Oktoberfest, also known as Festbier or Märzen, remains a niche in the U.S. beer scene. In my quest for American Oktoberfests, the dominance of Sam Adams OctoberFest and the rising popularity of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest stood out. The limited availability of alternatives, especially at major outlets like Costco, compelled this exploration.

Imported German options, except for Ayinger’s Oktober Fest-Märzen, were omitted due to past unfavorable experiences. Notably absent were Oktoberfests from Bell’s, Victory, Great Lakes, Yuengling, and New Glarus, either unavailable or not distributed in my region. This evaluation aims for fairness, acknowledging its limitations.


Eight Oktoberfest beers, sans adjuncts, and within the ABV range were blind-tested. Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and Ayinger represented the popular choices. The beers were evaluated based on style criteria and personal enjoyment. Transparency was maintained, acknowledging prior sampling of five beers in the past year.


8. Left Hand Oktoberfest

Left Hand’s Oktoberfest, with a sweet and unbalanced profile, lacked bitterness, earning it the last spot in this lineup.

7. Sam Adams OctoberFest

While Sam Adams presented a slightly more balanced flavor with subtle bitterness, its intense apple-like esters and mealy apple texture were off-putting.

6. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2019

Sierra Nevada’s entry, though technically flawless, failed to make a mark, displaying a muted aroma and a grain-focused but unremarkable flavor.

5. Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen

Despite signs of damage, Ayinger’s offering displayed complexity with a rich fattiness, silky mouthfeel, and a mix of licorice, graininess, and caramel.

4. JosephsBrau Oktoberfest

A surprise from Trader Joe’s house lineup, JosephsBrau Oktoberfest, stood out with citrus-like hops, toasted bread, honey rolls, and a refreshing balance.

3. AleSmith Oktoberfest

AleSmith’s Oktoberfest, a dessert beer with intense malt complexity and a lack of bitterness, showcased rich flavors, including baked apple pie.

2. Enegren Oktoberfest

Enegren’s unexpected grain-focused aroma, soft carbonation, and authentic malt-forward flavor made it a standout in balance and authenticity.

1. SKA Brewing Oktoberfest

SKA’s Oktoberfest emerged as the winner, boasting a unique aroma combining spiced orange peel, rustic bread, and lemon. Its bright and juicy character set it apart, capturing the essence of the festival.


In this blind panel test, the beers exhibited diverse profiles, with Enegren standing out for authenticity and SKA Brewing winning for overall enjoyability. Interestingly, popular U.S. Oktoberfests ranked lower, emphasizing the importance of blind evaluations in overcoming bias. Ayinger’s structural damage aside, the beers largely adhered to style parameters, providing a clear overview of the Oktoberfest landscape in the U.S.