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7 German Beer Styles You Need To Know Before Oktoberfest

It’s October, which means get ready to see taps of Oktoberfest on the handles of your favorite local pubs and Oktoberfest posters for Oktoberfest parties at bars across the land. But what, exactly, is an Oktoberfest beer?  Is it heavy and dark or light and bright? And, for that matter, why is it spelled with that weird ‘k’? Oh, it’s German? Okay. Well, what other German beers are there? Good questions, curious beer quaffer! Get ready to learn about these 7 very important styles of suds from the country that gave the world bratwursts, bleached blond hair and sides of sauerkraut.


A light lager with an effervescent flavor that hits the tip of the nose. Think: a bright, yeasty, harvest-y brew, often made with a touch of spice. The beer typically clocks in between five and 5.9 percent ABV and its original name is “Märzen,” because its brewing process begins in March and is completed in October. Example? Sam Adams Octoberfest.


Anything with this word, or variation of this word, in it – like Hefeweizen – means the beer is made with wheat.

These ales, which can taste a little like clove or banana, often aren’t high in alcohol and don’t offer that IPA bitterness. They’re light, fluffy and fresh (but Dunkelweiens are dark). Try with a lemon or orange slice. Example? Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweizen.


These often drink like a summery sour beer. Made with 50-60 percent wheat, soured with Lactobacillus and unfiltered, there can be a cloudy appearance to these concoctions. Goses, especially during the summer months, can be made with tart berry flavors for an added punch. Example? Northwest Peaks Gose.


The lightest of all beer styles, a Pilsner is type of lager, which, unlike an ale, means the beer is brewed with bottom-fermenting yeasts at colder temperatures. Pilsners originated with the Czech Republic using pilsen malts, which makes the beer taste thin and crisp. Example? Chuckanut Pilsner.


There are several versions of Bock beers, like Doppelbocks and Maibocks, but generally, these beers are maltier (i.e. sweeter) and can be lighter in color or darker and heavier.

They’re regularly made to drink in springtime and often have a stronger ABV compared to other German brews. Example? Shiner Bock.


A lager, this style is full-bodied but light. This is as classic a German beer as you can get. Want to feel like you’re running through the fields with a mug of authentic stuff? Grab a Helles Lager. Example? Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Helles.


Mellow body with a touch of spice, this celebratory brew is cold brewed with a mildly fruity flavor.

After you’ve tried all the other beers on the list, get a pint of this one and cheers your fellow bar mate because you did it! You’re ready for your first real Oktoberfest. Example? Rogue Farms Honey Kolsch.



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