This year marked the 183rd Oktoberfest celebrated in Munich, Germany. The party started on September 17th, and just came to a close yesterday (October 3rd), and drew millions of bier-drinkers to the city to celebrate. In fact, I’ve been told by friends who have attended that if you’re on festival grounds and are not holding a stein full of beer, you’ll be kindly asked to leave. Mandatory drinking … I’m not mad about it.
As the festival comes to a close in Germany tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to raise a stein (or a few) of some domestically distributed examples of the beer served at Oktoberfest. Technically, that beer would be Festbier, formerly the BJCP “Oktoberfest” category. This category changed names as part of the 2015 revisions because, according to German and EU regulations, “Oktoberfestbier” is a “protected appellation for beer produced at large breweries within the Munich city limits for consumption at Okotberfest.” (BJCP, 2015)
However, beers labeled as Oktoberfest but manufactured in other countries, namely the United States, are often modeled after the Märzen style instead. So as you can imagine, I was able to find a small boatload of Märzen examples but not so many Festbiers … so that’s the style I’ve decided to sample.
By comparison, Märzens are more intense and more richly toasted than the Festbier style, and they can come in a variety of shades – light amber to dark amber. According to the BJCP, Märzen or “March beer” was traditionally brewed in March and lagered in cold caves over the summer. Märzen was first served at Oktoberfest in 1872, a tradition that lasted until 1990 when the golden Festbier style was adopted as the standard festival beer.
Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen (5.8% ABV)
Bread crust, earthy grassy hoppiness, and a sweet malt aroma. Super clear amber with active bubbles. Sweet and bready and full.
Baderbrau Oktoberfest Märzen (5.1% ABV)
Fluffy white head of dissipating bubbles. Light, sweet, and simple.
Burnt City Oktoberfest Lager (5.3% ABV)
A clear, golden amber with a sweet, boozey nose with a hint of raisin-like sweetness. Malty body and a somewhat bitter finish.
Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest Amber Märzen (5.8% ABV)
Darker amber, sweet malt flavor. Probably (in my opinion) the most balanced of all.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen (5.8% ABV)
Dark amber, very clear and lively carbonation but no head to speak of. Sweet malt and grain husk on the nose. Balanced with a bready finish.
Revolution Oktoberfest Lager (5.75 ABV)
Very clear, golden amber and a sweet malt, toasted caramel, and biscuit aroma. Sweet and light caramel up front with a bready, toasty finish. Mostly clean and a slightly lingering sweetness.
As you may be able to tell, all of these beers were VERY similar, with slight differences that were hard (for me) to verbalize. Some were slightly sweeter, some had a more present hop character, and some had a bit more grain husk flavor, but they were largely more similar than different. In a desperate effort to draw up some kind of scale of comparison, I organized the beers in order of lightest to darkest amber:
Lightest to Darkest Scale
SO there! There is how they are different. 😀
Anyway, as I prost my goodbyes to Oktoberfest, I say cheers and hello to the Great American Beer Festival! Today I fly out to Denver, Colorado for the largest craft beer fest in the United States and will be attending the fest not only for the first time, but as a member of the media. I get a press pass, people! Woo!! So if you haven’t already, be sure to follow me on Instagram for live updates from Denver. The fest officially starts on Thursday, but the events and tap takeovers and mini-fests have already begun across the city, and I’ll be sharing photos of delicious beers all week. Thanks for reading, and one final “Prost!”