Märzen Bier
BE Oktoberfest beer

In the early days of the European civilizations, the Bavarian people had difficulty controlling the quality of their beers in the summer. They didn’t have the knowledge we have today and did not know that winter in the Alps helped to keep a wide range of microbes away from the beer.

So brewers in the region have created a simple strategy to solve the problem: they produced beer only between the beginning of October and the end of March, putting some overtime at the end of the winter to create inventories for the summer.

The beers name came from this unusual situation, Märzen means March in German.

As March was the last month of production, all brewers wanted to clean hops stocks to avoid losing money, since storage techniques were not known in the region at that time.

So each year the amount of hops added to this beer varied according to inventory at the end of the season. If the winter had not been so strict and sales had been better, less hops would be in the warehouses, and so the beer would be less bitter.

Now if the winter had been hard, the summer beer would have more hops than normal.

Unfortunately, we have only vague hints as to the composition of the original Märzen brew. It probably came in at a bitterness of perhaps as much as 40 IBUs, most likely full-bodied, probably a darkish amber to deep brown colour, anywhere in the range of an English brown ale, an altbier or a dunkel.

After fermentation, the Märzen was stored in casks in cool cellars and mountain caves, some filled with ice from the winter. It was released gradually starting in late spring or early summer.

The high alcohol content, the high acid and tannin levels from the hops, and the ideal storage conditions ensured that this beer kept well and actually improved as summer turned into fall. It probably became especially good near the end, when the hops mellowed out and the brew’s malty character moved to the fore.

By October, however, after the year’s grain harvest, the last of the Märzen had to be drunk so that the precious casks could receive the season’s fresh beer. Combine the pressure on those poor Bavarian brewers to empty the barrels with their propensity for having a jolly good time, and the concept of an Oktoberfest emerges automatically!

Today this style is one of the most famous around the world and this beer is the oficial beer for the biggest German party to celebrate the beer culture - Oktoberfest.

With the modern techniques, you don’t need to go to Bavaria during the summer to drink this tasty piece of history. Brewers have them all the year.

But of course that drinking this beer in late September in Munich, at the Oktoberfest gives you a different sense of the word history!

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