Brewing of the original Oktoberfest Märzenbier

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In Munich in 1872, the famous Schottenhamel tent needed more beer. Josef Sedlmayer had beer to sell … but it was a stronger lager brewed in the Viennese style. Thanks to beer historian Andreas Krennmair, we have a precise idea of ​​the recipe.

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There is not just one type of Oktoberfest beer. It’s only in the last few decades that the famous Munich thug has switched to a deceptively strong and dangerously easy to drink blonde lager. For more on brewing this type of modern festbier, check out our August-September 2021 issue, available now.

However, from its beginnings in 1810 until the beginning of the 20th century, there were a variety of beers available at Oktoberfest – advertisements in old event programs make it clear. Depending on the year, you can find dunkel, helles, export-force helles, weissbier or even a pilsner.

There is not just one type of Oktoberfest beer. It wasn’t until the last few decades that the famous Munich thug has switched to a deceptively strong and dangerously easy to drink blonde lager. For more on brewing this type of modern festbier, check out our August-September 2021 issue, available now.

However, from its beginnings in 1810 until the beginning of the 20th century, there were a variety of beers available at Oktoberfest – advertisements in old event programs make it clear. Depending on the year you can find dunkel, helles, export-force helles, weissbier or even a pilsner.
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The amber caramel beer that American brewers often call “Oktoberfest” is loosely based on the story of märzenbier, the strong “March beer” brewed to last all summer. Even though the best-known American examples tend to be softer and darker than most of the märzen found in Germany, it has become the style most associated with Oktoberfest history.

Gabriel Sedlmayr’s Spaten Brewery is said to have introduced a märzenbier in 1841, although evidence is scarce and it may not have had any particular connection with Oktoberfest. The beer that established this more lasting connection did not appear there until 1872. As the story goes, told in Andreas Krennmair’s Historic Austrian and German beers for the home brewer—Michael Schottenhamel was looking for more beer to serve in his famous Oktoberfest tent. After a hot summer he was running out of Sommerbier, so he approached Josef Sedlmayr, brother of Gabriel Sedlmayr, who was brewing in Franziskaner-Leistbräu.

Josef Sedlmayr told Schottenhamel that they have this stronger beer, brewed in the Viennese style, “and it should be in perfect condition for Oktoberfest,” Krennmair writes in his book. “Schottenhamel agreed to buy the beer, but also announced that he would sell it for 12 Kreuzers.” It was relatively expensive – the same price as Salvatorbier, or doppelbock – but in the end no one seemed to care.

There is a bit more to the story, which Krennmair discovered while researching his book Viennese lager: “The precise reason why Franziskaner-Leistbräu brewed a stronger Viennese-style beer,” explains Krennmair, “was that Josef Sedlmayr’s son had apprenticed at Anton Dreher’s Kleinschwechater brewery. [in Austria]. So he had basically learned how to brew Vienna lager from its original source, and he decided to brew a stronger version at home as a seasonal beer.

The following recipe for beer is adapted from Krennmair’s book, based on his research on lagers of the time. Note the archaic mash regime (and simplify it, if you have to), the relatively high finish density, and the relatively pale color (5 SRM) resulting from using 100 percent Vienna malt.

Recipe: The original Oktoberfest-Märzenbier

ALL GRAIN
Lot size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewery efficiency: 72%
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.018
IBU: 33
ABV: 6.1%

BILL MALT / GRAIN
11.9 lb (5.4 kg) Vienna malt

HOP SCHEDULE
2.3 oz (65 g) Saaz first-wort [33 IBUs]

YEAST
White Labs WLP820 Oktoberfest / Märzen Lager or WLP920 Old Bavarian Lager

DIRECTIONS
Grind grains, dough with about 5.3 gallons (20 liters) of 50 ° F (10 ° C) water and let stand 3 to 4 hours. While stirring slowly, add about 7.6 liters (2 gallons) of boiling water to raise the temperature of the mash to about 91 ° F (33 ° C). First decoction: Pull about 3 gallons (11.5 liters) of thick mash into a separate kettle and bring to a boil for 45 minutes. Return the decocted mash to the main mash to raise the temperature to about 149 ° F (65 ° C) and let stand 10 minutes. Second decoction: Pull about 3 gallons (11.5 liters) of fine puree into a separate kettle and bring to a boil for 30 minutes. Return the decocted mash to the main mash to raise the temperature to about 164 ° F (73 ° C) and let stand 1 hour. Pour into the kettle over the first wort hops, washing and spraying with 172 ° F (78 ° C) water to make 6.5 gallons (26 liters) of wort.

Boil for 90 minutes. After boiling, refrigerate to 46 ° F (8 ° C), aerate well and toss the yeast. Ferment patiently at 48-50 ° F (9-10 ° C) until complete. Barrel or barrel and lager for 6 months.

BREWER’S NOTES
It might not get you exactly where you want to go, but if you can’t be bothered by that remarkably prolonged brewing regimen, consider a classic multi-step Hochkurz mash.

For example:
– Beta amylase at rest: 144 ° F (62 ° C) for 30 to 45 minutes
– Alpha amylase at rest: 160 ° F (71 ° C) for 30 to 45 minutes
– Mash out: 170 ° F (77 ° C) for 10 to 15 minutes

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