The craft beer industry has its seasonal imperatives, and now that fall is here that means many local tasting rooms will be offering their own interpretations of two kinds of brews that are traditionally associated with autumn, although they’re dramatically different from each other.
The original early 19th-century Oktoberfest style, also known as Märzen, was a strong beer that was started during the cool months. Märzen derives from März, the German word for March, which was the last month that this beer could safely be made in the days before modern refrigeration. (Brewing during late spring and summer months was inadvisable because warmer weather was conducive to bacterial infections.) Märzen was kept in cold storage all summer (a process called lagering), and it was brewed at a higher alcohol content, which helped it maintain its stability. In the fall, tradition dictated that last season’s final beer had to be consumed to make room for the new beer to be brewed. Good excuse for a party!
Märzen is an attractive-looking beer in the glass – it’s usually medium copper in color – and it’s a nice beer to drink when the weather is a little cooler. It’s slightly malty and full-bodied, with a hint of toastiness and a lingering sweetness that (if it’s well made) is perfectly balanced by the bitterness of the hops.
Since about 1990, Festbier (it’s…