What it is: Fall is nearly here, and you know what that means — pumpkin beer! Oops, I mean — Marzen beer! Also generally known as Oktoberfest, Marzen is a hearty amber lager with German roots tied deeply to, you guessed it, Munich's Oktoberfest beer festival. It is among American craft beer's most popular seasonal styles, with hundreds of breweries releasing a version each August or September. Many are worth trying, but among the very best is the annual offering from Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing, which aptly describes the beer on its label as "a celebration of maltiness — packed with rustic, autumnal flavors."
In the bottle: Everything about this lovely copper-amber ale shouts fall, with a comforting web of flavors and aromas that include caramel, dried fruit, burnt sugar and a touch of pumpkin pie spice. (Think of that warming intersection of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.) But what makes Oktoberfest soar is the body — it's almost creamy and therefore delivers those flavors perfectly, while remaining far from cloying. Oktoberfest's hearty bread-yeast and amber-malt character merge into a harmonious balance with those sweet and spicy flavors. If there can be such thing as a comfort beer (in the vein of comfort food), this is it. If you're in the habit of drinking Samuel Adams OctoberFest every fall, do yourself a favor and give this one a try.
Alcohol: 6.5 percent
Drink it with: A wonderful food beer that pairs with nearly any vaguely hearty meal. I drank one with chili and another with spicy chicken sausage andouille.
Find it: Available in six and 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles at better beer stores and frequently found on draft. Great Lakes is one of the nation's largest craft brewers, and its beers are usually not difficult to find in Chicago.