THE MÄRZEN STYLE: A HISTORY OF BEER ESPIONAGE
Brewed during the month of March and stored for consumption during the autumn festivals (Oktoberfest), the Märzenbier beer has a history of beer espionage worth a Netflix series.
Two of the key figures in the creation of the style were Anton Dreher, whose mother owned a small brewery in Klein-Schwechat outside Vienna, and his colleague Gabriel Sedlmayr II, who at that time was in charge of Spaten Brewery in Munich.
After meeting and forging a friendship in 1832, the two decided to travel together to the United Kingdom to learn more about fermentation. But it seems that in addition to obtaining technical knowledge, they took advantage of the trip to, through the use of a specially modified hollow cane, secretly collect samples of wort and beer from the breweries they were visiting. Afterwards they would analyze the samples at their hotel.
From the information obtained, they managed to develop two new malts and two new beer styles: Dreher discovered the Vienna malt and the Vienna Lager style, and Sedlmayr, shortly thereafter, invented the Munich malt and the beer style known as Märzen (1841).
THE FIRST OKTOBERFEST IN MUNICH
The first Oktoberfest took place in the year 1810 to celebrate the marriage between the prince - who later became king - Ludwig of Bavaria, and princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. This happened a few years before the birth of the Märzen style.
This party evolved into an annual event, and as indicated by some sources ("Tasting Beer", by Randy Mosher), the beer that was drunk during before the arrival of the Märzen style in 1841, were Munich Dunkel-style beers.
From the year 1990 onwards, a softer, lighter style, adapted to modern tastes, officially replaced the Märzen style as the beer consumed during the Oktoberfest. This is the so-called Festbier or Wiesn.
Currently there are six breweries in Munich that produce beer that strictly follow the "Reinheitsgebot" or purity law - and therefore meet the requirements required to be served during the festival: Agustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner-Bräu, Spatenbräu, Spatenbräu and Staatliches Hofbräu-München. Only they are allowed to use the name Oktoberfest in their beers.
ORIGIN, EVOLUTION AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE STYLE
Returning to the Märzen style, we find how before the arrival of modern refrigeration systems, the last month of the year to be able to brew properly usually coincided with the month of March. Hence the name Märzen emerged. These beers were subsequently stored in cold places such as natural caves or cellars with the purpose of keeping them stored well during the hot summer months and until autumn.
But thanks to technological advances, and more specifically, of a new refrigeration technique process, an invention in 1876 by German engineer Carl von Linde, brewers began to be able to brew at any time of the year. It was from there that the name Märzen went from being literal, to identifying a certain style of beer.
If we look at the definition of the style according to the BJCP guidelines, we can see how the Märzenbier - located in the guide within the category “Amber Malty European Lager” - are beers that currently have the following organoleptic characteristics:
Aroma: Bready, somewhat toasty, with light bread crust notes. Clean lager fermentation character. No hop aroma.
Appearance: Amber-orange to deep reddish-copper color. Bright clarity, with persistent, off-white foam stand.
Flavor: Initial malt flavor often suggests sweetness, but finish is moderately-dry to dry. Hop bitterness is moderate, and the hop flavor is low to none (German types: complex, floral, herbal, or spicy).
Hops provide sufficient balance that the malty palate and finish do not seem sweet. The aftertaste is malty, with the same elegant, rich malt flavors lingering. Clean lager fermentation profile.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, with a smooth, creamy texture that often suggests a fuller mouthfeel. Medium carbonation. Fully attenuated, without a sweet or cloying impression. May be slightly warming, but the strength should be relatively hidden.
And after reading this you know what to do: pick up a good Märzen beer, we’re in just the right month for it! Prost!