Everything You Need To Know About Oktoberfest
If for some reason you didn’t make it to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, this year, hopefully you had an opportunity to hit up one of the many festivals hosted here in the states to get your fill of Marzen beer.
This copper-colored malty creation that is hundreds of years in the making is brewed every year in March so it’s ready for the drinking come September.
Marzen, which refers to March in German, is also commonly referred to as Oktoberfest beer because of its association with the ginormous festival.
Originally it was only brewed once a year, but thanks to its popularity and replication by many US microbreweries, it can now be found year-round.
What exactly is Oktoberfest?
As a tribute to the Germans and their ability to throw a good beer party, Oktoberfest has become the most commonly referred to name of this beer (at least in the States). Europeans still refer to it as Märzen.
History tells us that the origins of this style were actually borrowed, or stolen, from Vienna, Austria.
The Weiners, as the Germans wouldcall them, had developed a darker, more heavily malt-tasting beer than the traditional light lager, and a fellow named Dreher that had hopes of bringing this style back to Germany.
Dreher and a buddy named Sedlmayr had spent some time in England and wanted to use the English-style barley malting process and incorporate it into a bottom-fermenting lager. It took some time, but Dreher’s work finally paid off and the beer became a legend that lives on even today.
The original makings of the Oktoberfestbier or Märzen were tied to a specific season to accommodate external factors such as the weather.
Prior to refrigeration and the ability to moderate temperature with the flip of a switch, brewers had to rely on nature to help regulate their brews. This meant avoiding the hot summer months that could easily spoil a beer or inhibit fermentation.
Brewers began the brewing process in March, just prior to the thaw of winter. The first steps included boiling the grains to make wort and adding hops to offset the sweetness. Then pitch the yeast and store or lager the beer for several months to allow proper fermentation time.
Keeping the beer at the right temperature was hugely significant to the fermentation process, so the barrels of beer were stored in caves within the mountains and blocks of ice from the lakes were used to keep the caves cool.
Right around September, the beer was primed for consumption – and what better way to acknowledge this timing than to throw a huge ass party, huh Oktoberfest?
How it should look like?
The Oktoberfest bier, like other German beers, must abide by the Reinheitsgebot or purity law of 1516. This law states that beer shall only be comprised of four basic ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast.
This law, while seemingly quite restricting, had to be enacted back in the Medieval days to prevent goons from adding ingredients to beer that could poison those consuming it.
When poured properly, a solid inch of white head sits atop your copper liter of Bavarian goodness. Standing proud in its glass stein, it appears a translucent orange with ample effervescence, which makes for solid belching power.
This mighty lager glows like a blazing lighthouse beacon as the sun shines through it at mid afternoon in the beer garden. Seated below a chestnut tree, telling lies with your buddies, and putting back a few of these beers in the fall is the way to do it.
The malted barley provides a heavy presence in this beer often akin to the scent of grain fields at sunset. It is a warm and welcoming aroma that lights up your senses and entices you to bear down and vacuum it up your snout.
The initial uptake will hit you with a malty sweetness, followed by a subtle toasted finish.
These beers are extremely well-balanced, hitting your palate with a malted sweetness and then taking her home with that crisp clean finish of a lager.
There’s a fair amount of carbonation, which adds some complexity to the mouthfeel; yet the soft water used to brew the beer gives you a creamy smooth taste across the tongue. A toasty aftertaste rounds out the experience and leaves you thirsting for another swig.
Hoppy bitterness is only present in Americanized versions.
How it should be served?
Brewed for mass consumption at festivals, it’s of no surprise that this precious nectar’s chalice of choice is the liter stein. It’s big, burly and has a big-ass handle and huge opening for maximum quaffability.
The beer stein is the actually glass of Bavaria (Southern Germany) and is probably one of the most stolen of all beer glasses on earth. It is commonly referred to as “ein Maß” when in Germany, and comes in porcelain or glass versions.
The other housing used for Oktoberfestbier is “Das Boot” or “Die Bierstiefel.”
This three-liter bad boy is serious business and has the unwarranted ability to trap an air pocket in the toe of the boot, which sends a tidal wave of beer into the consumer’s face. Get Some!
According to the late Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter, not the singer), he recommends Ayinger Oktoberfest Märzen be served at a chilly 9 degrees Celsius. On the scale of beer-serving temperatures, this is on the colder side, fitting for a lager.
In contrast, higher hopped and higher gravity (more alcohol) ales are better at slightly warmer temperatures so as to bring out the robust aromas and tastes. For those so inclined to regulate their beer serving temperature, this is probably a few degrees warmer than your refrigerator setting.
So if after pulling a bottle of Paulaner Oktoberfest from the fridge, It wouldn’t kill you to allow it to warm a few degrees, drink it slowly and enjoy the taste.
But if you are at the official Oktoberfest in Munich, feel free to chug your beer as they have about 7 million liters left to pour.