This story comes to us from CraftBeer.com, the website for fans of American craft beers.
Prior to the advent of electricity, brewing was of necessity relegated to specific times of the year: spring and fall. In order for brewing to take place, the environment needed to offer up the right temperatures for brewing and lagering—the step where beers are aged—often in caves in the era pre-electricity.
Fall, which brought both ample ingredients from the harvest and the right temperatures, was considered the best brewing season.
For several generations, we’ve had temperature-controlled brewing systems. Today’s brewers have on-demand ingredients from anywhere in the world. Overnight air freight can deliver the yeasts that allow brewers to create the recipes they want.
So why do we drink March beer—Märzen (MARE-zen, sometimes spelled Maerzen in English)—in the fall?
In 1553, Bavarian Duke Albrecht V decreed it illegal to brew beer in Bavaria between April 23rd and September 24th. These months are typically too warm for brewing without risking bacterial growth that spoils beer.
Thus, brewers ramped up production in March to have enough supply for the next five months. These March beers, Märzens, were brewed stronger and lagered so they would keep throughout the summer.
A Bavarian Märzen is copper-red in color with a full-bodied maltiness—a little spicy and dryish. It has what is described as a rich bread-crust-like malt flavor.
The term “Oktoberfest” did not have a connection to Märzen-style beer for another 300-plus years, 62 years after the first Oktoberfest.
The first Oktoberfest celebration began with the Royal Wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event.
 Märzen beers have reddish hues (photo courtesy Craft Beer).
 Oktoberfest beer from Sierra Nevada.
According to legend, a brewer ran out of the then-traditional fall beer, the Dunkel—a group of malty, dark German lagers that range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown (Dunkel means dark).
Instead, he served a beer similar to Märzen.
The first named “Oktoberfest” beer is a Märzen-style beer that was brewed for the Munich Oktoberfest in 1872 (it seems to have taken a long while for marketing to take over).
The celebration became an annual festival in Munich, running from the third week in September through the second week in October*.
Oktoberfest/Märzen beer has become a very popular style for U.S. brewers to produce. If you’re a lover of malt, look at your local selection of American craft brews for examples. Just a few examples:
And if you have as good a time as we think you will, plan another tasting next month, with pumpkin beers and ales.
Oktoberfest Burger With Pork Schnitzel & Beer Cheese Sauce
*The 2017 Oktoberfest in Munich runs from September 16th through October 10th.
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