Master Brewer Phil Markowski Looks Back At The History of the Oktoberfest
September 15th and 16th mark’s our 6th Annual Ok2berfest at Two Roads, a two-day tradition inspired by the famous Oktoberfest events in Germany.

Two Roads Ok2berfest Lager is modeled after classic Maerzen lager, more commonly referred to as Oktoberfest Lager. Historical record states that the first Munich Oktoberfest was held on October 12, 1810 as a public celebration of the marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese. The annual Oktoberfest celebration persisted and morphed over the years into a celebration of the beginning of a new brewing season or less romantically, as a practical way to purge the stocks of the prior brewing season to make way for the new. Today the massive 16 day festival starts in mid-September and runs into the first week in October, drawing some 6 million visitors from around the world.

The term “Maerzen” refers to the month of March, roughly the time period when brewers in the pre-industrial age would stop brewing for the warm weather months when temperatures were too high to brew lager beers and airborne contaminants became more prevalent.

For centuries before the invention of mechanical refrigeration systems, Bavarian brewers would stock up inventory of beer in naturally cold caves in the Alps throughout the brewing season. These stores of beer would be drawn out over the summer and early fall until the weather cooled and another brewing season could begin.

The Maerzen style is a full-bodied, crisp lager beer that emphasizes the malt character over the hops. It has a deep amber color with a toffee-like malt sweetness balanced by just the right amount of hop bitterness. It was for generations the classic Oktoberfest lager (Oktoberfestbier in German) beer served both the Munich Oktoberfest and exported around the world.

In recent years Munich area brewers began to brew a lighter colored, but not necessarily lower alcohol, lager beer for the Oktoberfest presumably in an effort to provide a more familiar looking beer for younger generations of Germans and the throngs of international tourists that attend the huge event. Two Roads brews a similar blonde fest beer that we call “Zwei” or “two” (our Ok2berfest Maerzen we call “Ein” or “one”) that is only available at the brewery during Ok2berfest weekend.

Confusingly, the blonde festbier style is now exclusively what is served at the Munich Oktoberfest while the traditional Maerzen style is still what Bavarian brewers export around the world.

Side note: Beer styles are more tightly legislated in Germany than in other beer producing countries. In Germany, a “Fest” beer is defined by its Original Gravity (potential alcohol content) rather than a particular color or specific flavor profile. As a result, Fest beer can have a wide variety of colors and flavor profiles as long as it has an Original Gravity of 13.5 degrees - which typically results in an alcohol content of 5.6% to 6.2%. However, the Maerzen style remains the most commonly exported brand usually marketed under the Oktoberfest name.

We hope you join us this weekend at Two Roads as we celebrate this time honored tradition celebrating the Maerzen style. For tickets please visit https://tickets.beerfests.com/event/ok2berfest. If you can’t be here on premises this weekend, you can always crack open an ice-cold Ok2berfest and be here in spirit.