Posts Tagged ‘oktoberfestbier’

Sadly, tomorrow marks the last official day of the world’s largest folk festival – Oktoberfest. And unfortunately, yet another Oktoberfest has come and gone without me. I vow to make the trek to Munich for this event some day! Until then, I will live vicariously through the stories of others while sipping on some Oktoberfest-bier.

Speaking of Oktoberfest bier, although the official festival ends tomorrow – the Oktoberfest spirit still lives on through the beer! (Which should remain on store shelves for another couple of weeks!)

So, what is so special about Oktoberfest bier? Oktoberfest bier rules are similar to the Trappist beer laws in Belgium in that the beer must be brewed in a certain style within a certain location and only a few breweries can actually carry the official name “Oktoberfest.”

Authentic Oktoberfest bier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. There are several breweries outside of Munich, including U.S. craft breweries, that brew beers in the Oktoberfest style. Technically, they are not authentic and must be labeled Oktoberfest-style beer. (Just like how any beer brewed to emulate the Abbey ale style must be labeled Abbey-style).

And as with the Belgian Trappist beers, only a select number of breweries in Munich are officially sanctioned as Oktoberfest brewers. The official breweries of Oktoberfest include: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. These “Big Six” are the ONLY breweries allowed to participate in the annual Munich Oktoberfest.

The story of how Oktoberfest bier came to be is a classic story – very similar to the foundation stories of many other styles of beer. Once upon a time, the brewers of Bavaria had difficulty controlling the quality of beer in the hot summer months. A combination of heat and bacteria would cause the beers to sour and spoil.

In order to remedy this problem, Bavarian brewers resorted to two simple but effective solutions.

One solution was to increase the level of natural preservatives in the beers. They achieved this by adding more hops to the brewing process as well as increased the alcohol content of the beers by brewing them at a higher gravity.

A second solution was to change the schedule of the brewing season. After much trial and error, Bavarian brewers learned that brewing between early October and the end of March tended to produce the best tasting beer. And this is how the Märzen-Bier was born.

FYI: Märzen-Bier in German translates to March Beer in English.

In order to maintain freshness during the hot summer months, brewers stored casks of Märzen beer in cool cellars and mountain caves (in the Alps) which were often filled with blocks of ice from the winter.

The preservative qualities of possessing high alcohol and hop contents in combination with the ideal storage conditions of the mountain caves and cool cellars ensured that the beer kept well – even matured and improved as summer turned into fall!

Just like Cinderella had to be home by midnight, all of the old Märzen casks needed to be returned to the brewers by October so that they could begin brewing another years worth. And naturally, the casks needed to be empty – which meant that the last of the Märzen beer needed to be consumed.

And as fate would have it, Munich just happened to host an enormous folk fest in the world at the end of September through the beginning of October. And what better time and place to consume the last of the Märzen beers than Oktoberfest? This is how Märzen-biers became known as Oktoberfestbiers – what they are most commonly referred to as today!

Oktoberfest biers have been served at the festival in Munich since 1818. Advances in technology and the science of brewing led to the evolution of the Märzen-Oktoberfest styles. The Oktoberfest recipe was first revolutionized in 1941 by Gabriel Sedlmayr, former owner of Spatan Brewery of Munich, and Anton Dreher, former owner of the Dreher Brewery of Vienna. Together they created the first Märzen “gebraut nach Wiener Art” (brewed the Vienna way). They achieved this by adding a new, slightly caramelized, but fairly pale malt to the grist – which also lightened the color of the beer. This malt is now called Vienna malt.

Spaten Brewery went ahead and revamped the Oktoberfest recipe for a second time in 1871. Spaten helped Oktoberfest beer return back to its Munich roots by brewing it with Munich malt – a slightly darker version of the previously used Vienna malt. This “re-Bavarianized” version of Märzen-bier is the official Oktoberfest bier drank at Oktoberfest today!

The traditional style guidelines describe an amber-gold lager, robust at 5.2 to 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), bottom-fermented and lagered for at least a month, with pronounced malt flavors from Vienna [Munich] malts, usually accented by the German noble hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang.

For more information on the history and brewing techniques of Oktoberfestbier, visit the website of the German Beer Institute!

And if you still have not gotten a chance to celebrate Oktoberfest this year – have no fear! Just go out and grab one of the big six Oktoberfest beers or one of the thousands of Oktoberfest-style beers still available today! But hurry … these beers need to be consumed by the end of autumn to make room on the shelves for the winter ales! (Need help choosing one? Try Spaten … after all, its the grand daddy of Oktoberfest-bier!)



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Boasting an attendance of more than six million people every year, Munich’s Oktoberfest is officially the world’s biggest party.

While several other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event and held on similar dates, none rival the authenticity and grand scale of the original.

Unfortunately, the closest I have ever come to Oktoberfest is drinking Oktoberfestbier and polka dancing at the Oktoberfest festivals in Columbus, OH. Needless to say, that just doesn’t cut it.

Alas, I will be forced to celebrate Oktoberfest state-side until circumstances finally allow me to travel to Germany for the real festival. (This year I will be celebrating Oktoberfest in Orlando, Florida!)

Surprisingly, I know very little about Oktoberfest except that it is a massive festival that spans across 16 (sometimes 17) days – consisting of excessive beer & German food consumption and lots of debauchery.

Considering that the 175th Oktoberfest is only a mere 12 days and the shelves have already been stocked with various Oktoberfest biers, I decided that now is a perfect time to research the world’s largest party.

According to history, Oktoberfest is the result of an extended wedding reception that followed the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Balvaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Both were later to become King & Queen of Bavaria.

The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the post-wedding festivities, which lasted several days and concluded with a great horse race. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.

The first Agricultural Show, designed to boost Bavarian agriculture, was included in with the horse racing festivities in 1811. In the year 1812, Oktoberfest was canceled as a result of Bavaria’s was involvement in the Napoleonic war.

Carnival booths were introduced in 1816, with prizes mostly consisting of silver, porcelain and jewelry.  And in 1918, the first carousel and two swings were included into the event.

The founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility over festival management in 1819 and it was agreed that the Oktoberfest festival would be celebrated each and every year without exception.

INTERESTING FACT: Since its beginnings the Oktoberfest has been canceled 24 times due to war, disease and other emergencies.

The first Oktoberfest parade, honoring the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, took place in 1835. Since 1850, the parade has become a yearly event and an important component of Oktoberfest. Each year some 8,000 people, mostly from Bavaria & dressed in traditional costumes walk through the center of Munich to the Oktoberfest.

The year 1850 also marks the first appearance of the Statue of Bavaria, commissioned by Ludwig I of Bavaria and constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller. The Bavaria statue is a bronze-cast statue of a female figure representing Bavaria’s “secular patron saint.” She is located at the border of the Theresienwiese in Munich, Bavaria, Germany – where Oktoberfest takes place each year.

Thirst was originally quenched at beer stands, which eventually turned into beer tents in 1896.  The beer tents and halls were originally set up by enterprising landlords with backing from local breweries and have been a main staple of the event ever since.

Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening consisting of a twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at noon by the Lord Mayor of Munich with the cry “O’zapft is!” (which literally translates to “It’s tapped!” in the Austro-Bavarian dialect). This event is held the first Saturday of each Oktoberfest in one of the enormous beer tents. Once the barrel is tapped, all visitors are then allowed to quench their thirst and the massive party officially begins!

The year 1960 marked the end of the horse races. By that time,  Oktoberfest had already turned into an enormous world-famous festival and has since grown to become the largest folk fest in the world.

This year, Oktoberfest officially commences on September 20th at 12 o’clock noon and ends on the evening of October 5th. Over 6.2 millions visitors are expected to participate in the festivities and consume over 6,940,600 liters of Oktoberfestbier.

Oktoberfestbiers have been served at Oktoberfest since 1818 and are supplied by 6 breweries known as the “Big Six.” These include Spaten, Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.

Originally, Oktoberfestbiers were traditional German pale lagers called Märzen. They were brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months. They typically run at about 5 to 6% abv. Technically, authentic Oktoberfestbier is brewed only by the breweries within the city limits of Munich. Today, the terms Oktoberfest and Märzen are used by non-Oktoberfest brewers in Germany and the USA to market pale lagers of this strength.

THE GERMAN BEER INSTITUTE has an excellent article about this history Oktoberfestbier HERE.

I will be honest. Lagers do not particularly excite me. In fact, I tend to avoid that style of beer as much as possible. HOWEVER, I am predisposed to having a preference to Spaten – over all the other Oktoberfestbeirs.

Is it possible to have such a predisposition? YES. My father is a marketers dream. He is the king of brand preference and brand loyalty. When he finds something he likes, he becomes an obssesed man. And this is how he is with Spaten.

It did not matter where he goes and how much beer is already being provided, my father ALWAYS brings his own beer – and it is ALWAYS Spaten. At any given time, the refrigerator in his garage is loaded with Spaten.

For my 21st birthday my dad picked out the keg. And guess what he chose? Yep, that’s right …  SPATEN!

Needless to say, I do not love the stuff. It is decent for a lager BUT – once again – lagers are probably my least favorite style of beer.

Either way, in the spirit of the season and Oktoberfest, I vow to taste and review [as objectively as possible] a few authentic as well as a few “non” authentic Oktoberfestbiers! All in the name of research, of course …

And as always, I welcome all suggestions!!!

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