Oktoberfest Recipes – Ingredients, Water Profile, & Brewing Notes

Whether you’re preparing your conditioning tanks for your annual Oktoberfest celebration or you want to try your hand at the annual brew, partaking in this seasonal golden lager is a great way to participate in German culture.

Brewing an Oktoberfest using German ingredients as starting points will capture the flavors and aromas of the style. Sweet, bready specialty malts like Munich and Vienna give this beer its signature taste. Hallertau and Saaz hops balance the sweetness with earthy and floral notes. Start brewing an Oktoberfest in March so it’s ready in September.

Keep reading to learn exactly how to brew your own Oktoberfest.

What is an Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest beer is one of the most consumed beer styles in the fall months. It’s a perfect style to sit around the fire as nights get longer and temperatures start to drop.

Oktoberfest beer is sweet with a bready and biscuit malt taste. It is pale-amber to light brown with a white head and medium body. This lager beer is cleanly fermented with medium carbonation. American versions tend to exhibit a greater hop presence in flavor and aroma with spicy and floral notes.

Key characteristics of an Oktoberfest - infographic with ABV, aroma, mouthfeel, IBU, color, and flavor.
Key characteristics of an Oktoberfest

Defining characteristics of Oktoberfest beers include:

  • Color – Pale amber to brown-orange, 4-15 SRM
  • Common flavor – Sweet malt profile, bread, and biscuit
  • Aroma – Bread and biscuit, some caramel notes
  • Mouthfeel – Clean and crisp, medium body
  • IBUs (Bitterness) – 20-30
  • ABV – 5.1-6%

Overall, Oktoberfest is a clean, crisp beer style that balances malt sweetness with hop bitterness to achieve a drinkable profile and mid-tier ABV. It’s not bitter and has minimal hop notes. German and other European Oktoberfests are lighter than those brewed in America.

History of the Oktoberfest

In September in Germany, the country holds a more than two-centuries-old celebration. Oktoberfest, originally known as d’Wiesen, is an annual string of festivals in Germany and other parts of Europe. The festivals commonly host parades, music, and most notably beer.

Oktoberfest beer was the name given to the most common type of beer brewed for and served at the original Oktoberfest festival in 1810. The first Oktoberfest beer styles were straw-gold with a cleaner overall profile. Over time, the style – especially in America – evolved into a darker, sweeter version.

Four people celebrate Oktoberfest with beer, food, and pretzels.

The original festival celebrated Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, hence the festival’s initial name. Since then, it remains a symbol and celebration of historical Bavarian and, more broadly, German culture.

Oktoberfest beer has evolved since the first festival and has undergone changes in America to become the style drunk in the country today. The classic Oktoberfest beer is a paler version of the one commonly associated with the festival.

Popular commercial Oktoberfests

Here are a few great examples of Oktoberfests for you to try:

  • Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier – Deep gold with a full body. Traditional Oktoberfest style with a mellow taste and some hop aroma.
  • Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – Rich malt sweetness with a full body. Plenty of biscuit malt notes with honey and caramel flavors.
  • Blue Point Oktoberfest – Amber hues with medium foam. Sweet malt aroma and medium body with a slightly bitter finish.
  • Sly Fox Oktoberfest – Toasty malt flavor and aroma with light spicy hop notes. Dry and quick finish.

Popular Octoberfest recipe kits (all-grain or extract)

Oktoberfest - All Grain or Extract Beer Brewing Kit (5 Gallons)

This fest beer, historically brewed in spring and aged in cold caves over the summer, is a copper-colored Lager with an emphasis on that German malt flavor.

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How to brew an Oktoberfest

Now that you know a bit about the history of Oktoberfest and the namesake beer style, I will detail every aspect of how to brew one. I will go step by step to dive into the ingredients and how they are used on brew day.

The entire process from the brew day to tasting an Oktoberfest can be a long one. Fermentation periods are longer for lagers and additional conditioning periods are recommended. The whole thing can take up to 7 weeks or longer if you’re patient enough.

If you’re planning to break out your Oktoberfest for the September celebration, I’d recommend you start brewing in March.

Recipe and ingredients

Sourcing the perfect ingredients is the first step in brewing your Oktoberfest.

The recipes for this style typically use the same ingredients with some variation here and there:

  • Water profile
  • Base grains
  • Specialty grains or other additions
  • Hops
  • Yeast

Below are some tips and guidelines to get you started, but feel free to experiment with the style.

Water profile

In general, good-tasting water produces good-tasting beer. However, a targeted water profile suited to your beer style can make all the difference.

Start with your most convenient water source. A good water profile for an Oktoberfest uses soft water without excess calcium and magnesium. Aim for heightened chloride and sulfate levels – around 36 ppm and 79 ppm respectively.

The style pulls a lot of flavor from the malts, striking a balance between the grains and hops. Check out this article for a detailed analysis of the best Oktoberfest water profile.

Base grains

High-quality base grains make a big difference in a beer, even if they’re not the star of the show.

In the case of Oktoberfests, base grains complement specialty grains. The choicest base grains for an Oktoberfest are the standard American 2-Row and German Pilsner malts. Pilsner malt is traditionally used in this style, paired with other German malts.

The malt sweetness from the base grains should be mild. They’ll provide some sweet flavors and pale color to the wort. Pilsner malt imparts subtle honey notes.

The Oktoberfest grain bill consists largely of both base and specialty grains. Sometimes, specialty grains like Munich or Vienna make up 50% or more of the grist.

Specialty grains or other additions

Most Oktoberfest flavors come from specialty malts.

Munich and Vienna are two of the most common specialty grains in Oktoberfest. They add bread and biscuit notes characteristic of the style. These grains generally make up about 50% of the grain bill with the rest coming from 2-Row or Pilsner malt.

Munich is the most traditional, but Vienna also adds a touch of bready sweetness. In the end, Munich malt is used for the majority of the bill. These specialty malts give Oktoberfest beers their orange-amber hues.

Other specialty malts to consider for an Oktoberfest beer are:

  • Dark/Light Munich – Dark or Light Munich malt increase roastiness or add a more subtle malt sweetness respectively.
  • Biscuit Rye – A solid addition to American Oktoberfest beers where this malt complements spicy hop notes.
  • Crystal – Adds notes of caramel to round out the sweetness brought on by other specialty grains. 


In keeping with its cultural roots, Oktoberfest beers use almost exclusively German hops.

The most common are noble hops like Saaz and Hallertau. When it comes to Oktoberfest hops, German variants with spicy and floral notes are perfect, like ones you would find in a pilsner or other German lagers.

You don’t necessarily have to use only German hops. What is important is to choose hops that complement one another. However, you should use German hops for most of the aroma and flavor generation. Bittering hops can vary for efficiency purposes, as they don’t produce much or any flavor.


Bittering hops are added at the beginning of the boil. Most of the flavor and nearly all of the aroma from the hops are boiled away. Hops used in this method will primarily add hop bitterness as their alpha acids isomerize. 

Since you won’t get much flavor or aroma from these hops, you can pick hops strictly based on alpha acid composition regardless of where they’re from. Choose hops high in alpha acids to make the bittering process more efficient. Inefficient hops or high quantities can add an undesirable vegetal characteristic.

Below are some good bittering hops for an Oktoberfest.

NamePurposeAlpha Acid %
Hallertauer TraditionBittering + Aroma4.6-7%
Hallertau TaurusBittering + Aroma12.3-17.9%
PerleBittering + Aroma8-9%
CascadeBittering + Aroma4.5-8.9%
Table showing the best bittering hops for brewing an Oktoberfest.
Aroma and flavor

On the other side are the hops you include for their aroma and flavor.

Aroma and flavor hops are added later in the boil. The less time they are in the boiling wort, the more their aroma appears in the beer. Most Oktoberfest hop additions happen at the beginning of the boil, meaning fewer aroma and flavor hops are used than bittering hops. Common aroma hop additions are Saaz, Mittelfruh, and Tradition.

Certain hop varieties will not mesh very well. Look for hops that have similar characteristics or complementary combinations

It’s typical for Oktoberfest beers to use just one or two hop varieties with most additions coming at the beginning of the boil. Flavor and aroma additions are limited for this style, so try to stick to one to three, primarily German, strains.

NameFlavor/AromaAlpha Acid %
SaazHerbal, spicy2.5-4.5%
Hallertau MittelfruhFloral, spicy3.5%
Hallertau TraditionEarthy, grassy, nectar fruits4.6-7%
CrystalWoody, floral, fruity2.8-4.4%
WillametteHerbal, fruity, floral, spicy4-6%
Table showing the best hops for adding flavor and aroma when brewing an Oktoberfest.


Another important ingredient for Oktoberfests is the yeast strain.

Good lager yeast strains for Oktoberfests have medium to high flocculation with decent attenuation, resulting in a clean fermentation. Avoid ale yeasts when possible, although some Kolsch strains are acceptable.

An Oktoberfest will typically have no ester-produced flavors. Most aroma and flavor come from the malt and a touch from the hops.


Below are some good dry yeast options for an Oktoberfest.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemperature Range
SafLager W-34/7080-84%Medium-high53-64°F
Mangrove Jack’s M76 Bavarian Lager77-80%Medium45-57°F
SafLager S-18980-84%High53-64°F
Table showing the best dry yeast strains for brewing an Oktoberfest.

Below are some good liquid yeast options for an Oktoberfest.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemperature Range
WLP820 Oktoberfest/Marzen65-73%Medium52-58°F
Wyeast 2633 Oktoberfest Lager73-77%Low-medium48-58°F
OYL-107 Oktoberfest73-77%Medium-high46-58°F
Table showing the best liquid yeast strains for brewing an Oktoberfest.

Brewing process

Once you’ve got your ingredients and your equipment is sanitized, you’re ready to brew your Oktoberfest! Let’s review the steps of the brewing process, as lagers can be a bit tricky.

The process for brewing an Oktoberfest has several distinct steps:

  • Mashing
  • Boil
  • Whirlpool or flameout

Before brew day, consider whether you are doing single infusion or step mash, the mashing temperature, necessary water quantities, whether you are using a yeast starter, and the hop schedule.

Once you’ve figured out the answers to these questions, the brew day will be pretty standard. If your malt is not pre-milled, you’ll start there before moving on to the mash. After the mash-in and rest, you’ll lauter and sparge.

After collecting enough wort for your batch size it’ll be on to the boil with the hopping schedule. Then it’s cooling the wort and pitching yeast for fermentation.


Mashing is fairly standard for this style, and temperature ranges are nothing out of the ordinary.

The malts used for an Oktoberfest are ready from the start, so there’s no need for a step mash. A single infusion mash will work perfectly. Mash between 151 and 154°F for a balanced beer. 

With an Oktoberfest, I recommend you mash at 152°F to let the malt profile shine. Your mash-in and rest should be roughly an hour. A one-hour mash will extract the right amount of sweetness from the bready grains.

You should have roughly 1 quart of water per pound of grain in your recipe.


The boil is necessary to sterilize the wort, denature enzymes activated during the mash stage, and stabilize the proteins.

The boiling period for an Oktoberfest will be between 60-90 minutes long. This allows you to extract enough bitterness from the bittering hops added at the beginning of the hour. Flavor and aroma hops will be added at the end of this stage, but these hops should be used sparingly in an Oktoberfest.

Common times to add flavor and aroma hops are 20, 10, and 5 minutes before the end of the boil. The longer these hops are in the boil, the more bitterness they will impart.

Whirlpool or flameout

Hops can be added even after the boil just before the wort is cooled for yeast pitching, at flameout, or through whirlpooling.

Adding hops just after flameout or during whirlpool are similar methods, but slightly different. Both take place just after removing the boiling wort from the heat. As the wort cools, you can add hops to get more aroma and flavor with little to no bittering.

The difference is evident in the whirlpooling method. Instead of just adding the hops to a cooling wort, you also create a whirlpool in the wort. This collects the trub while the hops add their flavor and aroma.

For Oktoberfest beers, whirlpool and flameout additions are uncommon. Most hop additions are made while the flame is still on, with at least 5 or 10 minutes left in the boil.


As a lager, the fermentation process for an Oktoberfest is a little different.

As with all beer fermentation, your Oktoberfest will benefit from a consistent fermenting temperature. Depending on the recipe and the yeast used, however, temperatures might need to increase or drop over time.

Oktoberfest recipes often require a cold crash, a process that helps improve the clarity of a beer by dropping the temperature after fermentation for an extended period of time.


The temperature you ferment at will depend on the strain of yeast you use.

For an average Oktoberfest, try to keep the fermenter around 55°F. Lager yeasts ferment at much lower temperatures than ale yeasts and they take longer to finish fermentation.

Keeping the fermenter at a uniform temperature will help your quality in the end.

Bottling or kegging

The age-old question of bottling versus kegging continues.

Oktoberfest beers don’t require one packaging method over another. The beer does not benefit from bottling or kegging.

Choose a method that works best for you and your carbonation style.

Oktoberfest recipes

If you're planning to brew an Oktoberfest, start in March!

Here are three Oktoberfest recipes for you to try at home. Each is an all-grain recipe yielding five-gallon batches. Make sure you allow enough time for a lengthy fermentation and lagering process.

  • Ballast Point, Oktoberfest Marzen
  • (M)Oktoberfest
  • Brewing with Briess, Oktoberfest

Ballast Point Oktoberfest

Brewery Ballast Point provides a detailed explanation of how to brew an Oktoberfest here.

This is a fairly standard – if Americanized – version of the traditional Oktoberfest.


  • German Pilsner Malt – 5 lb 
  • German Munich Type I Malt – 5 lb 
  • Dark Munich Malt – 1 lb 
  • Caramunich II Malt – 0.5 lb 
  • British Dark Crystal – 0.25 lb 
  • 1.5 oz Hallertau Tradition
  • Clarifier; Irish Moss – 1 tsp or 1 tablet of Whirlfloc
  • WLP820 Oktoberfest Lager Yeast (2 packets)
  • Yeast Nutrient: 0.5 tsp White Labs (0.5 tsp/gal Biotin) 


  1. Set up all-grain brewing equipment.
  2. Heat 3.9 gallons of strike water to 161°F.
  3. Slowly add the malts to the heated water in the mash. Stir while adding.
  4. Mash at 149°F for 60 minutes.
  5. After the mash, recirculate the wort until the runoff is mostly clear.
  6. Sparge with 170°F water for 45-60 minutes. Collect 6-7 gallons for the boil.
  7. Begin the 90-minute boil. Add 0.5 oz of Hallertau Tradition hops.
  8. At 60 minutes left on the boil, add 1 oz of Hallertau Tradition hops.
  9. At 15 minutes left on the boil, add your clarifier and yeast nutrient.
  10. Cool the wort to pitching temperatures.
  11. Pitch yeast.
  12. Ferment at 50°F for 3 days.
  13. Ferment at 53°F for 3 days.
  14. Ferment at 55°F for 3 days.
  15. Ferment at 65-70°F for 5 days.
  16. Bottle or keg as desired.
  17. Carbonate your beer.
    1. If bottling, prime your beer for bottle conditioning. Carbonation can take 2 weeks.
    2. If kegging, force carbonate.
  18. Once carbonation is done, enjoy your beer!


This mock Oktoberfest was originally posted on Brulosophy.

The author notes that he had encountered concerns about the Kolsch yeast, but notes that he’s never had any issues achieving the crispness you want to see from a lager.

Despite doubts, this recipe took first place in its division in a local BJCP competition.


  • Vienna Malt – 5 lbs
  • Munich Malt – 2.5 lbs
  • German Pilsner Malt – 2 lbs
  • Crystal Malt – 0.5 lbs
  • Honey Malt – 0.5 lbs
  • Special B – 2 oz                 
  • Saaz – ~20 IBU at 60 min.
    • Saaz – 0.5 oz at 15 min.
  • Your yeast strain. Suggested: WLP029 – German/Kolsch Ale


  1. Set up all-grain brewing equipment.
  2. Heat 4.75 gallons of water to 152°F.
  3. Slowly add the malts to the heated water in the mash tun. Stir while adding.
  4. Mash at 152°F for 60 minutes.
  5. After the mash, recirculate the wort until the runoff is mostly clear.
  6. Sparge with 170°F water for 45-60 minutes. Collect 6-7 gallons for the boil.
  7. Begin the 90-minute boil. 
  8. At 60 minutes left on the boil, add the _ oz of Saaz hops.
  9. At 15 minutes left on the boil, add 0.5 oz of Saaz hops.
  10. Cool the wort to pitching temperatures, around 56°F.
  11. Pitch yeast.
  12. Ferment at 58°F for 4-5 days.
  13. Ferment at 65°F for additional 5-8 days.
  14. Cold crash for at least 2 days after final gravity is stable.
  15. Bottle or keg as desired.
  16. Carbonate your beer.
    1. If bottling, prime your beer for bottle conditioning. Carbonation can take 2 weeks.
    2. If kegging, force carbonate.
  17. Once carbonation is done, enjoy your beer!

Brewing with Briess Oktoberfest

This recipe comes courtesy of Briess, an ingredient supply company that specializes in fine malts and other ingredients for brewing great beer.

This Oktoberfest uses 8 Briess malts to brew a complex nutty, subtly roasted flavor.


  • GoldPils Vienna Malt – 5 lbs
  • Ashburne Mild Malt – 3.5 lbs
  • Bonlander Munich Malt – 2 lbs
  • Carapils malt – 0.5 lb
  • Victory Malt – 10 oz
  • Caracrystal Wheat Malt – 6 oz
  • Carabrown Malt – 5 oz
  • Blackprinz Malt – 0.5 oz
  • Hallertau Tradition – 1.5 oz
  • Hallertau Taurus – 1 oz
  • WLP820 Oktoberfest Lager Yeast


  1. Set up all-grain brewing equipment.
  2. Heat 3.5 gallons of water to 152°F.
  3. Slowly add the malts to the heated water in the mash tun. Stir while adding.
  4. Mash at 152°F for 60 minutes.
  5. After the mash, recirculate the wort until the runoff is mostly clear.
  6. Sparge with 170°F water for 45-60 minutes. Collect 6-7 gallons for the boil.
  7. Begin the 60-minute boil. Add the 1.5 oz Hallertau Tradition hops.
  8. At 20 minutes left on the boil, add 0.5 oz of Hallertau Taurus hops.
  9. At 5 minutes left on the boil, add the other 0.5 oz of Hallertau Taurus hops.
  10. Cool the wort to pitching temperatures.
  11. Pitch yeast.
  12. Ferment at 54°F for 2-4 weeks.
  13. Ferment in secondary for 1 month at 36°F.
  14. Bottle or keg as desired.
  15. Carbonate your beer.
    1. If bottling, prime your beer for bottle conditioning. Carbonation can take 2 weeks.
    2. If kegging, force carbonate.
  16. Once carbonation is done, enjoy your beer!

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