I own a for-realzies-German dirndl. This fabulous piece of clothing encouraged me (though does not legitimize my knowledge) to lecture you, dear reader, on the fabulous event and beer style called Oktoberfest.
It all started back in 1553, when Duke Albrecht the V of Bavaria decreed that no brewing shall occur between the Feast of Saint George, and the Feast of Michael the Archangel- more commonly known as April 23rd through the 29th of September. This decree was to help keep the beers from turning out terrible. You see, during the (basically) summer bavarian months, there was a much stronger chance of the brewing beers to be ruined by wild yeasts and bacteria in the air. In turn, the run up to the end of the brewing months led to a stronger (around 6%) beer to be brewed, left to “lagern”- or store- in cellars and tunnels and other cold places during the summer months, to be enjoyed in the fall. These lagers were originally dark and roasty in flavor and color, and were referred to in general as Märzenbiers.
In October of 1810, Ludwig (the future king of Bavaria) married Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen (gesundheit). Ludwig’s dad (King Maximillian I Joseph of Bavaria), had been dealing with some shit in the Napoleonic wars, and was looking for a good way to politically keep his constituents happy. Why not celebrate his son’s wedding in a very kickass style? So, on the 13 and 14th of October 1810, there was a fest in Munich. In the Weisen (aka the meadow), there were feasts, parades, horse races, and of course, beers. This celebration was so well received by the local Münchener that they decided to hold a celebration the following year, with a few changes. This time, it would celebrate the local agriculture, more horse races, more beer, and the Weisen was now referred to Theresienweise, in honor of the blushing bride. This celebration has since continued for the next 200+ years (excluding during some wars and cholera outbreaks). The dates have migrated to the last two weeks of September through the first weekend of October, mainly due to the weather constraints October in Bavaria provides. This celebration has expanded internationally, because who doesn’t love beer and partying. Around here the most common one I can think of is Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest (where they even fly out Munich’s Oktoberfest best known performers, to the northwests own bavarian themed town), where the dirndl is as common as the Seahawks jersey.
Now, back to the beer. The Oktoberfestbier appellation first debuted at the Oktoberfest celebration in 1872 by Spaten Brewery, applied to the Märzen style of beer. At this point, the märzen had also changed in appearance, closer to a more amber colored ale, with its distinct sweet yet crisp flavor, quite fun and delicious to glug from a 1 liter stoneware mug. The appellation of the Oktoberfest style is now a protected right in European Union regulations where only authorized large breweries of Munich are allowed to label it “Oktoberfest.” Nowadays, the Munich Oktoberfest style has been described as a golden lager, low to moderate bitterness, a malty aroma, and best paired with a large pretzel or sausage (or both!). Stateside, you can find many “Fest Biers”, Oktoberfests, and Marzens with similar flavor profiles and celebrations in mind. Because we don’t make lagers here, you won’t find it on our menu. So I suggest a tall glass of our Fresh Hopped Finger Gun Session IPA, because it’s the Yakima Fresh Hop Ale festival this weekend. See you there!
For more information, please check out the Oxford Dictionary of Beer, the Beer Bible, and the Google.