So I recently stumbled across this excellent post from Serious Eats about German Beer.
Let’s get a few terms clear first: Oktoberfest and Märzen are generally used interchangeably to describe one style. I’ll just use Märzen from here on out. Vienna and dunkel lagers are beers that are fairly similar in character, though the history is a little different.
Way back in the 1500s, Bavarian lawmakers forbade the brewing of beer between April and September to ensure quality. In the warmer months, wild yeast and bacteria could thrive, leading to nasty, spoiled beer for the people. Without an understanding of modern fermentation science, the lawmakers were unknowingly establishing a long future for German lager. Fermented and stored in cool caves, the beers produced in the winter and early spring would eventually evolve into the modern dunkel (“dark”) lager.
Märzen (meaning March) takes its name from the frantic brewing that occurred in the month leading up to the summertime ban…
One of the things that I have always loved about German brewing (and hunting) is how steeped in tradition it is. From here on out, I’ll look at Marzen as the brewers mad dash to stock the shelves.
Oh yea, and I’m totally making myself a lagering cave when I stop moving.
And as a side note, I totally recommend following Serious Eats on Twitter @Seriouseats