Beer Of The Week: Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest collaboration could be the official beer of fall

Illustration for article titled Beer Of The Week: Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest collaboration could be the official beer of fall
Graphic: Allison Corr

Almost all the beer drinkers I know, from the casual fans to the brewers themselves, look forward to Sierra Nevada’s annual Oktoberfest release. For the past five years, the California- and North Carolina-based brewery has teamed up with a different German brewery each year to produce a collaboration Oktoberfest beer. The exact recipe changes annually, but the results have been reliably tasty with enough variation to keep lager nerds interested. This year is another enjoyable entry in the cannon, brewed in conjunction with Bitburger, one of Germany’s largest breweries.


Beers labeled Oktoberfest in the States can actually be one of a few traditional styles of beer: festbiers, märzens, even Vienna lagers. (More on that coming next week!) This year’s Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest is in the märzen style, a toasty, bready, smooth amber-colored beer that’s slightly stronger than a festbier, at 6% ABV.

Illustration for article titled Beer Of The Week: Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest collaboration could be the official beer of fall
Photo: Kate Bernot

But here’s the good news for the average beer drinker: You don’t have to pay attention to any of that backstory! This beer is enjoyable on its own merits, no brewing degree or Cicerone status required. It tastes like a quintessential fall beer, with substantial malts for chilly days but still a crisp finish that makes it refreshing. I may be partial to amber- and brown-hued beers, but I think it’s also just a gorgeous beer to look at.

The aroma teases the malt-focused flavors to come, weaving toast and brown bread crust alongside an almost rye-like spiciness. Maybe it’s the vaunted Bitburger house yeast strain used to brew this beer, but I also detect a faint green note akin to pear skin or green acorns. But I don’t dawdle too much on smelling this beer because I very much want to drink it.

On the tongue, malt dominates from the start. Honey-dipped white bread leads the charge, with darker pumpernickel toast and brioche bun flavors emerging as the sip continues. Some floral, lightly herbal hops flit into the picture just at the swallow, but the overall finish is on the cozy side of sweet. The texture is medium-bodied and smooth, not too chewy or too thin.

If you’ve never tried one of these collaboration Oktoberfests, this year’s is a crowd-pleasing way to start. And if you’ve been tracking these for a few years now, I definitely want to know how you think this year’s stacks up.


Where to get it

Sierra Nevada/Bitburger’s Oktoberfest is available on draft and in 12-ounce bottles through fall in all 50 states. Find it using SN’s beer locator tool.


Have a beer you think should we should consider for inclusion in an upcoming Beer Of The Week column? Email details to 


Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.


Guy Under the Seats

As much as I enjoy Sierra Nevada, I don’t think I’ve ever had one of these before. Now I will be on the lookout.

Every beer nerd has a few revelatory beer stories from their youth. One of mine is Paulaner Oktoberfest. This is back in 1990 (old, etc.) when we were ordering a few kegs of beer for a college party. I think we were doing a European thing and ordered kegs of Lowenbrau and St. Pauli Girl, and somehow the corner liquor store had Paulaner available on their list of options. Some beer genius decided to order Paulaner Oktoberfest, too, even though it was almost twice the cost of the other kegs and we hadn’t heard of it because they didn’t do any advertising. I guess it sounded interesting. My main memory is me and a few friends just circled around that keg all night refilling our plastic cups and commenting with incredulity that, “Hey, this is good.”, “Yeah, this is really good!” The incredulity, which should have been reduced as we got familiar with the marzen taste, instead rose with our blood-alcohol content. One of those things where drunkeness allows you to continue to rediscover something over the course of a night and reconfirm it with your friends. It spurred us to order kegs of Oktoberfest for other parties, German theme or not, and more importantly to branch out and try different beers, because there might be something else good out there we hadn’t heard of.