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Old 03-03-2014, 06:24 PM   #1
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Default "Marzen" beer: AKA "Oktoberfest"?

During the 15 months I spent in Germany in the mid-'70s, I had the opportunity to sample "just a few" beers. I was stationed near Nurnberg, and enjoyed in particular a beer caller "Marzen" (pronounced mayr-tzen --- sorry I don't have a way to insert the umlaut over the 'a'), Marzen being the month of "March". It was a beer traditionally brewed in March, stronger than the already-hefty tap beers on the local economy. It became my go-to beer. My understanding is that in the old days in Germany before refrigeration, brewing had to stop before the warm weather came, March being the last month for safe, cool-weather brewing. The beer brewed then was kept cool through the summer months in cellars. Then when the cooler fall months came around, the brewers needed to make room in the vats for resumed brewing, so the Marzen beer were empitied/consumed then to make room.

So, my question is this: is what has become known culturally (at least to us modern-day Americans) as an "Oktoberfest" beer really a traditional Marzen? Being an extract newbie, I've looked for a Marzen beer kit, but haven't seen one. So, if I wanted to brew a Marzen beer from a kit, would I use an Oktoberfest beer? IOW, are they one-in-the-same?

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:27 PM   #2
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Yes, Marzen and octoberfest are more or less the same style. they even share a subcategory in the BJCP style guidelines. In commercial beers in the states marzen is often slightly lower gravity than a fest marzen or octoberfest. but more or less the same.

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:28 PM   #3
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Yes, they are considered the same.

When I lived in Germany marzens were one of my all-time favorite beers, and I generally make one a year even now.

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:49 PM   #4
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Yes, they're generally the same. Since I like to drink Marzen year round, I made one in December and it's almost gone now. Still being sorta noob myself, and not having a fermentation chamber (refrigerator for temp control) to make a true lager, I used White Labs WLP060 American Ale Blend yeast and kept it as cool as possible (around 66*F), and made a decent "Marzen ale". Wyeast 2112 California Lager yeast might also be a good one to try if temp control isn't great. Something to consider depending on how badly you need a Marzen and how noob you are. My garage has held 52-54* for the past month, so maybe it's time to brew another batch with real lager yeast!

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Old 03-03-2014, 06:53 PM   #5
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I'm going to try a Marzen recipe next weekend, but brewed as an ale, and am thinking it will basically be a Marzen-style Amber Ale.

Scott

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Old 03-03-2014, 07:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scottie61 View Post
I'm going to try a Marzen recipe next weekend, but brewed as an ale, and am thinking it will basically be a Marzen-style Amber Ale.

Scott
Let us know how it turns out. Being a newbie, I'm far from being set up for lagers. After a couple more kit beers, I may try my hand at AG, unless there is a good ME kit out there somewhere. So far, I've not been able to find one.
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morticaixavier View Post
Yes, Marzen and octoberfest are more or less the same style. they even share a subcategory in the BJCP style guidelines. In commercial beers in the states marzen is often slightly lower gravity than a fest marzen or octoberfest. but more or less the same.
Glad to hear this. I guess I'm still wondering why, if they are generally one-in-the-same, i.e., a "Festmartzen" is more or less the same as an "Oktoberfest", then why so much more emphasis on Oktoberfest-style beers in the U.S. and not as much on Marzens? Here in the Northeast, there are a tons of microbreweries, almost all of which market an Oktoberfest, with very few selling a Marzen. Is this just a matter of marketing something which to the average person is more familiar?
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:23 PM   #8
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I'd guess name recognition for Americans, aka marketing, as you said. Everybody's heard of Oktoberfest, only German beer fans have heard of Marzen.

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Old 03-03-2014, 07:24 PM   #9
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I love a good Marzenbier. As I understand, the beer brewed just before the end of the season was stored in caves and lagered over the summer. In the fall when the harvest came in and the brewing started up again they celebrated the harvest with a big party. This party has evolved into what we now call Oktoberfest which came about when the annual festival was held in connection with a famous marriage party.

Anyway, I am not sure how much stronger this beer is supposed to be from what we call Oktoberfest ales, as far as I knew they were exactly the same thing.

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Old 03-03-2014, 07:25 PM   #10
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Here's a good BYO article about it if you are interested in the history. But yeah, you can do a search for Marzen or Oktoberfest because the kits are generally synonymous. If you get into all-grain brewing you should also look up decoction mashing. It's a pretty popular process when making a Marzen. Oktoberfest/Marzen are pretty popular around this time so be on the lookout for specials.

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