How a Marzen Becomes an Oktoberfest
What is a Märzen?
Märzenbier, or simply Märzen (pronounced “mare-tsen”), is a German beer style that was historically brewed in March. In the 16th century, it was a high gravity, high bitterness beer designed to last through long periods of storage. It was often the last beer a brewery would produce before the summer season where brewing was prohibited by 16th century German law. While not yet having a firm grasp on microbiology in the 1500s, Germans understood that beer made while it was hot outside didn’t taste good, so it was written into law that the brewing of beer could only occur between September 29th and April 23rd.
How did Oktoberfest start?
In October of 1810, crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria married princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The entire city of Munich was invited to the wedding and the stores of remaining Märzen were opened and consumed over the multi-day celebration. This was the very first Oktoberfest. Why do we celebrate Oktoberfest? Beer! What better excuse to celebrate a holiday then unleashing your stores of Marzen. Since this inaugural impromptu Oktoberfest, the folks in Munich have been celebrating every since.
When is Oktoberfest?
Contrary to the name, we actually celebrate Oktoberfest in September! Why do we celebrate Oktoberfest in September? Well, the reasons couldn’t be more selfish. Basically, the weather is better. Longer days and warmer weather make for a more exciting beer drinking holiday.
How does a Märzen become an Oktoberfest?
Borrowing its name from the autumn festival, the Oktoberfest beer style simply refers to an aged Märzen, one that was brewed in the spring to be enjoyed in the fall. The dark base malts and relatively high alcohol content plays a large role in the Märzen’s evolution into refined, rich, smooth lager.
How do you brew an Oktoberfest beer?
To create an authentic Oktoberfest, ready for the fall festivities, you have to brew a Märzen at some point in March or April. If you are using your BEERMKR to brew it, just pick up the Märzen/Oktoberfest MKRKIT and get to brewing. We also recommend using the water chemistry kit to adjust the brewing water to match that of Munich. This really adds to the authenticity of the beer.
What’s the best way to age you Marzen?
After your beer has finished, we highly recommend bottling it for the long aging process instead of keeping it in the BEERTAP. Aside from occupying your BEERTAP for 6 months and preventing you from using it with other brews, the BEERTAP was only designed to hold beer for 3 months. The BeerBag and BEERTAP separate out yeast and sediment from your finished beer, but the yeast and sediment remain in the bag. This is detrimental to long term aging as the yeast can autolyze, or self destruct, after many months making your beer taste sharp, meaty, and sulphuric. Also, the BEERTAP is a forced pressure system that can lose pressure over long periods of time. If the pressure is gone entirely, oxygen has a chance of creeping in. Therefore we recommend keeping beer in the BEERTAP for 3 months or less.
Bottles on the other hand get you a few things that your BEERTAP can’t. First is yeast and sediment removal. With bottles, we leave all that yeast and sediment in the bag while bottling so the bottles are perfectly clean and ready to drink. The second is oxygen control. Glass is impermeable to oxygen and when the bottle caps are sealed, there is no chance of carbonation escaping or oxygen getting in. Therefore, bottles are the perfect vessel for long aging your Märzen into an Oktoberfest!
After bottling your beer, it’s best to let your bottles sit at room temperature for 2 weeks so they can generate CO2 and carbonate the beer. After 2 weeks, we highly recommend placing the bottles in a refrigerator to age for 6 months. Tuck them in the back, hide them in the salad drawer, wherever you can find space to stow them. This will give them an authentic cold condition that will develop the famous Oktoberfest flavor profile over the long summer. Then when Oktoberfest is in full swing in the fall, your bottles of Märzen will have made the transition to Oktoberfest.