Tag Archives: Marzen

Get your Dirndl on …it’s Oktober

Long before the seasonal onslaught of pumpkin beers marked the turning of the seasons, like 1810 long before, German beer lovers were celebrating Oktoberfest, a sixteen or seventeen day fair held in Munich that ends on the first Sunday of October.

While the origins of the fest had more to do with royal weddings and the celebratory trappings of Bavarian culture – food, music, dancing, parades, games, costumes etc. the modern incarnation is really best known, for better or worse, as a bit of a piss-up.

However, despite the presence of what is locally known as beer corpses (overtly drunk patrons) the beer in those extra big steins really does deserve some reverence.

Oktoberfest beers, true Oktoberfest beers that is,  are strong caramel forward creations, low on hops and high in sugar, that must conform to the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law) and be brewed within the city limits of Munich. Presently, there are six breweries that meet the criteria to produce traditional Oktoberfest beers.


Oktoberfest Beers photo from Sanfa Media

Oktoberfest Beers photo from Sanfa Media

Like many traditions, as the popularity of Oktoberfest broadly, and Oktoberfest beer specifically, went global the essence of the beer style evolved. In Tasting Beer, Mosher suggests there has been a general trend towards producing drier and paler versions of Oktoberfest beers.  As Oktoberfest beer changed Marzen beers came to stand-in for the traditional and Oktoberfest the modern interpretation.

Nonetheless when you grow weary of pumpkin pie spices try a beer that is and always has come to typify the fall season.

According to Rate Beer the top ten Oktoberfest/Marzen beers are:

Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen

Free State Octoberfest

Surly SurlyFest

Grassroots Song of Spring Ale

Dark Horse Octoberfest

Heater Allen Bobtoberfest

Les Trois Mousquetaires Oktoberfest

Calumet Oktoberfest

What the Heck is Marzen and Why you Need to Try It


Motivated by the excellent eisbock limited release, Hermannator, from Vancouver Island Brewery, I recently picked up another seasonal from VIB the Harvest Plow Marzen to see how it stacks up.


Harvest Plow pours a deep amber gold colour with just a little bit of white head that quickly dissipates. The beer has great clarity. On the nose I get lots of malt and this continues in the flavour. There is a nice amount of bitterness to balance out this beer, almost ESB like in style, and it is very clean drinking. Body wise it is a pretty light beer, which really enhances the drinkability. I like a subtle beer. The finish has just a touch of sweetness and is rather dry. Harvest Plow is just one of those great go-to beers when you want something borderline sessional. This beer is kind of like autumn in a bottle – pretty colour, a little sweet, a little bitter, just the right amount of strength and overall very pleasant.



So what the heck is Märzen Beer anyway?

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, it was common practice to brew strong beers at the end of the brewing season (March = Märzen) for consumption in the fall. This allowed the brewer to use up any remaining hops and malts before the summer season. Oktoberfest, Marzen and Vienna-style beers form a similar family of beers, which likely originated in Germany and Austria prior to the 1800’s. Oktoberfest beer is the strongest of the three and Vienna uses paler malt than the Munich malt used in the October and March beers. Märzen beer ranges in colour from pale gold to dark amber, is a medium bodied lager with caramel malty flavour, little to no hops and a dry finish.


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