Märzen Beer and The Bavarian Origins of Oktoberfest

Mar 18, 2014


With the first hints of fall making themselves visible, it’s quickly become that time of year that beer lovers rejoice for: Munich, Germany’s famed Oktoberfest.  Although the event has changed dramatically from its original incarnation (a local celebration of the marriage between two Bavarian royals), one thing has remained totally unchanged, the serving of the very special Märzen style beer more well known as Oktoberfest bier.

Back before the age of refrigerators, Bavarian brewers operating under the still applicable Reinheitsgebot of 1516 (Bavarian Purity Law)  had great trouble keeping their prized brews fresh during the hot summer months.  The heat along with summer bacteria caused the beer to turn sweet and generally become poor tasting.  Of course this would not do for these beer lovers, so many of the Munich based brewers began experimenting and eventually began creating a beer during the month of March that was over hopped and in general, much stronger than other seasonal beers.  As summer progressed, they would open casks of these beers and be rewarded with a brew that not only did not taste poor, but rather seemed to get better throughout the warm season.

 The real treat of enjoying a Märzen style beer developed partly from the need to preserve taste and partly from the Bavarian’s love of celebrating.  As the summer ended and brewers needed the casks to store their fall and winter brews and as it was the end of the growing season, celebration was in order.  Add in an October royal marriage in the year 1810 and the base for today’s festival was set.

So what should you expect in a good Märzen?  They tend to be fairly full-bodied beers similar to many microbrews, but they are not super hoppy such as an IPA.  The are 100% great examples of lagers.  All in all, these are beers any beer lover should seek out.

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