How to make Märzen beer
History of Märzen
Märzen beer is also referred to as Oktoberfest beer or Märzenbier. This beer is brewed in March (März is the German word for March), and cellared during the warm summer months. It is usually consumed in the September and October months. For many years this beer was served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. In recent years the beer’s popularity at the festival has waned due to the tastes of a more international crowd.
Munich lays claim to creating Märzen, but the beer is likely an imitation of the more established Vienna beer. The Viennese have references to the style as early as Roman times, while the Bavarian cousin Märzen did not become established until the 1800s. It is very likely that a German brewer copied the Vienna, and brought the style to Bavaria.
The main difference between the Märzen and Vienna is slightly higher alcohol content (4.7% vs 5.0% ABV on average) and its maltier flavor. The BJCP style guidelines list the alcohol content almost the same, however the final gravity for the Märzen is higher than the Vienna. This will give the beer a slightly sweeter and maltier flavor, but not cloying. The flavor should be crisp, with a malt forward flavor.
The Vienna is usually bitterer than the Märzen. The Vienna beer can range between 18-30 IBUs, while the Märzen is a stricter 20-28 IBUs. The difference is because the hops contain less alpha acids in Bavaria. Another possible flavor difference may be due to the grains used. The grains in a Märzen are roasted at a higher temperature, enough to change the flavor. The grains used in Märzen usually are Munich, two-row, Pilsner, and Vienna.
One of the best commercial examples of Märzen is from Paulaner. Paulaner is a German brewer in Munich, and is served at Oktoberfest. The Gordon Biersch Märzen is also good, but slightly drier than the Paulaner Märzen.
The Märzen Recipe
Here’s the recipe I use to create my Märzen beer.
5.5 lbs of German 2-row Pilsner malt 6.0 lbs of German Munich malt 4.0 oz of Belgian Cara-Munich malt 2.0 oz of Belgian Biscuit malt 2.0 oz of Belgian Aromatic malt 1.0 oz of Tetnanger (4% AA) 1.0 oz of Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.7 AA) Wyeast Bavarian Lager 2206 or WPL820 Oktoberfest/Märzen Lager Yeast
OG: 1.060 FG: 1.016
If you are an extract brewer, you can use 6.5 lbs of Light DME. Create a grain tea using the specialty grains (in this case, everything Belgian) at 150F (65.5C) for 30 minutes. Add this to your wort at the start of your boil.
Mash the grains using a single-infusion mash at 152 F (66C) for 90 minutes. Since the recipe calls for a single-infusion mash, it is perfect for those of us who batch sparge. Add all of the hops at the start of your boil. We don’t add flavor or aroma hops, because the malt is accentuated in the Märzen beer.
Ferment the beer as close to 50F (10C) as possible. You can start the fermentation at a higher temperature, but you should reduce the temperature to 50F (10C) within a day or so. A better method would be to use a good lager starter.
After the fermentation ends, lager the beer for 2 months at a temperature between 34-40F (2C-4C). This is the tough part, waiting. The Germans make this beer in March, and usually serve the beer in September. If you want to make this beer for Oktoberfest this year, start now.
The beer should be carbonated at 2.57 to 2.73 volumes. The head should be solid.
This beer was quite a crowd pleaser for me. It has enough kick to let you feel it, but doesn’t knock you out.
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I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!