#CincyBeer Series: Oktoberfest/Märzen

It’s Oktoberfest time. Hold on to your lederhosen.

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Cincinnati Beer Style Profiles

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It’s Oktoberfest time in Cincinnati! This weekend the world’s largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich takes place right here in the Queen City! Bavarian traditions run strong on this reach of the Ohio River and this weekend over half a million people will head downtown to witness one of the best celebrations of the year! The best way to celebrate Oktoberfest is to throw on some lederhosen or dirndls, grab a bratwurst and a pretzel, and of course down a nice cold amber Märzen.

Oktoberfest started in 1810 to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince (Later King) Ludwig I, but what started as a wedding celebration quickly evolved (much like most wedding celebrations today) into a celebration of BIER. Lots and lots of bier. Obviously, this was a big hit and the people of Munich decided this should be a yearly event. The small bier booths became grand bier tents. Bier was served in 1-liter Maß. And everyone drank 1 kind of bier… OKTOBERFEST.

Of course, Oktoberfestbier wasn’t always named so. Originally it was called Märzen because the bier was brewed in March. A Bavarian brewing ordinance dating back to 1553 stated that bier could only be brewed from 29 September to 23 April. This was to prevent spoilage due to the lack of mechanical refrigeration. Märzen had a special recipe that added more hops and more sugar (and therefore, more alcohol) that kept it from spoiling when kept at cellar temperatures all summer long to be served in the fall. This stronger, more bitter beer was so wildly popular at Oktoberfest celebrations that it began to become known by that name.

Märzens are typically brewed with Munich and Vienna malts and they are balanced with a German Noble hop variety like Hallertauer Mittelfrueh.  The traditional versions of Festbier were darker and sweeter than many of the popular versions sold today. Today’s Märzens still have a dry malty taste that is perfect for October weather. This form of bier has all but disappeared in Europe today. Most Europeans prefer lighter crisper Pilsners or brighter, hoppier Helles. After the Craft Beer boom in the U.S. many American breweries developed Oktoberfestbier but few have kept to the traditional style opting for lighter, easier drinking versions.

At the Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich only 6 breweries are allowed to sell official Oktoberfestbier. Those are Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu-München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten, all of which are located in Munich. Here in Cincinnati we have a few great local examples of modern Märzens. Today I will highlight Rhinegeist’s Franz, Braxton Brewing’s Oktober Fuel, and Christian Moerlein’s Das Über.

Rhinegeist Franz (5.4% ABV, 20 IBU)

Cincinnati heavyweight Rhinegeist brewing in OTR has been brewing Franz for several years now. Brewed with Pale, Munich & Vienna malts and Hallertau hops, this beer would seem to be a classic Märzen. However, Rhinegeist also adds Magnum hops which give it a spicy characteristic.

Appearance: Medium copper color with a pure white, quickly dissipating head.
Smell: Bready, Malty, Biscuit with a touch of spice
Mouthfeel: Thin to medium body. Slightly high carbonation for style.
Taste: Slight biscuit taste complimented by a bitter front and spicy aftertaste.
OVERALL: 3.5/5 (Above Average)

Braxton Brewing Oktober Fuel (6% ABV, 20 IBU)

Braxton’s take on a classic Oktoberfestbier is exquisite. Sticking closer to the classic style with a heavier body and sweeter malt taste followed by a dry aftertaste with spice from noble german hops.

Appearance: Deep copper color with an off-white, cream-colored head.
Smell: Faint biscuit.
Mouthfeel: Medium body, low carb.
Taste: Big malt flavor upfront. Sweet and bready. Finishes dry with a spicy hop flavor.
OVERALL: 4.5/5 (Amazing)

Christian Moerlein Das Über (5.2% ABV, 20 IBU)

Unfortunately, I think Moerlein missed its mark on Das Über. They usually have a solid lineup of classic styles but this beer strays too far from norm.

Appearance: Light gold/amber no head.
Smell: Spicey floral aroma, touch of sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Medium body and carbonation.
Taste: Honestly, I get a strong sour note upfront with a biscuit flavor toward the end. Similar to that of a Berliner Weiss but not as strong. Not that this beer tastes bad by any means. It’s quite refreshing, but it doesn’t stick to the style.
OVERALL: 1/5 (Not to style)


Now you can impress your friends with some history of Oktoberfest and its famed Märzen Lager and you have the rundown of just 3 of the ridiculous variety of beers you can sample this weekend at America’s BEST Oktoberfest celebration right here in Cincinnati. I hope to see you all there! I’ll be the one dancing in lederhosen.

Dafoe Bulen is the creator of CINCY BEER BLOG. He is a home brewer and craft beer enthusiast as well as a Cincinnati sports fan. In his real life he works in the solar industry as an engineer.  Follow him on Twitter @CINCYBEERBLOG for more news on Cincinnati Beer.

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