As is the case with most traditional beers, the creation of Märzen beer, now known in America as Octoberfest, was no accident. It was specifically designed in the 16th century to provide a solution to a problem that German brewers had been facing.
Lacking modern refrigeration methods it was very hard to brew good beer during the summer. The risk of an airborne bacterial infection was especially high, making it very risky to brew during the summer. There was also a real risk of the brewing process causing fires during the dry months. Then in 1539 ,a Brauordnung, a Bavarian brewing ordinance, made it illegal to brew between April 23rd and September 29th.
The only option that was left for German brewers was to develop a beer that could last from March to November, when the next batches would be ready. The solution was the Märzen style, which is German for March, the month it was brewed. The style uses extra hops and higher than usual gravity to ensure the beer will last as long as possible. It also makes heavy use of Dark Munich malts to cover flavor changes that might arise from the lack of proper refrigeration.
Even with the recipe designed for longevity there was still the problem of how to store it cold over the summer. They used caves and cellars that stayed as cool as possible over the summer. Eventually they improved on this by building the cellars near ponds and lakes. When the water froze in the winter they would cut out large blocks of ice that they would put in the cellars with the beer to cool it through the summer. This is also where the word Lager comes from, which is German for ‘storage’.
By the time October came around, the Märzen was near to or had exceeded its shelf life while the new batches were only a couple weeks away. They had to sell as much of that beer as they could, as no one would buy it once the fresh beer was available. This meant that German brewers were desperate to sell their stock before it became worthless.
In 1810 desperation met opportunity. Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. To honor the occasion, Ludwig organized a horse race on the fields outside of Munich. More importantly he made an unprecedented move by inviting everyone, nobles and commoners alike, to join in the festivities. German brewers flooded the festival with Märzen, selling everything they had. It was such a large success that it was decided that it would be held every year in the same location. 40,000 people attended the first celebreation, a number that has grown to over 6 million in recent years.
Our Copper Legend Octoberfest, named after our plumber, who is The Copper Legend, is a traditional Märzen. However, we do take advantage of modern technology to brew it during the summer to be able to serve it fresh. We give it over a month to lager and cold condition. It gets its full body and copper color from the Dark Munich malt. Even at 5.7% it is a very drinkable lager that is perfect for the fall.