Monday, September 3, 2012

Märzen Anybody?

Märzen, March in German, isn’t a word that a lot of beer drinkers in the US would associate with beer.  This is surprising because Märzen is the exact style and type of beer that we call Oktoberfest.  That’s right! Our favorite fall beer actually got its start by being brewed in March. 
Back in 1539 a Bavarian decree on beer making was issued that required beer to only be brewed between September 29th and April 23rd.  The reason for this is that when brew houses tried making beer during the summer months it was often ruined by an abundance of air borne bacteria.  In order to have enough beer to last the summer months brewers would have to work overtime in March to produce mass amounts of beer which became known as Märzen after the month in which it was brewed.  This beer would be stored in cellars, storehouses, even caves and served all summer long.  Now when it came close to September 29th when brewing could resume the kegs needed to be emptied to make space for all the new beers and what better way to empty a keg than to have a party!
Märzen or Oktoberfest beers are malty in character with just a slight amount of hop bitterness.  The original beers were actually made extra hoppy or with a higher alcohol content to make sure that they would last the long summer.  As the summer months would go on the character of the beer would change with the hop presence becoming mellower, thus letting the malt dominate, as October approached.  For a beer to be considered a true Oktoberfestbier it must be made within the Munich city limits.  All other beers must be called Oktoberfest-Style beers. 

Oktoberfest has taken place in Munich, Germany at the end of September every year for the last 200 years or so, minus a couple of years being cancelled due to wars or cholera outbreaks.   The modern festivals begin with the tapping of the keg by the Mayor of Munich along with the proclamation of “O’ zapft ist!”  or “It’s
Tapped!” with the first beer being served to Minister-President of Bavaria.  Now along with the taste of beer and brats or pretzels, Oktoberfest also gives us the pleasure of the dirndl.  For those of you who don’t know what a dirndl is I have included a picture . . . . strictly for educational purposes obviously. 

So as we come to the close of another long hot summer make sure you take some time to kick back and knock back a couple Oktoberfests! May the summer end quickly and the Oktoberfest, or Märzen, flow long. 


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