Summer is slowly coming to a close and with it goes summer-style beers. Luckily for us, September is a great month for beer. It marks the release of one of the most popular seasonal brews of the year, Oktoberfest! Oktoberfest beers are deep amber to coppery in color, full-bodied with malty accents, and are generally 5-6% APV. They are the perfect way to welcome the change of the season.
A common misconception is that Oktoberfest beers were made to be consumed in October. In fact, they were originally a late spring brew made in March which is why you will also see Oktoberfest referred to a Märzen (German for March) bier or Märzen-Oktoberfestbier. Before refrigeration, beer was only brewed from October to March. Beers made in March would be kept in cool cellars and mountain caves filled with ice so that they wouldn’t spoil over the summer. Come October, grain was ready to harvest so it was natural that the peasants would have a celebration to get rid of all the old beer. This informal, Oktoberfest, is a tradition that stems back all the way to the 15th century.
Oktoberfest as we know it today is actually began a party thrown in celebration of Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Theres of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The festival was held in a field outside the Munich city gates and more than 40,000 people were in attendance. It is said that his love for her was so great that he decided to repeat the festival in her honor every year. The field became known as Theresienweise. Today, the famous beer festival is still held in that field (now called Weis’n) and the celebration lasts for about 16 days. It stretches from mid September to October 3rd, which is German Unity Day.