Prost! A Guide to Oktoberfests, Festbiers, and Märzens

As the humidity breaks (we hope), and we begin to look towards Fall, a surge of Oktoberfest beers are unloaded from trucks and appear on our shelves and in our coolers. As crushable as this style of beer is, however, these beers tend to bring with them a plethora of questions from our customers. So, crack open a cold one and settle in as we attempt to answer some of your Oktoberfest FAQs and explain a bit more about the brews that do this beer-focused celebration justice.

How did Oktoberfest come to be?

Oktoberfest was originally a massive, city-wide wedding celebration. In October of 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Teresa of Sassonia-Hildburghausen. All of Munich was invited to feast and join in celebration of the newlywed couple. The evening closed with a horse race. A year later, the city of Munich decided to organize yet another horse race and the rest is history. The event itself has since been lengthened to a multi-day celebration and the festivities have moved up in the calendar to September.

What exactly is a märzen?

Märzen, which means March in German, was traditionally brewed in March, towards the end of the brewing season. Before the invention of refrigeration, brewing was limited to the cooler months, allowing beers to go through the proper fermentation process without risking bacterial infection. March was considered the final month in brewing season and this bottom-fermented lager was then stored in cellars until ready for consumption in late Summer and early Fall. Rich, full-bodied, and generally a bit higher in ABV, this German-style lager ranges anywhere from pale gold to amber in color. Expect bold, malty flavors and a clean, dry finish.

What’s the difference between an Oktoberfest beer, a festbier and a märzen?

In Germany, technically, a beer can only be called an Oktoberfest beer if it is brewed in Munich and served during Oktoberfest. That means just six beers in the world are considered Oktoberfest beers: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbrä, and Staatliches Hofbräu-München. Pretty limiting, right? The official Oktoberfest beers tend to be a märzen style-lager, but in the 1970s, attempts were made to brew a beer similar in style, but lighter: enter the festbier – think of it as a seasonal dortmunder.

Which Oktoberfest beer do you recommend?

We each have our own personal favorites at Cappy’s, and so we’ve opted to give you the chance to determine the best local interpretation for yourself. Hesitant about committing to an entire six pack of a single märzen or festbier? Pick up our mixed six-pack of Ohio(ish) Oktoberfest Beers– perfect for an at-home blind taste test. Prost – site!

Cappy’s Oktoberfest Six Pack is available while supplies last. Each six pack includes one can of the following six beers:

  • Braxton Brewing’s Oktober Fuel (hence the “Ohio-ish”)
  • North High’s Norden Hoch
  • Rhinegeist’s Franz
  • Sibling Revelry’s Fest
  • Taft’s Oktubberfest
  • West Side Brewing’s Oktoberfest