Pouring from a 12 oz. bottle into specialty glassware, Ninkasi Oktoberfest presents itself in a clear gold hue. The foam, though possessing large bubbles and weaker in structure, manages decent retention. Visually, it aligns with the expectations of an Oktoberfest, setting the stage for what’s to come.


The nose of this brew impresses with a rich maltiness that intertwines notes of candy corn, white sugar, wholegrain bread, and hints of volatile lemon oils. The olfactory experience is promising, providing a glimpse into the carefully crafted fusion of Northwest ingredients with the traditional German style.


The initial sip reveals a momentary encounter with a slightly soapy and metallic essence. However, the mid-palate introduces a subtle malt sweetness, attributed to the Carahell and Munich additions. As the journey continues, the soapiness gives way to a grassy hop bite, initially overlooked but gradually appreciated. Ninkasi’s unique touch comes from incorporating a variety of Oregon-grown hops, including Sterling, Crystal, Willamette, and Mt. Hood. Contrary to the label’s promise of a “touch of hop bitterness,” the bitterness takes a more prominent role in the overall flavor profile.


The mouthfeel of this Oktoberfest is light-bodied, contributing to its festival-friendly nature. The beer evolves as it warms, revealing a sharper but fitting grassy hop character. The texture, while not without its complexities, adds to the overall enjoyment of the brew.


Surprisingly, Ninkasi Oktoberfest exceeded expectations, standing out among the myriad American interpretations of the style. Contrary to preconceived notions, it leans more towards a pilsner than the conventional heavy caramel malt amber lager associated with Oktoberfest. Bright and crisp, with a commendable balance of grassy hop character, it embodies the spirit of a true festival beer. This rendition successfully marries the Oregon-grown hops with a traditional German foundation, making it a worthwhile addition to the Oktoberfest lineup. Consider grabbing a six-pack; you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by this refreshing twist on tradition. Prost!