Country of Origin
Märzenbier (Märzen) is a Lager that originated in the Bavarian region of Germany. In the 1500's German brewers were losing many batches to spoilage because of the lack of refrigeration and bacteria in the air, especially during the summer. To remedy this, in 1553, an ordinance decreed that beer could only be brewed between September 29 (St. Michael's Day) and April 23 (St. George's Day).
Germans began brewing Märzen in March (März is German for "March") and stored the casks in caves until summer. Brewing the beer at a slightly higher alcohol level (5% - 6%), adding more hops, and storing the beer at lower temperatures prevented spoilage.
Märzen is a common lager served at German Oktoberfest celebrations. This beer is more often than not referred to as "Oktoberfestbier" rather than it's proper name. The Oktoberfest beer we know today is quite different from a traditional Märzen, due to the use of lighter malts and is closer to a traditional Vienna lager than a traditional Märzen.
A traditional Märzen is a deep gold/copper colour with a rich malty flavour that highlights the Vienna and Munich malts used. Märzen doesn't present an overly hoppy taste, but is well balanced with a slight bitterness. A proper Märzen has a crisp and clean taste.
Märzen averages between 5-6% ABV, slightly higher than other traditional German lagers.
Märzen is typically served in a traditional German Stein or beer mug at a temperature between 4-8º C (39-46 ºF).
Märzen pairs well with traditional German food like sausages and pretzels. It's malty profile also pairs well with pizza and spicy food.
- Malts. A Märzen generally has a base of 2-Row, Munich, Vienna and Pilsner malt. If you're looking for a lighter profile Märzen, 50% of your grain bill should be Pilsner or 2-Row malt. A darker, more traditional version should have 50% Munich malt.
- Soft Water. A Märzen will come out best when brewed with soft water. If your water source is hard, it's highly recommended to do some water treatments before brewing this style of beer.
- Proper Hops. While not a hoppy beer, Märzen requires a specific type and amount of hops. Using low alpha hops help balance the sweetness of this style with just a hint of bitterness. Traditional German hops (Hallertau & Tettnanger) are popular with this beer style, but you can mix it up with Mt. Hood or Saaz.
Want to brew your own Märzenbier/Oktoberfest Lager?
Try Brew HQ's Oktoberfest Lager recipe kit.