It’s impossible to talk about German beer without discussing those served during Oktoberfest each year. After all, these beers are some of the best ambassadors of German brewing for those unfamiliar with the practice. Appreciation of these exemplary beverages helps inform and influence the work of brewers around the world, including our own in Ontario.
Craft beer released for Oktoberfest generally borrows from a basic blueprint that originated back when the very first beers were served at the original celebration. While Oktoberfest itself may be over, you can still find many of these specialty brews at large and independent breweries, so it’s worth knowing what you’re looking for!
What Makes a German Beer an “Oktoberfest” Brew?
Within the brewing industry, calling a beer an “Oktoberfest” has a very specific meaning. Traditionally, the Oktoberfest festival was held at the perfect time to sample Munich's local Märzens and Dunkels. In 1872, Josef Sedlmayr, a brewer at Franziskaner, introduced a new, lighter Ur-Märzen (Original Märzen), borrowing from components of a Vienna lager and creating the iconic Bavarian Märzenbier of the Munich Oktoberfest. As the invention of year-round refrigeration made it possible to brew Märzen year-round, the beer, formerly distinctive for its short brewing window, became more firmly attached to Oktoberfest. Today, it is one of the two main styles of beer produced for the festival.
The Oktoberfest Craft: German Beer Styles
There are two main variations on Oktoberfest beer. They are both lagers, although there have certainly been many brewers who chose to create a specialty ale for Oktoberfest. It is also possible for the two styles to be combined or to be referred to interchangeably, depending on the brewer’s vision for the beer.
Märzen: The name Märzen literally means “March,” hearkening back to when it could only be brewed in March, due to temperature constraints and brewing rules of the time. The beer usually boasts a beautiful, deep auburn tone and offers toasted, rich flavours to the palate. Munich breweries today tend to produce Märzen with lighter, golden tones for Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest: Many Oktoberfest beers are variations on the basic Märzen recipe, but some modern brewers have branched out even farther, creating their own distinctive twist on Oktoberfestbiers. These lagers are usually only available from October to September, and while some display traditional gold or crisp yellow colours, many hold fast to the popularized reddened amber hues, especially in Northern America. While each beer may have its own unique personality and taste, there’s no denying their celebratory nature.
Bringing the Flavor of Oktoberfest to Ontario
Craft beer from Bitte Schön is our way of sharing our love for German brewing with our community and the nearby Kitchener/Waterloo area. Oktoberfest may have wound down, but you can still enjoy our specialty craft German beer at our boutique microbrewery in New Hamburg. Our taps are always changing, so there’s plenty to look forward to.
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