WEDDINGS are a great time to throw a party. So when Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig of Bavaria) was getting married in 1810, to celebrate the nuptials the City of Munich threw a multi-day festival in his honor.
In fact, the festival was so popular that Munich decided to make it an annual event. The festival really got going after the Napoleonic War ended in 1815 and centered not on beer, but carnival type amusements. Eventually beer became engrained in the festival atmosphere until Oktoberfest and beer went hand in hand.
Oktoberfest is still being celebrated in Munich. This year’s Munich Oktoberfest, the 184th iteration, runs from September 16-October 3. It’s claimed to be the largest festival in the world, and this year is expected to draw six million visitors.
The Oktoberfest beer consumed during the festival also has deep German roots. In fact, true Oktoberfest beers can only be brewed in the city limits of Munich. Any Oktoberfest beer brewed outside of Munich must be referred to as an Oktoberfest “style.”
Oktoberfest beers are traditionally a marzen, or marzen bier, a lager with deep roots. Marzens derive their name from the month, March, in which they were typically first consumed.
Early brewers learned that winter-brewed beers didn’t spoil as fast as summer-brewed beer. We now know this is because the winter cold killed off any offending bacteria, but at the time all that was understood was that cold was good.
Marzen Bier was brewed during the winter and cold cask-stored in caves. The beer was brought out as summer started and consumed all summer long. Traditionally marzens have a heavy malt backbone and a dark appearance.
Both of these defining elements come from the kiln-dried malts that are now known as Munich malts. The malts are accentuated by limiting the hop profile.
How did marzen bier become associated with Oktoberfest? Well, the Oktoberfest festival was a great time to consume those last casks to make room for the next round of brewing.
The additional aging mellowed the hops, accentuating the malt flavors, making them perfect for the fall time festival.
Oktoberfest officially kicked off this past weekend, but even if you are not one of the lucky six million attendees that can make it to Munich, you can still enjoy a taste of the festival.
This list is just the beginning of the many Oktoberfest “style” offerings available from U.S. breweries. All of these beers are readily available in Savannah.
Teufel Hunden, Service Brewing. Service held their Oktoberfest release this past weekend where they released their Oktoberfest beer Teufel Hunden. In German Teufel Hunden means Devil Dogs, the nickname given to the Marines during World War I. Teufel Hunden is a traditional Oktoberfest-style Marzen lager, unfiltered with a deep copper hue, a toasted malt aroma and a clean, dry finish that clocks in at 5.4% ABV.
Coastal Empire will be holding a September 30th Oktoberfest kickoff party and releasing their Oktoberfest beer. The event will feature the new beer of course but also grilled brats and Bingo. It a free event and runs from 12:00pm to 9:00pm. Coastal Empire is located at 79 Ross Road.
Oktoberfest, Brooklyn Brewing. This 5.5% Marzen Brooklyn Oktoberfest has twice won the Gold Medal at the World Beer Championships. It is an original style, full-bodied and malty, with a bready aroma and light, brisk hop bitterness.
Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada. For this year’s version of the Oktoberfest Sierra Nevada worked with Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg to develop a traditional marzen using traditional German Steffi barley. A little stronger at 6.0% ABV Sierra Nevada’s emphasizes the malt profile of the Oktoberfest style.
Clawhammer Oktoberfest, Highland Brewing. Clawhammer also has a heavy malt flavor but is brewed with a mix of German hops to create a spicy hop note. The hops and malt balance in Clawhammer and at 5% this is beer that goes down easily.
No matter what Oktoberfest beer you choose to try this fall give the style a try. Fill a stein and enjoy the history of the beer and the Oktoberfest festival. Prost!