Hosting an Oktoberfest Beer Tasting

Father, homebrewer, and beer lover from Upstate NY, Blake Daniels, has joined us at Lilly Sue’s Bites and Brews to share his knowledge on hosting a beer tasting. He has focused on an Oktoberfest-themed beer tasting to fit right in with this beer drinking holiday that is currently taking place!

Beer is a big deal. If you haven’t noticed lately, there has been a huge rise in craft beer sales and a surge of new microbreweries popping up in the US. It’s a perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and hosting a beer tasting is a great way to get yourself started. It’s one thing to take a tour of a microbrewery or try out a few craft beers at your local bar, but organizing a beer tasting in your own home will take you to the next level. It’ll require some research and planning, but in the end it’ll be worth it when you look around at your guests having a good time.

Image via the Baltimore Sun

Image via the Baltimore Sun

First, you should think about choosing some sort of theme for your tasting. One way to do this is to pick a style of beer: Belgian, German, British, American, etc. If you’re planning on hosting a party near the holidays, you could build a tasting around spiced Winter Warmers or Christmas beers. Considering we’re in the season, it made perfect sense to write about how to host an Oktoberfest-themed tasting. Here’s an interesting beer-fact: Oktoberfest brews are often called Märzen, or the German word for March, because they were traditionally brewed in March and stored in cool basements or cellars over the summer.

For those that might not know, Oktoberfest is a 16-day long beer festival in Germany, originating in Bavaria in 1810. It has been cited as the world’s largest festival; attendees are responsible for drinking 7 million liters of beer over the course of 16 days. In honor of the historic festival and its full-bodied, malty lagers, many breweries all over the world have crafted their own Oktoberfest-style brews. There should be plenty of different options on the shelves of your local beer store for you to choose from.

Image via the Baltimore Sun

Image via the Baltimore Sun

Choosing the Beer

You’ll want to have a nice variety of flavors among your selections, but you also want to try to limit yourself to four to six beers. Here is a list of Oktoberfest beers that should give you an idea of just how many labels you have to choose from. I would recommend picking a safe, familiar label or two (Sam Adams, Great Lakes, Saranac), and then exploring some lesser known but well-respected brews (Spaten, Ayinger). Here’s a list of some brews you might want to pick up:

Go-To Favorites:
Samuel Adams Octoberfest
Victory Festbier
Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Classic Examples:
Ayinger Oktoberfest-Märzen
Spaten Oktoberfest
Paulaner Oktoberfest

Regardless of the route you choose to take, be sure you have a solid range of examples — some that are on the hoppier side and others that are darker and maltier.

Bock beers

Storing and Serving the Beer

One common mistake is serving beer that is much too cold. It’s important to keep the beer properly chilled in a refrigerator or cooler before serving, but be sure to bring it to the proper temperature before passing it out to guests. A traditional Oktoberfest should be served at a temperature somewhere between 46 and 54 degrees, which helps to release more carbonation, enhancing the aroma of the beer. The presentation is up to you, but as long as everyone is drinking out of the same vessel they should all have the same experience. At the same time, don’t break your budget buying fancy specialty glasses if you can get away with using what you already have on hand.

Tasting the Beer

That being said, I think what separates a great beer tasting from a good beer tasting is doing it blind. There are some funky beer-related purchases you could make to facilitate the process, but you can also do something as simple as wrapping paper around the labels to keep their identities a secret. Whether or not you decide to provide your guests with notepads to take some notes on each beer, you should at least lead a discussion between each tasting. Be sure to do a bit of research beforehand so you can speak to the style and keep the conversation going. Ask for your guests’ observations and maybe even try to come up with a consensus ‘winner’ among all of the different examples.

 photo P9282800_zps0fa416c3.jpg

Eating Between Beers

In order to be able to truly appreciate the differences among each of the beers, prepare a way for guests to cleanse their palate between beers. Sometimes water alone will do the trick, but the next step up would be crackers or bread of some sort. It depends on how much of a purist you are; some people prefer a palate cleanser to be as flavorless as possible but for the purpose of an Oktoberfest style party, water and crackers aren’t going to cut it. Make the event more festive by incorporating traditional Oktoberfest foods like chicken, roast pork sandwiches, fresh pretzels, potato or bread dumplings.

Music For Your Ears:

~Have a Drink On Me by AC/DC

More To Love:

Katzingers German Deli

Katzingers German Deli

German Pancakes

German Pancakes

Dunkel-style beer

Dunkel-style beer

German-style Beer

German-style Beer


14 responses to “Hosting an Oktoberfest Beer Tasting

  1. Great Post…especially since my neighborhood here in Nashville, Tennessee….Historic Germantown…is about to host our 25 year old “Octoberfest” celebration. Beer, beer and more beers…craft, local, national, interesting, beers…lots of food and 35,000 folks descend on our streets for a 1 day music and…did I say? fest..Salute to October!

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