These are field notes from my days studying for Advanced Cicerone.
How Did The Oktoberfest Style Come to Be?!
Oktoberfest starts next weekend (September 22nd!). This had me thinking about the world-renowned festival, less about the event itself (it started as a celebration for a wedding!) and more about the beer that’s served there and how little it’s changed throughout the years.
From 1810 to 1871, the beer served at Oktoberfest was much darker than the stein-fuls served today. This all changed in 1872. The cause? Money. (Alas, how many notable shifts can be traced back to this?!)
In order to sell beer at Oktoberfest, a brewery has to be both within the city limits of Munich AND approved by the city of Munich to serve. There are many small breweries in the city that are excluded from taking part in the 6.7 million liters of beer poured at the festival every year.
The story goes that in 1872, Spaten, one of the six Munich-Oktobefest-approved breweries was running out of bee. Head brewer Gabriel Sadlmayr knew that the brewery’s contract to serve at Oktoberfest could be in danger if they ran out of product and disappointed thirsty party goers. So his son, Josef decided to serve another beer from the brewery line up. The beer was “in the style of a Vienna” lager and carried more alcohol (probably between 8% and 9%) than the dark dunkel-like beers being served by other breweries.
That beer served by chance at the 1872 came to be defined as the modern-day Märzen. The Märzen brewed at Spaten is considered the world’s first example of the style. In fact, the ceremonial keg tapping that kicks off Oktoberfest each year is performed with Spaten Oktoberfest!
Have you ever been to Oktoberfest? Do you want to go as badly as I do?!