Welcome to Beers of Europe’s Beer Classification Guide. In this series we walk you through different beer styles, opening your eyes to the origins of the type and how it has developed over the course of its history. For the home brewers amongst you, we include the brewing specifications for the style and food pairings, as well as what makes it different from others. Finally, we give you the best examples of the type that you can buy straight from our website. The imperial pilsner was covered last time, looking at what distinguishes it as a separate style to a regular pilsner, as well as looking at a couple of great examples well worth trying. This week, we stick with lagers and go back to Germany, where we take a look at the famous Oktoberfest marzen.
Origins and History Of Marzen
Marzen, meaning March, was the chosen time of year to brew beer in the times before times of refrigeration. The beer at this point was then stored in caves during the summer months so that the beer did not spoil or suffer from contamination. Then, during the autumn months the beer would have matured perfectly and could then be served at festivals. Marzen soon became the official style of Oktoberfest, which is why the style also has the name of the festival attached. The style tends to have a sweet malt taste and a dry finish. They are also normally slightly stronger than normal lagers. Marzens are not as popular as the light lager styles, however due to its links to Oktoberfest, the style will never die out.
Marzen Brewing Specification
The style is usually between 5-6%, which is strong for a German lager. Despite this it does still have a fairly low IBU, usually between 20 and 25. It does range somewhat in colour, from a pale gold for a modern Oktoberfest style to a red-brown for an authentic marzen. It uses German Noble hops and Pilsner, Munich and Vienna Malts to create a beer with a toast note and low hop bitterness. It should be served in a stein, in keeping with the festival at a serving temperature of 7-8⁰C. It goes well with most light dishes, but excellently with sausages of course.
This is the most traditional of the current Oktoberfest styles but of course it only has a seasonal availability. Whereas most of the breweries have made their Oktoberfest beer a slightly stronger version of their flagship, Hacker Pschorr have stuck to their guns and taken their ever-popular marzen styled lager to the festival. The iconic flip top makes Hacker Pschorr stand apart from the other members of the big six. The style is less popular than it once was, but other examples of the styles are Mittenwalder Edel Marzen and Ritter St Georgen 1645 Ur Marzen. The Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest Marzen, as well as the other Oktoberfest beers from Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner and Spaten are available during Autumn months here;
Despite being a seasonal style only, the marzen Oktoberfest is a favourite in Germany, and is constantly in demand here too. The festival helps it stay current and gets the Munich breweries the attention they deserve, putting most other lagers to shame. Such tradition will allow the marzen Oktoberfest to blossom for many more years to come.
Article by Matthew Keeley-Smith