When I set out to buy myself as many 'official' Oktoberfest beers as possible, I realised that pickings were relatively slim. Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Löwenbräu and the Hofbräuhaus are all represented, but there were no signs of Spaten or Augustiner in my locals. The Fran Well have advertised the forthcoming presence of "imported festival beer" at their October Beer Festival, so I may have to return to the yellowy lager depths there. For now, I'm glad to have gotten through this lot - I enjoy the style, but after having four in a row I can't help but think writing about these could be as tedious for me as reading it will be for you.
Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen was the first out. It pours a bit darker than the rest - more amber than piss - with a soapy off-white head. There are some tiny metallic hop notes on the aroma at first, with the usual malt and grain taking over in the end. The taste is much better, with a light and grainy opening turning into a deeper chewy toffee malt before the end. Tasty, but nothing spectacular.
Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier pours more like a Helles, with a very big white head. Sweet lager malts dominate a similarly nondescript aroma, but then I can't really say here's anything wrong with that. It's medium bodied, it's nutty, grainy, sweet and very satisfying, and there's just a touch of bitterness hidden in the folds of light to medium malts.
Paulaner Oktoberfestbier looks like the Löwenbräu, but the aroma gives off a much more, well, lagery essence. It's sweet and vegetal, with light metallic notes, but that doesn't necessarily describe the taste. It's warm malts like the others, but there's just a detection of grassy or floral hops along the way. Passable.
Finally, Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier pours a pale gold, probably in between a Hacker-Pschorr and a Paulaner. Those very mild tin foil notes are present in the aroma again, but that never really hinders the beer. Other than that it's wet grain, slightly vegetal like the Paulaner, and fairly light malts. The taste is lovely, opening like a good Munich Helles before leading into a darker sticky sweet finish. There's a very slight kick from the alcohol at the death, but that really just adds to the deeper malt notes at the end. Good stuff.
Of these four, I reckon It's between Hofbräu and Hacker-Pschorr, with Löwenbräu and Paulaner both passable. In the end though, I'd still opt for the much more affordable Spaten Munich Helles over any of these, while Eight Degrees Ochtoberfest remains my favourite Marzen. Perhaps these beers are better on tap, but I'm not particularly inspired to find out.