50 Shades of Märzen
Looking to boost your Oktoberfest knowledge before the big day? Oktoberfest beers are bottom fermenting lagers that range from pale gold to deep amber. Traditionally, before refrigeration and with the help of the crisp Alpine climate, Bavarian brewers would use caves and cellars packed with ice to achieve proper lagering conditions.
While there are many German and German influenced beers out there, two you’re likely to encounter over the 16 day celebration are festbier and märzen. Märzen refers to the historical standard festival beer in Germany for Oktoberfest. The BJCP style guidelines describe it as “an elegant, malty German amber lager with a clean, rich, toasty and bready malt flavor, restrained bitterness, and a dry finish that encourages another drink.”
In the mid 1970s Paulaner Brewery felt that märzen can occasionally be too filling, so they created the first golden version. They wanted a lighter, more drinkable but still malty version that could be “more poundable,” - yes the head brewer actually said that. Today we call that a festbier and it is now the norm for modern Oktoberfest celebration in Germany. However, when modern American craft breweries make an Oktoberfest beer, it is more likely to follow tradition and be a Märzen.
This year the official opening ceremonies start on September 22nd and end October 7th. No matter what shade of Oktoberfest beer you prefer, stop in and raise a stein for Deutschland!