Oktoberfest Brews 

It all started in Munich, Germany, 200 years ago as a celebration of the marriage between Princess Theresa and Prince Ludwig. The party lasted for days and was such a success that those fun-loving Bavarians decided to make it an annual affair. To get the start date for the festival you count back 16 days from the first Sunday in October. That makes the 2010 official kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 16. It's the perfect excuse to hoist a stein of German lager. This year's lineup--all bottled in a generous half-liter format--is particularly impressive.

Ayinger Oktoberfest

This beer pours a dark amber and offers light, floral aromas of dry hops and barely sweet malt with fruity touches of apple, plum and caramel. This full-bodied lager has a beautiful malt backbone that is nicely balanced by crisp hops with just a hint of bitterness. The flavors have an appealing depth with nuances of plum, currant, toast, spice and something akin to a crunchy soda cracker. A classic from Bavaria.

Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

Hacker-Pschorr is a bit darker in color than the Ayinger, with aromas of toasted grain backed by earthy hops, mineral, toffee, soft malt and green tea. It's medium-bodied in the mouth with toasted malt flavors, mild hops, baked apple, raisin and light touches of cocoa and coffee. A refreshing bit of citrus comes through on the finish in this easy drinking entry from Munich.

Paulaner Oktoberfest

Lighter in color than its two companions, Paulaner has a thicker, longer-lasting froth and offers heady aromas of fresh-baked, whole grain bread laced with fruit, caramel, herbs and hops. There's an appealing nuttiness on the palate that blends soft malt with smooth hops, a bright citrus backbone and an appealing brioche quality. It finishes exceptionally smooth with a nice persistence.

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