious beverages that anyone and everyone should try at least once. Got an idea for a future Like A Virgin column? Email us at email@example.com.
Happy Oktoberfest, sober folks! Of course, I would like everybody to have a Happy Oktoberfest, including those who drink alcohol. But I’m specifically extending my warmest seasonal wishes to all my fellow teetotalers because it’s not always easy for them to celebrate holidays centered around drinking as much beer as you possibly can without “accidentally” ripping off your lederhosen.
But this year things are different, for we are living in a golden age of non-alcoholic beers. After years of choking down shitty O’Doul’s, non-drinkers now have ample alcohol-free options that truly put the “craft” in craft beer. Take, for example, Athletic Brewing Company, where non-alcoholic beer isn’t a footnote, but the whole focus of the operation. And when a fully non-alcoholic craft brewery functions like any other craft brewery, you get a special Oktoberfest Festbier to pound while getting their oom-pah-pah on.
The only style of beer served at Munich’s Oktoberfest, Festbier is, by official definition, a moderately bitter German lager with a backbone of sweet maltiness, ideally with notes of toast. (Who doesn’t love toast?) It should have subtle hoppy aromas with herbal, spicy, or floral notes, and a medium smooth and creamy body. Even without the alcohol, Athletic’s Festbier delivers all those things.
Oktoberfest Festbier has German Vienna malts, German Hersbrucker hops, and Munich malts, because for a special occasion like Oktoberfest, one malt just isn’t enough. Sure, Athletic’s version may not “technically” be a Festbier since it’s brewed in Connecticut rather than Munich, but the brewery tried as hard as it could to jam a whole lot of Germany into one little can.
This beverage has a clean-drinking kind of bitterness that goes down easy, with a maltiness that will make you start craving hot pretzels and mustard. I’d say the Festbier style in general has been calibrated to pair with hot pretzels and mustard, so it’s hard not to think about them while appreciating this beer’s quiet chirps of herbal hops.
Athletic’s Oktoberfest Festbier has already sold out online, but do not fret! It is still available in stores, and there’s a good chance it’s still available at a store near you. Hopefully that store also carries pretzels and mustard, because trust me, you’ll need them.