Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh
Chances are you’re probably not making the yearly trek to Munich to celebrate one of the largest beer festivals in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the Oktoberfest season entirely, though. There are more than enough local Oktoberfest celebrations in the Pittsburgh area to give your lederhosen a good workout and get you yelling Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Oi, Oi Oi just like you were in Munich.
Take for example Pittsburgh’s Teutonia Mannerchor. This year the German club is hosting their own special Oktoberfest celebration that’s open to the general public. The celebration will feature authentic Oktoberfest beer from Hacker Pschorr. The Mannerchor is located in Pittsburgh’s Deutschtown section of the Northside, and is happening September 8,9, and 10. Founded in 1854, the Teutonia Mannerchor is one of the oldest German singing societies, making it a perfect place to get the full Oktoberfest experience.
What Is An Oktoberfest Beer?
Back in the days before refrigeration was common, it was nearly impossible to brew beer correctly in the summer months. Brewing when it was this hot leads to off flavors and made for a breeding ground of bad bacteria. This meant that the springtime was the last beer brewed until the cooler fall months with the last beers being traditionally brewed in March, or as the Bavarians called it, Märzen.
These March-brewed beers were kept in cold storage underground in caves, called lagering, through the summer and into the fall when they would fully mature and be ready for drinking. The grains and hops used in these beers, along with the lagering process, gave them a rich, toasty character and the beers themselves were often dark copper in color with a medium level of alcohol, usually around 4-6% ABV.
What is Oktoberfest?
With all this talk about Oktoberfest beers, you might be wondering what exactly Oktoberfest is. Oktoberfest is known as one of, if not the largest and most notable, beer festivals in the world. The original Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Princess Theresa and Prince Ludwig and the party literally lasted for days!
Oktoberfest always starts on a Saturday and ends on the first Sunday in October, lasting for 16 days. To figure out when Oktoberfest starts, just count back 16 days from the first Sunday in October and you have the Saturday that the official festival begins.
One of the breweries that offer true Oktoberfest beers is Hacker-Pschorr. Their Original Oktoberfest Märzen is full-bodied and flavorful with an amber color and a creamy white head, everything you’d expect from a true Oktoberfest beer. At 5.8% ABV, it’s the perfect combination of taste and level of alcohol to let you enjoy as many as you’d like.
The best part about Hacker-Pschorr’s Original Oktoberfest is that you can get your hands on one without heading to Munich.. While you can pick this beer up at a variety of locations around the Pittsburgh area, it will be the featured beer at this year’s Teutonia Oktoberfest.
Along with the Original Oktoberfest, Hacker-Pschorr Weisse is a traditional Weissbier that is a soft, sparkling beer with an aromatic yet mild character. This beer has an intense gold yellow color and a creamy white head. The German Weisse yeast used in this beer give it fruity citrus notes with just a hint of acidity. Brewer’s wheat from the Champagne Region is paired with certified Hallertau hops to give a truly unique experience.
Even More Oktoberfest Beers
While technically Oktoberfest-style beers since they’re not brewed in the city walls of Munich, these American versions are true to style and excellent ways to celebrate even more Oktoberfest fun.
Victory Brewing Festbier – This is Victory’s version of an Oktoberfest Märzen, using German malts as well as hops, this subtly sweet brew offers a delicate malt nose as well as a full body that makes it a great version of this traditional style. Keeping with the style, this beer comes in at 5.6% ABV and is available August through October.
Lancaster Oktoberfest – Oktoberfest uses seven different malts and three varieties of imported and domestic hops, as well as authentic Bavarian lager yeast. Light in copper color, this beer is full-bodied with a nice malt sweetness. 5.5% ABV
Schell’s Oktoberfest – With its bright copper-orange color, it is quite symbolic of the autumnal shift of the season. A slightly higher strength, and warm malt body make it the perfect companion for the crisp fall weather in Minnesota. The use of Munich and Vienna malts give the beer its toasty malt backbone, and melanoidin-rich flavor and aroma. It has a soft malt sweetness, pleasant mouthfeel and a slight spiciness. Hop character is subdued, as the malt takes center stage with this beer. 5.5% ABV
Straub Brewing Oktoberfest Elchand – Named for the massive free-roaming elk found near the Straub brewery, their Elchand (German for Elk Country) is a perfect example of an Oktoberfest-style beer brewed right here in Pennsylvania. Rich and flavorful, this seasonal beer can be found starting in late August through October.
Stoudts Brewing Oktoberfest – Hailing from Adamstown, PA, Stoudts Brewing brews a stunning example of an American Oktoberfest-style beer just in time for all your Ziggy Zagge enjoyment. This medium-bodied amber lager is malty with a definite aromatic hop character, exactly what you’d expect in a true Oktoberfest-style beer.
Erie Brewing Oktoberfest – Brewed in the traditional manner, Erie Brewing’s take on the Oktoberfest-style lager is a shining example of how great a tried and true style of beer really can be. Smooth, clean, crisp, and malty, this brew comes in a little higher than most at 7.8% ABV, but for good reason. The higher alcohol content gives this beer a slight bite that’s perfect for the start of much colder days and nights.
Smuttynose Brewing Oktoberfest – There’s no such thing as too many Oktoberfest-style beers. While simple by design, these beers have subtle nuances that differ from brewery to brewery. In other words, if it’s a style of beer you love, you really do need to try them all. Smuttynose Brewing, while far from new, is releasing their first Oktoberfest-style beer this year thanks to their new German brewhouse. Coming in at 6.3% ABV and a slightly higher than average 38 IBU, this is one beer that needs to be run through its paces so we can add a new favorite to our list.
As you can see, there’s quite a bit to celebrate this Oktoberfest. With long-running beers like Hacker Pschorr’s Oktoberfest to new entries like Smuttynose Brewing’s version…this year make sure you celebrate like the Germans and have a ball.