My first craft-beer love was the IPA. I still remember my first time drinking a Stowaway –it was unlike anything I’d tried before. Complex but balanced, sweetness and bitterness in perfect harmony. As I aged, so did the craft-beer scene, and gradually a new style of IPA (New England IPA) came onto the scene. As an avid IPA drinker, I had to experience this “haze-craze” for myself. Soon I was enamored with the NEIPA. It was just as complex as the west-coast IPA, but it somehow seemed more approachable. Something changed a few years back for me –as I expect it has for some of your readers. IPAs just weren’t doing it for me anymore. IPAs were my go-to style of beer but these days I prefer a different style. Lagers, or more specifically, European lagers.
A crisp European lager, like Staycation Land, on a hot summer day is the perfect beer. Those Europeans figured something out some 600 years ago. What’s more, I think lagers are the most difficult beer to brew correctly. Disclaimer: I am not nearly talented enough to be a brewer, I am a sales guy who is passionate about craft-beer. In my opinion, there’s a lot of complexity to hide behind when brewing an IPA. Lagers? Not so much. Above all, I want European lagers to have a clean sharp finish. There aren’t assertive hop blends to hide behind –so your malt and brewing techniques must speak for themselves. While I drink Staycation Land year-round, nothing beats it in the warmer months. Maine, however, is not San Diego, and we are blessed with many seasons. So as summer comes to an end, I want to pitch you on a different style of European lager: a Marzen.
Marzens, also known as either a festbier or Oktoberfest beer, are the perfect autumnal beer. They tend to have a rich malt backbone and a light sweetness at the end. They are a cozy style of beer–if one can describe beer as cozy. They also have a fascinating history, which if you’ll indulge me, I’ll wax poetic about for a few lines.
Marzen is the German word for the month of March, so it comes as no surprise that the beer hails from Bavaria. In 1553, a Bavarian ordinance made it illegal to brew beer from April 24th to September 28th. It’s generally accepted that this was due to two factors. Firstly, the hot temperatures it takes to boil the ingredients in the kettle were more likely to start a fire in those dry Bavarian summer days. Secondly, brewing and conditioning beer in the heat could lead to botulism. Not that they knew what botulism was of course, but they knew beer brewed in the summer could go bad.
The Bavarians, much like us, didn’t want to go months without beer so their solution was to create a new style of beer. One that was brewed in March, then conditioned in wooden casks in a cool dark place–usually caves. The beer needed to be stronger than normal to survive the long conditioning phase. Then come September, they would roll the casks of beer out of the cave and throw a harvest party–Oktoberfest.
It is hard to practice patience in today’s world. What a modern marvel it is that I can get any doodad shipped to my door in two days. Beer is no longer aged in caves. Not that I’m complaining mind you, but it’s hard to not admire the patience of these early Bavarian brewers. Brewing a beer and sequestering it away in a cave for 7 months. Then when the time was right, cracking open the casks and throwing a village wide autumnal party. Sounds pretty great to me!
We may be a little early for the true Oktoberfest Season (traditionally celebrated over two weeks, from mid-September to the first Sunday of October), I see nothing wrong with getting your hands on a delicious beer a little early! With this in mind, I hope you give Baxter Brewing’s Oktoberfest beer a try. Baxter Brewing’s Oktoberfest is always one of our staff’s favorite specialty releases, myself included. This August will mark our second year releasing this carefully crafted beer; a rich, medium bodied amber lager, that leans into its luscious malt profile. It is a beer that pairs well with hayrides, leaves changing, and picking apples. I know some folks may already have their heart set on pumpkin beers this fall, which I get, but as we approach the harvest season, I recommend giving Baxter’s Oktoberfest a shot. Pick up a 4-pack at your local market or right at The Pub. You’ve worked hard all summer, why not enjoy an autumnal treat!
Southern Maine Territory Sales Manager