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Oktoberfest beer picks

So fall is definitely my favorite time of year...Football, cool weather, and of course the Oktoberfest beers. So far this season, I've tried:

-Sam Adams

I'm partial to the German picks, but was pleasently suprised with the Bell's. What should be next on my list?

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  1. Ayinger Oktoberfest
    Weihenstephaner Festbier

    1 Reply
    1. re: ultramagnetic

      ooo Ayinger is probably my favorite German brewery but I haven't seen their oktoberfest...is it tough to find?

    2. hacker pschorr octoberfest
      dogfish head pumpkin ale

      1. Hogaarden with an Orange.....fabulous !

        8 Replies
        1. re: Buddernut

          Why is Hoegaarden an Oktoberfest beer?

          1. re: Josh

            The OP seemed to favor a wheat beer with the mention of Paulaner.... and I would not consider Sam Adams an actual "Oktoberfest" beer, even though they may label some as such. I merely recommended a white wheat that I felt the poster may enjoy. IN my book Oktoberfest = any beer that you may enjoy... Have a beer !

            1. re: Buddernut

              Paulaner is a brewery which makes many different styles, not just their Hefeweizen. As a munich brewery they make a marzen/oktoberfest beer. it is quite good and is not made with wheat.

              Oktoberfest or marzen is an actual style. I think that is what the original question was asking, which marzens are good.

              Try a Brooklyn Oktoberfest, gives most of the Germans a run for their money.

              I will be in munich ext week sampling as much as I can, I will try and take otes to figure out which one i like best.

              1. re: Buddernut

                "IN my book Oktoberfest = any beer that you may enjoy... "

                Sorry, but in my book accuracy still means something.

                Know your beer!

                1. re: Chinon00

                  Darn, and I was just getting ready to don my Lederhosen and quaff some Guinness.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    "IN my book Oktoberfest = any beer that you may enjoy... "

                    Yeah, we've all come across the "beer style nazis" who can argue forever over were the bold, definite line is that divides, say, "pale ale" from "india pale ale" (hop types or rates, ABV, etc. and that's not even considering "English" vs. "American" style...) but this is my first run in with "beer anarchists".

                    What's really odd about it, is the earlier statement " I would not consider Sam Adams an actual "Oktoberfest" beer, even though they may label some as such." Is Buddernut speaking of Sam Adams Octoberfest beer or just any SA beer ("may label *some* as such.") ? So, it seems also that any beer one *doesn't* enjoy, is NOT to style if one doesn't like it?

                    Now, I don't really care if some brewer's O'fest is a bit more hoppy than "normal", or even if an ale brewer choses to make a beer with an O'fest's grain bill using ale yeast- especially if it tastes good and is so stated on the label.

                    Seems to me, otherwise, if brewers don't choose to "tweak" a traditional recipe, or vary outside of some sort of "approved" definition, all beers would be striving to taste the same, and we'd never have gotten any new styles. I'm sure someone coming from the Bohemian brewing tradition to San Francisco in the late 19th century would probably have said "That's not how one brews lager beer!" when confronted with "Steam" beer.

                    1. re: JessKidden

                      I tend to like the Paulaner and Ayinger O'fests the best. I forget what it was, but there was something about Brooklyn's that was a bit out of style (maybe too bitter or sweet instead of toasty). Spaten's good also, but it's year-round at this point, so I go for drinking the ones that are seasonal during the season.

                      Maybe the problem with SA is that it seems like all of their beers taste vaguely similar. Call it a brewery flavor.

                      And the unpleasant variation on assuming the Paulaner is the hefeweizen is ordering "a Paulaner" and getting the light lager. Yuck!

                      1. re: ted

                        I picked up a 6 of Victory Festbier based on this thread, and it is excellent.

            2. Normally, I wouldnt think twice at reading a post on Oktoberfests because for some reason I havent developed a taste for them. Perhaps it is my lack of ability to get the taste out of them, but never was a big fan.

              However, combined with the fact that I am also not a proponent of Sam Adams beers for the most part, I tried a sample last night of the SA Oktoberfest and immediately demanded a pint (after pint, after pint) and loved it.

              I was shocked but would strongly recommend. The aroma and spicey nutmeg flavors were tremendous. I would borderline put on the same level as Anchor Christmas Ale from last year which is saying a lot.

              I look forward to getting a 6er of this one for this weeks dinners. Perfect fall beer with great drinkability and smooth nutty taste that holds on nicely.

              1. I like Spaten and Paulaner. I'd like to try Bell's.

                The Sam Adams "Octoberfest" annoys the hell out of me. I bought some recently and immediately, upon tasting it, regretted doing so (as I did last time, five years ago). It's extremely light-bodied, with a basic caramel taste. It's too damned simple. I'll never try it again unless Stella, Bud, et cetera, are the only other options.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Kenji

                  Yeah, to me Sam often tries to do too much. I wouldn't go out of my way for most of their beers.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    I love Sam Adams. Not their beers per se, but that they are there. While probably too large to produce the complexity of a FFF, or a Bell's product, they have put some flavor into a beer I can find ANYWHERE. Taste a glass of Bud, then take a drink of Boston Lager.
                    Sam Adams means I never have to drink a macro if I don't want to. I can get it at a 7-11.
                    But I will say I loved the the 2005 Octoberfest. Last years didn't thrill me. Might be because I became a hophead.
                    I would also note that Jim Koch is an incredible beer advocate.

                  2. re: Kenji

                    I haven't had the Sam Adams but you raise an interesting point.

                    I met a fellow this weekend who has worked in breweries in several European countries and he made the point that Octoberfest beers are supposed to be lighter in style. He said that the original intent was to brew a beer that would enable revelers enjoy a two week celebration of the marriage of some royal dignitary (King Ludwig, maybe) and that a lighter style beer was necessary to satisfy the requirements of the celebration.

                    Since those beers don't travel well, demand for the Octoberfest style in the US required a re-formulation of the recipe into the maltier beverage we see on these shores.

                    Does anybody have any knowledge about the history of Octoberfest beers?

                    Perhaps the Sam Adams beer is truer to the original intent.

                    1. re: brentk

                      The first question that comes to my mind is: "Oktoberfests are allegedly supposed to be *lighter than what*?" Eisbocks? Doppelbocks? Weiss?

                      I'm pretty sure Jackson has written (in his World Guide to Beer) that Oktoberfests should be at least 5.5% ABV or so. But Jackson also noted in one of his more recent books that some (not all) traditional German Oktoberfests are dying out even in Germany; they're being replaced with lighter, blander things. (See the case of the once-mighty Salvator for an analogous case of the dumbing down of a doppelbock.)

                      Even so, the SA Octoberfest just doesn't *taste* remotely like any Bavarian beer I've ever known. (It tastes more like the lager world's answer to Newcastle Brown.) Further, I remember very clearly that, in its earliest incarnations, in the late 80s or early 90s, the SA Octoberfest was a much more robust brew. No; the Boston Beer Company isn't striving for tradition here; they're seeking to create something that's a notch above Bud, Coors, and Stella, but that doesn't challenge the palate (of the novice beer drinker) in the way that the real thing does.

                    2. re: Kenji

                      Maybe thats why I like the sam adams oktoberfest, because it is more run of the mill than other fest beers. As I said, I despise Sam Adams beers and Oktoberfests for the most part, but oddly like this one. that says something.

                      The Victory festbeer is quite good as well.

                    3. THis year I've had Brooklyn, Sam Adams, Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Weihenstaphen, Victory and Stoudt's Oktoberfests. Wow, I love Sept/Oct for beer! I also had the DFH Punkin.

                      Brooklyn, Victory and Stoudt's certainly deserve kudos for solid beers, but nothing beats the originals. My favorite has always been Paulaner. In fact, I have a couple mini-kegs in my fridge just waiting to be drank when the Eagles beat the Giants on Sunday.

                      1. Well, I'm currently enjoying a Leinenkugel Octoberfest, but I'm sure I'm about to be told why I shouldn't be enjoying it. I just know that many of the "official" Octoberfest beers from Germany taste like whizz by the time we get them, and I'm always disappointed with the ones poured at our annual beer festival that's held in October.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: podunkboy

                          podunkboy, Enjoy your Leinie's. The Oktoberfest is fine.

                          1. re: Davydd

                            I'll tell you though, I just bought a 12 of Leinie's Octoberfest, and I was really disappointed. I really like a lot of Leinie's products, especially the original lager and Sunset Wheat. I thought the Octoberfest was really flavorless though. It's drinkable and doesn't taste bad, it just doesn't taste like anything, and it's really light. I much prefer the Spaten and Sam Adam's Octoberfests.

                            1. re: tdmccarthy21

                              Agreed. I picked up a 6 pack of bottles and was disappointed. I'm not a huge fan of theirs, but I expected more than I got with that one.

                              I like the SA Oct just fine. Plus there is a brewery in STL called Schlafley that does a great Oct brew.

                        2. Hmm....I recommend:

                          Shiner Bock
                          Guiness--perfect for cold weather
                          Warsteiner (sp?)--Initial taste is a shock, but it gets better before you finish the beer! ;-)
                          OH! Try Boulevard Wheat!!

                          I DON'T recommend:
                          Groulsch (sp?)
                          St. Pauli Girl
                          Heinniken (sp?)

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Farmgirl22

                            None of these are Oktoberfest beers.

                            1. re: Jim Dorsch

                              Yes the selections mentioned by Farmgirl22 would be accurate if the title of the post was: "beer picks".


                              1. re: Jim Dorsch

                                I'm sorry--perhaps I'm not a "beer snob"? When I choose a beer for this occasion, I don't go out and choose one because it has Oktoberfest in the name--we splurge a bit on beer that we enjoy that we can't normally afford. We also get a few sixers of different beers that we haven't tried before and give them a try--in the Oktoberfest in Hays (VERY traditional, and VERY German) that is the spirit of Oktoberfest--spending time with people, enjoying traditional food/dances/music, and having a good beer--regardless of whether the beer is an "Oktoberfest-sanctioned" beer or not. So I'm sorry I was mistaken in the intent of the posters in this thread. :rolleyes:

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    It's a German settlement in KS--locals are primarily of German descent, and they are VERY traditional. Quite a few of the locals are still the original German immigrants (although, most of them are dead with their children keeping the traditions alive). German is also a very predominant local language, although everyone knows English...it's a pretty neat place....not nearly as pretty as the real Germany though (not that I've been there, but I've seen pictures.)

                                    Google the Ellis County (or maybe just Hays???) Oktoberfest--NOT the college students excuse for getting drunk and stupid, but the actual Oktoberfest celebration at the fairgrounds...there's surely something about it on the internet. It's very cool...I've been 3 or 4 times.

                                  2. re: Farmgirl22

                                    This has nothing to do with being "sanctioned" as you so put it. there are different styles of beer, Oktoberfest being one of them. If the title of this thread was favourite ESBs, Witbiers, etc. would you still suggest what you suggested? i understand that you might not be aware of the fact that it is a style and I am not trying to ridicule you for that. If you enjoy those beers in October that is fine, but it does not make them Oktoberfest style beers. It is not just the name, it is a unique style of beer, one I look foward to every year.

                                    I was actually just in Munich for Oktoberfest, most of the beer there was in the Oktoberfest/Marzen style. However they also served hefeweizen at some places, this does not make hefeweizen an Oktoberfest beer.

                                    1. re: MVNYC

                                      Anyone who claims to know or to have spent significant time in "VERY traditional, and VERY German" settings (as Farmgirl22 claims) would certainly recognize oktoberfest as a beer style and not solely as a time of year.

                              2. I am now enjoying a Summit Brewing Co. Oktoberfest brewed in the Marzen style for you purist. It is so gooooooood. The only thing I don't like about Summit brews is they package in stubby bottles and screw caps. Other than that, their line up of brews is outstanding.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Davydd

                                  I don't mean to belabour the point, but this is a good example of beer prejudices as well. Davy uses the caveat "brewed in the marzen style for you purist" which seems to further the thought that only beer snobs are the ones suggesting Marzens for Oktoberfest picks. Oktoberfest is a style of beer, whether you are a purist or not. I understand the word Oktober is in the name but that does not mean that it is any beer you like drinking in the month of Oktober.

                                  This would be akin to someone starting a post on the wine forum asking for Merlot picks and people chiming in with Cabernet, Shiraz, or even Chardonnay.

                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                    Well I will belabor the point by adding that knowledge of styles can only help one enjoy beer more. So for instance let’s say that you’ve recently discovered Pilsner and really enjoy it. But you’ve by happen stance only had the German style (which tends to be drier). You then run into say Stiegl Pilsner which is a maltier (Vienna) style from Austria and you like that as well. Now with knowledge of what you drank and why they taste different you can satisfy your desire for the drier style when you want it and for the maltier style when you want that. Without the knowledge though, you are lost or at the mercy of the bartender or beer merchant (who may or may not be that knowledgable).

                                    1. re: MVNYC

                                      Hear Hear, this site is about knowledge, getting some from people in the know not ignorance on the hoof!

                                  2. Berkshire Brewing Co out of Deerfield, MA (western Mass) makes a great Octoberfest.

                                    This is also my favorite time of year, for the same reasons as the original poster! Cheers!!!

                                    1. I'll put in a vote for the home team and offer up Great Lakes' Brewing Company's Oktoberfest. Very tasty. In the genuinely from germany category, I'm in the Paulaner camp. Is there anybody here who knows where I can find Weinstephaner Festbier in Northeast Ohio, though? I'd love to give that a try.

                                      1. I bought a six-pack of Spaten Oktoberfest last night. I found it surprisingly light and "green-bottley' tasting. I know you know what I mean. Not nearly as malty as I expected. I was kind of disappointed.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: LeslieB


                                          Too bad. I like the regular quite a bit, and was planning to pick some up.

                                          1. +1 for Ayinger, Hacker Pschorr and Sam Adams. Just like other posters, I agree that the Sam Adams was surprisingly good, and I immediately picked up a 24 pack from a local Sam's Club.

                                            I'm real jealous of you folks who have access to Victory's Oktoberfest. At least there's some good stuff in Texas too: St Arnold's, and Live Oak's Oaktoberfest.
                                            I wouldn't be able to pick a single favorite, I'd have to call it a tie between Ayinger and Hacker Pschorr.

                                            1. I presently have Stoudt's Oktoberfest and Thomas Hooker's Oktoberfest in my fridge. I prefer the maltier style of the Thomas Hooker.

                                              1. i do agree that sam adams oktoberfest is not the same. i used to drink it and get the sense that that the beer was brewed with the leaves that had previously laid on the ground. was much more earthy in years past.

                                                true german oktoberfest beers are lighter than american style oktoberfests. and i think is an awesome thing that american craft brewers lend different variations of oktberfest beers. deviation is good. from pumpkin ales to true marzen styles. is a wonderful thing.

                                                would you rather have all beers taste the same or have different variations to try? keeps the taste buds honest.


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: croweshead

                                                  Had some Ayinger Oktoberfest last night. It's been a year since I've had this, although I drink their other brews often, and forgot how nice it is.

                                                  Brad I totally agree with you on your comments regarding having different variations to try. Nothing wrong with brewers offering something a little different from the norm once in a while.

                                                2. Just sitting down now and trying this year's(2008) Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale....not crazy about the hops/pumpkin spice blend.
                                                  Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin was delicious and balanced.
                                                  Berkshire Brewing's Oktoberfest was another good call.

                                                  1. Surly Fest will be out in a couple weeks. If you have any way to get some, give it a try. I was able to try last years, and it's amazing. It won't be for everyone. You have to have a thing for hops. It's like an Octoberfest ran into a truckload of hops. I couldn't stop saying, "wow".

                                                    1. Great Lakes Brewing Co. Oktoberfest is great. I have had it on draft at various places in the last few weeks, and it helped me realize that I didn't hate the style, just the variations I'd had before. Great Lakes gives me a reason not to leave this God-forsaken place (Northeast Ohio)

                                                      1. My favorite O'Fest beers (Maerzen Style) are still Hacker-Pshorr and Paulaner.

                                                        Most American takes on the style aren't all that authentic since they contain crystal malts and the like, which the authentic German brews do not. Even so, Sam Adams is not too bad, though it doesn't really have the maltiness that the German ones do.

                                                        My favorite O'Fest (35 years ago) was always Lowenbrau. Unfortunately the version they currently sell isn't in the Maerzen style, but rather is a Helles. I haven't been to Germany in years, but I'm told by O'Fest veterans that the Maerzen style is evidently never served in Germany at the fest anymore...only the Helles (though it is stronger than a standard Helles).

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: The Professor

                                                          Can I just ditto your post, Professor?

                                                          About the American "crystal malt based amber lagers masquerading as O'fests"- in the very early 90's George Fix wrote a book about the style and he advised to make them this way because, he reasoned, the munich and vienna malts available were of poor quality, possibly even six row, and that you would get a much better result if you just ditched the idea altogether and used good quality crystal instead. He even went the extra mile and stated that the beers brewed this way were indistinguishable from German O'fests. Frankly, as much as I respect the man I think that's a load of crapola, but whaddaya know (?) at this point in time American-style Oktoberfests seem to have become a style of their own. Somebody's drinking these things...

                                                          My usual three are Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Spaten, depending on which is fresher. Ayinger is good too, though it is paler and drier. Beware of shops that have been duped by unsavory distributors into selling last year's beer that has been sitting in a warehouse the whole time- check those dates, folks!

                                                          1. re: TongoRad

                                                            I know I'm replying to a 3 year old post but +1 on that last sentence...I recently saw a German import on the shelf at my local shop; sixpacks of 16 ouncers selling for $6.99.
                                                            Almost bought one until I checked the date (and deciphered the reverse order of the number-date common in countries outside the USA...and realized that they were blowing out beer that was nearly 2 years old!! No bargain there.

                                                            1. re: The Professor

                                                              I would be more suspicious of the retailer than a wholesaler. First off, the wholesaler has ways of spreading short-dated product around if they're aware of it. They can (where legal) take back a quantity from a retailer and sell a case or two to many accounts, making it easy to go through it quickly. Second, wholesalers associated with the major breweries, at least, practice freshness as a religion.

                                                              It's sometimes illegal for a wholesaler to pick up product for credit, and the nature of Oktoberfest is that it sells like crazy, then suddenly screeches to a halt when the holiday beers start showing up in October, meaning the retailer who orders too much gets stuck with it.

                                                        2. Southern tier!! Both Harvest Ale and Pumpking.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: hawaiigrl2003

                                                            FWIW the Southern Tier Harvest this year is a 6.4 percent ESB ... they obviously are not slaves to the style!

                                                          2. I like drinking two at a time :-)

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: e36YellowM3

                                                              I'm enjoying an ice cold SA Octoberfest right now. Very tasty.

                                                            2. I like Leinenkugel's Oktoberfest beer as well as Hacker Pschorr!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Chew on That

                                                                I enjoyed the Bluepoint and the Left Hand Oktoberfests.
                                                                For Pumpkin Ales, I liked the Post Road, but I founf the Shipyard a little too 'spicy'

                                                              2. I am not particularly knowledgeable about beer in general, but very curious and would like to try an authentic Oktoberfest beer that is available at my local supermarket (Krogers). Could someone please recommend one that the average guy will be drinking?

                                                                Also, I am curious as to what constitutes an Oktoberfest-style beer. Is it a lager, a pilsener, pilsner or ale and is it noted for its maltiness or predominance of hops or barley?

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: Lapis

                                                                  It's a lager close to Marzen style. Basically a fuller maltier richer lager that's mildly hoppy.

                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                    Thanks. Which one can/should I buy at my local Krogers for around $7 a six pack?

                                                                    1. re: Lapis

                                                                      Maybe the Paulaner. I caught some on sale at a local Spec's (Austin) last week for 5.99 or 6.99 (can't remember). If not that, then the Spaten is a pretty popular German brand.

                                                                      1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                        And remember that it's a fairly strong beer, so be a bit careful. (Well, it's strong for beers that are supposed to be served a liter at a time).

                                                                        1. re: tmso

                                                                          While I normally like to see a proper fill, I was rather pleased a few years ago when I attended the Herbstfest in Erding and saw my liter mug contained a healthy portion of foam. Otherwise, I don't know how I would have downed more than one!

                                                                  2. re: Lapis

                                                                    Its a richer lager that packs a stronger punch of alcohol that is more flavorful.

                                                                    Whatever you look for should have "Festbier" written on it.

                                                                    Buy a Masskrug and make sure you fill it to the brim, and enjoy!

                                                                  3. It's not really an Oktoberfest beer, but since it seems Oktoberfest is the time American liquor stores carry it, I have to say that I really like Spaten's Optimator.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. Ayinger's current Oktoberfest release is great. I enjoyed it more than the Hacker-Pschorr.

                                                                      1. Highland Claw Hammer, Spaten, Victory and Bell's

                                                                        1. Well I know its November now but after sampling over two dozen different Oktoberfest varieties during the season I would say Starr Hill’s version was far and away the best I sampled this year. And that includes all the big German standards (Spaten, Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr, Ayinger, etc.) and some decent American versions (Victory, Bells, Brooklyn, Saranac, etc.). Too bad Starr Hill is such a small place and likely hard to get in most markets because this years Oktoberfest really flew below the radar. I didn’t even know about it till I happened to sample it at a beer festival in Manassas. I did enjoy the Haufbrau and the Weihenstephener this year although both were not traditional examples of the style being lighter bodied and less sweet with a completely different malt signature. But even these couldn’t hold a candle to this year’s Starr Hill in my opinion.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Insidious Rex

                                                                            I expect Starr Hill will become easier to find now that they have access to the AB wholesaler system.

                                                                          2. Every late-August/early-September, I pick up two cases of Hofbrau Oktoberfest at my local Costco ....

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                              Firestone Walker's Oktoberfest is really good. If you want to do some digging, Odell Woodcut No. 4 is an excellent Oktoberfest and is unique because of the oak aging. It is about a year old now so it may take some searching but it ages well and is worth it

                                                                            2. Spaten is doing it for me this year. Seems like an update to the recipe to add more malt and hops than in the past - Optimator was recently upgraded as well.

                                                                              Done with the multitude of american pretenders that just don't get the profile right.

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: LStaff

                                                                                Picked up Spaten Octoberfest at Costco.

                                                                                1. re: JAB

                                                                                  Sam's Club used to carry it in the past, but not this year ...

                                                                                2. re: LStaff

                                                                                  I concur...I've been enjoying the Spaten as well.
                                                                                  That one, and Hacker-Pschorr are my two favorites. I totally agree about the American made ones. Many of them are definitely very good beers in their own right however don't meet the expectation I have when I see "Okfoberfest" on the label. Doesn't mean I think they're bad, just not to my taste.

                                                                                  The only American one I've ever had that seemed to get the malt profile kind of right was the festbier made by Gordon Biersch which I tasted while working on the west coast last year. Unfortunately, it apparently isn't distributed here on the East Coast. In any case, while still not on par with the German examples, it was _miles_ above any other American made one I've tried.

                                                                                  1. re: The Professor

                                                                                    The one GB I've been to (Tempe, AZ) did german styles very well. Would love to have a GB open here in the metro Boston area.

                                                                                    1. re: LStaff

                                                                                      Roger that...most brewpubs don't come anywhere near the overall quality of the GB beers, particularly their lagers.
                                                                                      Looks like the closest one to us (I'm in NJ) is in Atlanta.

                                                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                                                        This probably relates to Dan Gordon's brewing education in Germany.

                                                                                        1. re: The Professor

                                                                                          Well they have several in DC, Maryland and Virginia (no need to go to Atlanta!). At least 6 in the DC area if you include the ones at Dulles and National Airports. Also, when I went to Virginia Beach this summer I ran across another and when I was in Vegas last week there was one down the street from my hotel (and apparently another across town) so Ive begun to think they were almost ubiquitous. Just a matter of time before they open one in the greater NYC area I would think. Right now the closest you have in the tri state is Buffalo. Great place to go to get solid german style lagers.