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Germany Oktoberfest: Wiesn and Märzen

Discussion in 'Europe' started by jibjib513, Aug 20, 2013.

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  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I am sure that Stahlsturm will respond to your queries shortly. It is about midnight right now in Germany and unless he is a night owl we may not hear back for a while.

    You stated: “All that being said, and again, I'm nowhere near an expert, there does appear to be an Amber Marzen (that we, in the US call Oktoberfest) and a light Paler Marzen that some are calling the Wiesn. I would venture to say that these are two different types of beer styles and should be properly differentiated. Perhaps these are not the right terms, what would the right terms be?”

    I do not feel confident that I can guess what Stahlsturm’s answer will be but I would suggest that the beer categories of the European Beer Star Award (EBSA) are a likely choice. The amber beer would be called a Marzen and the golden colored beer would be a Festbier (what we Americans might call a Wiesn).

    As to whether the beer they serve at the various Southern Germany festivals (“There are festivals just like that all over Bayern from May to October") are consistent with the EBSA category for Festbier I personally have no idea. This is a topic that somebody else (Stahlsturm) needs to address.

    Crusader, boddhitree and jibjib513 like this.
  2. seanyfo

    seanyfo Jan 2, 2006 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    As said before, Wiesn bier is just a term that Paulaner are using to market their Helles Maerzen alongside their Amber Maerzen. They are not 2 different styles of bier, same style/abv range, just different malts producing different colour depths/malt characteristics (someone with actual brewing knowledge can either elaborate or shoot me down on that one)
    steveh, Gutes_Bier and jibjib513 like this.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “They are not 2 different styles of bier, same style/abv range, just different malts producing different colour depths/malt characteristics (someone with actual brewing knowledge can either elaborate or shoot me down on that one)”

    You got that right. I am a homebrewer so I can provide some more details on the malt aspects.

    The amber (Marzen) beer utilizes some darker kilned malts to obtain both a darker color and some dark malt flavors (e.g., toffee, roasty, toasty). The darker kilned malts can be base malts like Munich Malt and/or Vienna Malt plus Crystal Malts (e.g., Weyermann Caramunich Crystal Malt), etc. One or more of these darker malts can be used to obtain the brewery’s desired results (e.g., how dark do they want the beer to be, which particular dark malt flavors are they looking to achieve, what amount of dark malt flavors do they desire, etc.)

    The golden (Festbier/Wiesn) beer will be mostly Pilsner malt with just a small touch of darker malts. You can’t add too much dark malt since you want to have a lighter, golden color plus the dark malt flavors (e.g., toffee, roasty, toasty) are not desired in this style of beer.


    P.S. When I homebrew my Marzen beers I use a base malt mix of 50%/50% Pilsner & Munich Malt with a little bit of Caravienne (to add some toast notes).
    boddhitree and jibjib513 like this.
  4. seanyfo

    seanyfo Jan 2, 2006 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    But for the love of God, what colour is it???????????
  5. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    My homebrewed Marzen is amber in color; similar to the Paulaner Marzen beer.


    P.S. Not that you asked but if I were to homebrew a Festbier/Wiesn I would likely just aim to brew a Helles but add more malt so that the resulting beer had something like 5.8 – 6.0% ABV.
  6. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    In addition to that, what does it taste like? I imagine it would be like an amber Marzen with toffee and roasted notes, but much cleaner than your typical Marzen. I could be way off, which is why I asked, but that's the way I see it in my head.
  7. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Boy, you ask a lot of ‘interesting’ questions. My abilitiy to articulate flavors into words is not my best skill but I will accept the challenge to describe the flavors of my homebrewed Marzen beer. I could provide an answer of it tastes like Munchen Malt (which is simply the German word for Munich Malt) but that is incomplete. To me, the flavor profile of Munich Malt is sort of like a dark bready flavor, not a flavor like pumpernickel but a bread made with dark grains. I recognize that what I said is not 100% unambiguous but it is the best that I have. I would not use the word “toffee” because frankly the flavor of “toffee” has no personal association for me. I also would not use the word “roasty” because I also think that descriptor has ambiguity. Does “roasty” mean an association with roast coffee for example? It certainly does not in the context of a Marzen. I would choose the word of “toasty” since I think that the Caravienne malts provide a bit of toasty notes to my homebrewed Marzen. So, to me my homebrewed Marzen has a combination of dark bready flavors with some toasty notes.

    Now, if you drank one of my homebrewed Marzen beers you might pronounce something like (this is just an example): wow, that has a lot of toffee flavor. We all have our own unique palate and our own unique way of perceiving/describing flavors. When it comes to perceiving/describing beer flavors nobody is ‘right’ and nobody is ‘wrong’. This is just another aspect of beer appreciation which makes things ‘interesting’.


    P.S. On a separate but related matter I was drinking a Sly Fox Oktoberfest beer as I was typing this post. This year's Sly Fox Oktoberfest beer is consistent with prior year's versions: AWESOME!
    JeffTheJuice and boddhitree like this.
  8. HeelsandEers

    HeelsandEers Jun 8, 2013 West Virginia

  9. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    I won't I'm afraid. Stahlsturm works and Thursdays are filled with important meetings so today is a very bad day for me to hang out on a board. Maybe I'll find time in the afternoon. It's 7:43 am local time as I type this.
    jibjib513 likes this.
  10. Gutes_Bier

    Gutes_Bier Jul 31, 2011 Germany

    This has always been my impression, although I'm no more knowledgeable than the you on the subject. Of course, if Paulaner can sell a gazillion bottles of beer labeled "Wies'n", sure enough everyone else will follow suit and a new style will be born...
    Stahlsturm likes this.
  11. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    A horrible yet completely realistic thought. And we haven't even touched the subject of Paulaner being mass produced piss that should be avoided at all cost establishing themselves as trend setters for American craft beer...

    Ich kann nicht soviel fressen wie ich kotzen will...
    PancakeMcWaffles and danfue like this.
  12. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    No, no -- a Märzen should not have "roasted" character or any sort of toffee character -- Märzens should be "toasty," as in toasted breadiness. They should start sweet, in a bread crust -- melanoidin character, and finish dry. The sweet character should never be candy-like.

    It's been said before, but think liquid bread.

    Leave roasted for Porters and Stouts and toffee to ESBs.
    hopfenunmaltz and herrburgess like this.
  13. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    But as has been pointed out, Wiesn is not a new style -- it's more of a nickname for Festbier/Helles Märzen. It really is the same beer. Every brewery in Munich brews one and even HB exports theirs to the US just as Paulaner. Weihenstephan and Köstritzer too.
  14. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Lager for Ale lovers. ;)

    (what happened to the head? :eek: Oh yeah, it's GL. :D)
    grantcty likes this.
  15. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Ahh ok. I did mean "toasted" but the "r" and the "t" are awfully close on the keyboard. I do pick up sweeter flavors (caramel for example) in Marzens such as Sam Adam's version. But as you've said before, this means the beer is too sweet for a Marzen.

    Thanks for clearing that up, it's been a year since I've had my favorite (Ayinger). When I buy it in a week or so I'll try to think liquid bread and see what I pick up on. Perhaps that's why I prefer the German versions to the American ones?
  16. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Well, for the most part -- yes, but just as all breweries have their own character, so do all Festbiers.
    Stahlsturm likes this.
  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Why don't they just brew a Helles for the fest then? It's a more sessionable abv.
  18. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    If it's fresh, you'll get it.

    Same here. Well, Bavarian examples. ;)
  19. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    This is probably one for a native to answer, but I think the clientele would revolt -- they want something special and that kick, not a plain old Helles that they can get every day.

    Of course, after one liter, I'd bet a lot of them would't be able to tell in the next! :D
  20. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    How come they didn't revolt in the early 90s when all of a sudden the beer tasted and looked different? And isn't Oktoberfest simply just "another" festival to them, as there are numerous from May to October?

    Inside the actual tents, for the most part, isn't it just tourists getting drunk? Would they notice? As you stated earlier in the thread, the theory you have is they changed malts to reduce costs for an event in which the patrons are simply over-imbibing. Why not go the extra step and brew a separate Helles for this occasion?

    I'm not saying they should or shouldn't, just asking the questions.
  21. Crusader

    Crusader Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I would imagine it's down to tradition, of brewing stronger than usual beers for festivities, a tradition which is found in other European countries as well. Especially now that the dark Bavarian lager beers have "turned" golden, I imagine it makes it all the more important to maintain some sort of point of difference from their regular helles, for the sake of upholding the specialness of the festival and the beer drunk.

    Edit: I'm trying to picture the Swedish breweries getting away with brewing pale Christmas beers while maintaining the alcohol level. Oh the outrage that would ensue, yet the German brewers got away with a similar feat as pointed out by AlcahueteJ. It would be interesting to know if there was a reaction of sorts when the beers started to change, one could easily imagine there being one, but perhaps it did not reach the level where the brewers felt the need to repent.

    After all, Dunkels were being replaced by Helles and Pilsner during the rest of the year, so maybe it wasn't such a big deal for people. Pale lager beers tend to be viewed as better suited for mass consumption than "dark beers", so the nature of the festival itself, or the direction that the festival had taken (in recent decades?), might have helped in achieving acceptance for the switch.
  22. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    Attitude. Pride. Tradition. It's sort of like a seasonal from an american brewery. Often breweries never even bother bottling their Festbier. For instance, Plank in my hometown brewes a festbeer for every Bürgerfest, every year. It's delicious, completely different from all their other (also delicious) beers they brew year in and out and no amount of moaning, complaining, begging and threatening has convinced Michael to make a bottled run of it.
    A brewer is still an important person in a small town in rural Bavaria and he sees it as his social obligation to the town to provide something special for their fest.
  23. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    Are you trying to bait me ? :D
  24. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    There are plenty. The "Regensburger Herbstdult" starts tomorrow BTW :D
  25. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois


    But, no. :D Talkin' mostly about the "amateurs."
  26. Stahlsturm

    Stahlsturm Mar 21, 2005 Germany

    Light-hearted ?

    I know, how unusual for me... :p

    I know :D
    steveh likes this.
  27. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    It was gradual and, as mentioned above, the publics' turn toward lighter-bodied beers was being responded to, not dictated. Besides, it was still strong. ;)

    Different festivals and different beers; Frühlingsfest: Maibock, Starkbierzeit: Doppelbock, etc.

    No, at least not when I was there -- there were tents with tourists and tents with locals.

    Stahl answered this pretty well. As to my theory, it was just that -- a theory. At the time I formulated it I didn't realize the tastes were changing in Bavaria.
  28. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    This is probably why I noted toffee and "roasted" (maybe I did mean roasted) in my Sam Adams Octoberfest. Straight from their e-mail....doesn't appear to be authentic huh?

    Samuel Adams Octoberfest pays homage to the authentic märzen-style brews of the historic celebration with its rich maltiness (very different from the lighter brews served at Germany's festival today). We use generous portions of five varieties of malted barley that create a smooth roasty malt backbone with notes of toffee and caramel that's complemented the subtle hop complexity of Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Mittelfrueh Noble hops.
  29. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Didn't the tradition part of it sort of change when they began brewing a paler beer? Even if the strength of the brew remained the same, that's still a marked change in my opinion.
  30. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Nope. And they don't mention any of that warm-fermented-like fruitiness I always get either.

    Thing is, many brewers seem to use roasty as a synonym for toasty -- it's laziness in scripting their marketing. All they have to think is: roasty = stout. Toasty = German malts from decoction.
    herrburgess likes this.
  31. steveh

    steveh Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    They really didn't switch over night, it was a gradual thing -- and not to discount the breweries' following the customer preferences.
  32. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Gotcha. This is all great information, I wish I knew all of this before I went to Oktoberfest two years ago. It's a great reason to go back!
  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You asked: “doesn't appear to be authentic huh?”

    Different people will answer that differently. My personal response is that Sam Adams Oktoberfest is an authentic Oktoberfest/Marzen beer. Having flavors like: “roasty, caramel, toffee” does not make an Oktoberfest not authentic. Below is the style description for a Marzen from the EBSA beer competition the Brewers Association style guidelines. As you can read it is perfectly acceptable to have flavors like “roasty” and “caramel” (albeit the caramel should be a low level which is subjective). In the description from Paulaner for their Marzen beer they specifically mention: “with hints of toffee”

    I will readily admit that Sam Adams Oktoberfest is not my favorite Oktoberfest/Marzen beer but I personally would never characterize that beer as not being authentic.


    4) GermanStyle Märzen

    Colour: amber notes

    Palateful body, sweet, malty

    Hop bitterness: clean

    Malt character: slightly roasted rather than strongly caramel (though a low level of light caramel is acceptable)

    Flavour and aroma: slight bread or biscuit like malt character

    Hop flavour and aroma: low but noticeable and clean

    No fruity esters or Diacetyl

    Beer is filtered

    No chill haze


    Original gravity: 13.0 – 15.0 °Plato

    Apparent extract: 3.0 – 5.0 °Plato

    Alcohol: 4.0 – 5.0 % by weight, 5.0 – 6.2 % by volume

    Bitterness: 18 28 IBU

    German-Style Märzen

    German-style Märzen ranges from pale to reddish brown. Chill haze should not be perceived. Sweet maltiness is medium low to medium and dominates slightly over clean hop bitterness. Malt character should be light-toasted rather than strongly caramel (though a low level of light caramel character is acceptable). Bread or biscuit-like malt character is acceptable in aroma and flavor. Hop bitterness is medium low to medium. Hop aroma and flavor may be low. Ale-like fruity esters should not be perceived. Diacetyl should not be perceived.

    Original Gravity (ºPlato) 1.050-1.060 (12.5-14.7 ºPlato) ● Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato) 1.012-1.020 (3-5 ºPlato) ● Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 4-4.7% (5.3-5.9%) ● Bitterness (IBU) 18-25 ● Color SRM (EBC) 4-15 (8-30 EBC)
  34. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    You think it's "zum kotzen" when Paulaner influences style development in the U.S.? See Jack's response above about Sam Adams -- and then realize that 90% of U.S. "craft" interpretations are similarly influencing their respective Belgian, UK, Czech, and German styles here.... Yep, we're living in a beer utopia over here! o_O
    Stahlsturm and steveh like this.
  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I am somewhat reticent to mention this since it appears that the BJCP style guidelines seem to be a source of ridicule on this forum but you might be interested in knowing that Sam Adams Oktoberfest is mentioned as a commercial example for the Oktoberfest/Marzen beer style.

  36. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    To be completely honest, I didn't enjoy it all that much in years past, but last year's installment tasted good to me. This year, my first pint at least, was a sweet mess.
  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I personally am not a fan of Sam Adams Oktoberfest. I never purchase packaged versions of this beer and usually just have a couple of draft pints during the fall just for ‘fun’. Sam Adams Oktoberfest is a bit too sweet for my palate. I do not let the fact that Sam Adams Oktoberfest is not my ‘cup of tea’ color my opinions as to whether it is an authentic Oktoberfest/Marzen style beer. Lots of people drink Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer and they seem to thoroughly enjoy that beer.

    Different strokes for different folks!

  38. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    FWIW, below were my favorite Marzen’Wiesn beers of 2012. I have already had a couple of Sly Fox Oktoberfest this year and greatly enjoyed them. I intend to drink beers 2-5 plus some more (I have a local beer store guy tracking down a six-pack of Paulaner Wiesn beer for me as an example).


    1. Sly Fox

    2. High Point (Ramstein)

    3. Weihenstephan Oktoberfestbier (Wiesn)

    4. Ayinger

    5. Spoetzl (Shiner)

  39. herrburgess

    herrburgess Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    It's extremely dissimilar to authentic German versions. Try some of the latter and you'll likely see for yourself. After all, it is better to be informed than simply opinionated.... ;)
    steveh and spartan1979 like this.
  40. spartan1979

    spartan1979 Dec 29, 2005 Missouri

    But it's soooooooooo much easier to be simply opinionated.

    IMHO :)
    steveh and herrburgess like this.
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