Renowned for its significant pockets of German immigrant communities and unreasonably cold winters, Midwest brewers turn out some of the best fall beers in the country, and they’re extremely prolific. There are, of course, several takes on Oktoberfest to be found in Wisconsin if you want a session-style lager to drink with friends all afternoon, but the Great Lakes region has also been producing some of the best-reviewed craft brews in recent years, like at Founders Brewing Company and Lakefront Brewery. Here’s a list of seven of them you should try.
1. Big Eddy Uber-Oktoberfest, Leinenkugel (Chippewa Falls, WI)
Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy has been getting increasingly common as a light, drinkable summer beer over the past couple of years, but much of the brewery’s output stays relatively local. Uber-Oktoberfest is one of those beers, and it’s essentially an imperial Marzen-style brew, boasting a higher alcohol content and bitterness level than other lagers in the same family, but the sweet caramel, toasted malts, and notes of fruitiness set it apart.
2. La Parcela, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (Dexter, MI)
ABV: 5.9%IBU: 18A great pumpkin ale for sour fans, La Parcela is aged in oak barrels and can be identified by the slightly dry, tart taste of grapefruit that adds to the coriander, nutmeg, and other spices garnishing the pumpkin. Definitely a complex beer, and one that’s a little lighter than usual in the often hearty, high-calorie world of pumpkin beer.
3. Founders Harvest Ale, Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, MI)
One of the most well-loved harvest ales on the market, Founders Harvest Ale is one of the few beers to maintain a world-class rating from Beer Advocate over the course of thousands of ratings. As you may expect from the high IBU content (far higher than most fall seasonals), the wet, recently harvested hops hit you upfront along with the citrus flavor, but toasted malt is also there to mellow it out. A perfect fall brew, particularly for connoisseurs and bold IPA fans.
ABV: 5.8%As one would expect, this Marzen-style beer from Milwaukee, a city built up by its German immigrant population, is a solid, well-done take on the style. Malty with notes of caramel and sweet bread, it’s the perfect beer to knock back at a festival with a soft pretzel (or a bratwurst).
5. New Holland Ichabod Ale, New Holland Brewing Company (Holland, MI)
Combining malted barley with spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, this pumpkin ale is up there with the best of them, and it's great with big fall harvest meals and tasty desserts. Definitely a treat, and not as overpowering as some other pumpkin-based beers.
6. Oktoberfest, Sprecher Brewing Company (Glendale, WI)
ABV: 5.5%IBUs: 15Another malty Marzen-style selection out of Wisconsin, this is a classic, rich amber lager with some sweetness that gets balanced out by its mild hop profile. There’s some fruitiness to it as well, helping to keep it light and a decent choice for session drinking.
7. Great Lakes Oktoberfest, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland, OH)
A brew that’s highly anticipated every year, Great Lakes Oktoberfest is a gem that several craft beer aisles will carry throughout the area. Fermented and matured slowly to honor the Marzen-style tradition, this tastes just right for an Oktoberfest—sweet upfront with notes of caramel and toasted malts, then a pleasantly bitter, hoppy finish.