The weather is cooling and Oktoberfest retail beers sales are heating up. Summer may be over, but the party is just beginning for consumers who love Oktoberfest beers and for the retailers who sell them. Demand for Oktoberfest beers is outpacing supply and some retailers were facing out of stocks in September. “Our customers always like seasonal releases, so they look forward to Oktoberfest beers,” says Jennifer Williams, owner of Weiland’s Market in Columbus, Ohio. “People have learned they have to get these brews early because they’re limited and usually gone right after fall starts.”
Weiland’s sells more than 20 Oktoberfest SKUs, up slightly from last year based on increased availability from the breweries. The store has a special area for Oktoberfest beers, and leading sellers are Wolf’s Ridge Brewing’s Oktoberfest ($10 a six-pack) and Columbus Brewing’s Festbier ($10 a six-pack). The store also created a six-pack of mixed Ohio Oktoberfest beers for $12. “They’ve proved very popular with customers,” Williams says. “American and Ohio Oktoberfest beers hold their own with the German Oktoberfest beers. The main difference is price. Ohio beers are in the $10 a six-pack price range, and German beers are in the $10 a four-pack of 16-ounce cans range.”
Indeed, retailers often highlight Oktoberfest beers by creating seasonal displays and promoting them online. “We are using our web store and social media to promote our Oktoberfest selections,” says Jasraj Dhandi, manager of the 11-store Beer Universe chain in upstate New York. “We also built separate Oktoberfest displays within our stores.”
Beer Universe sells more than 20 Oktoberfest SKUs and top-sellers include Sam Adams ($12 a six-pack), Spaten ($12), and Paulaner (12 pk $19.99, 6 pk $11). “The German selection of Oktoberfest beers contains a higher alcohol content than the American selection,” Dhandi says. “They are also slightly darker and less sweet than their American counterparts.”
This year’s Oktoberfest sales at Beer Universe are in sync with 2020’s high-octane growth. “Due to more experimentation during Covid, many of our customers were looking forward to this year’s selection of Oktoberfest beers,” Dhandi says. “They have been selling very well so far and we anticipate an increase in sales. Oktoberfest beers are extremely important to our overall sales during this time of year. ”
Seasonal pumpkin beers, meanwhile, have jumped on the Oktoberfest bandwagon. Southern Tier Pumpking Imperial ale ($16 a four-pack of 16-ounce cans) is a big seller at Beer Universe, which carries about 15 pumpkin beer SKUs. “Pumpkin beers have been selling very well compared to previous years,” Dahndi says.
City Beer Store in San Francisco also includes pumpkin beers in its seasonal subscription eight-pack ($52-$56 an eight-pack of 16-ounce cans). “We sprinkle pumpkin beers in our beer offerings this time of year,” co-owner Beth Wathen says.
Big sellers at City Beer Store include Brouwerij West’s Bears Ears ($14 a four-pack of 16-ounce cans) and Pacifica Brewery’s Just Like Munich Festbier ($20 a four-pack of 16-ounce cans), which recently sold out for the season. Wathen notes that Oktoberfest brews are evolving to include an increasing number of domestic and canned offerings. “Many breweries are canning their Oktoberfest offerings and we’re seeing more American producers dipping their toes into the Oktoberfest beer market,” she says. “This year we expect our Oktoberfest sales to be on average with pre-pandemic years past.”