OK so i have to state just how honored I am to be writing for The Brew Club. In fact, not two years ago, we were on this very site discussing the strengths and weaknesses of various Oktoberfest beer. So to be writing some articles for the club is a very enjoyable thing!
Allow me to start with the question so many ask; What is so special about Oktoberfest beer?
Is it simply the festival? Is it the idea of the beer festival? Is it more to do with the simulacra that we all enjoy in in our local Oktoberfest celebrations? Or is there something more to it?
For me the specialty doesn’t stem initially from the brew itself – rather more nostalgia, so please indulge my little rant: My first Oktoberfest was actually in late October back in 2002 (or maybe 2003, I was drunk, so cut me some slack!) but this was back in Sydney, long before I had moved to, let alone sampled the goods of, Europe.
I was at the local German Beer hall singing to “country road” and drinking beer by the Litre, which for an Aussie lad was just oh sooo cool. I should state that normal Australian beer is 33cl (330ml) or roughly 1/3 of a Litre and there we were, my buddies and I, drinking the amber throat cooler by the litre! What could be cooler than that?
None the less, I digress 🙂
The beer, that’s what we are all here for, the beer was unique. It was in the previously unheard of amounts in litres, which not only scared my friends and I, but also completely enticed us. Having 1 Litre of anything is a lot, but a litre of this amazing liquid and one that is specifically brewed for this event, not some typical, normal beer, but specifically brewed beer added to the amazement of drinking it.
That was then and this is now. Today, I am sitting on the famous Theresenweisn mit ein maß im hand (with a mass in hand), surrounded by friends and a huge smile on my face. So, back to my question, what is it specifically about this beer?
Whilst there are many beers for this time of year, a true Oktoberfest beer must come specifically from a brewery from within the city limits of Munich. They are the only breweries given permission to participate in the actual Munich event. Similarly to Champagne in France, any other Oktoberfest like beer must be labeled as Oktoberfest-like.
The beer is, originally, not a fresh beer, it is called Märzen beer because although you drinking it in September/October the beer was actually brewed in March (März in German). March was really the last time of the year, in pre-refridgeration times, that you could brew beer. Thus, the brewers would stock up for the long summer.
This aged beer also tends to add to the darker colour and stronger alcoholic content of the Märzen brews (roughly 5 to 6.5%). The beer also tends to be brewed with more malt and less hops, thus the flavour is actually sweeter than say a normal lager or pils. But that is not to say it’s not hoppy. In actual fact in the old days the hops, combined with the storage in large, ice-filled caves and cellars, is what allowed the beer to remain fresh for consumption throughout summer.
So with all these facts in hand, what does this mean for the beer?
Well I actually like it a lot. I think it has more to do with the experience of the event, be it here in Munich or at the local events in other towns. The beer just becomes good because of the experience of drinking it in such surroundings. Certainly there are better, more complicated and tasty beers out there, but drinking a Maß and enjoying a folk festival is always going to be an entertaining event.
Thus, as always at this sort of thing.