Hold the oompah music but give me an Oktoberfest beer, said Eric Asimov in The New York Times. “A good Oktoberfest beer is a masterpiece of balance and integration, delicious without being extravagant,” malty but crisp. In Germany, Oktoberfest long marked the start of the brewing season—a tradition dating to before refrigeration, when the cooler weather and the completion of the Bavarian harvest made conditions ideal. Add some “juicy loins, smoky chops,” sauerkraut, buttered noodles, and that, “my friends, is a party!” A Times panel recently sampled 24 American and German Oktoberfest brews, and rated American beers among the top three. The winners:

Thomas Hooker Octoberfest Bloomfield, Conn. ($1.40, 12 oz)
“Best value.” A well-balanced beer with “a refreshing bitterness.”

Victory Festbier Downingtown, Pa. ($2, 12 oz)
“A sweet malt aroma and a touch of licorice.”

Flying Dog Dogtoberfest Frederick, Md. ($2.25, 12 oz)
A bold, crisp beer that nicely balances hops and malt.

Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen Munich, Germany ($3, 25 oz)
A sweet aroma, but “no sweetness on the palate.” Lively.