As Oktoberfest comes to a close, we’re letting our in-house craft beer expert Mark Elliot explain how the different seasons directly relate to beer, the origin of Oktoberfest, and more!
One of the (admittedly many) reasons I got into craft beer is that when people ask what beer they should be drinking, they are really asking about what season it is, and what the weather is like! Beer, just like the weather, has distinct seasons that match, and many people often don’t explicitly think about it. Very few crave thick, dark, boozy porters and stouts after mowing the lawn at 90 degrees and high humidity. Similarly, it is much less common to want a fruity sour beer when it’s so cold that you can’t feel your toes. Instead, those dark beers are often available in winter, while the lighter refreshing styles are more summery brews. Fall is a favorite transition season for weather, and you can argue that it’s a great transition season for beer too.
In fact, one of the best weather and beer linked stories is the Märzen style, often referred to as Oktoberfest. However, if you think about the root of the word Märzen, you may hear a month not at all associated with fall… March. That’s right, despite the big fall party of Oktoberfest (which technically starts in September), the beer is actually brewed in March. Through the winter and early spring, it’s cool enough outside to brew beer outside without any spoilage. But as the temperatures start to warm, brewers need to change their beer style and their methods. Beer at this time of year needs a higher alcohol content, and often more hops to balance out this added sugar, both of which help preserve the beer. To help further, historically this beer was brewed, fermented, and stored in caves. These caves were cooler than the air above ground, and often at the end of winter, ice was brought in from nearby lakes to keep the caves even cooler still. At the end of summer, as the harvest of the new crops really got going, the storage space was needed in the caves, and it was time for the March beer to come out. Oktoberfest beer was born.
This Märzen/Oktoberfest beer matches the color of the changing leaves. Deep yellow/orange to even copper in hue, this is a much “bigger” beer style than the lighter beers of summer. Often with a higher alcohol content, and a toasted bread smell, this beer is a perfect pairing for raking fall leaves, or for the first cool night by the firepit. This style is often low in bitterness, and may have some sweetness at the first sip, which is quickly replaced by the taste of fresh baked bread. Cheers to the fall transition, and happy Oktoberfest!!