Oktoberfest Wiesn vs. Marzen

Discussion in 'BeerAdvocate Talk' started by ifnkovhg, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. ifnkovhg

    ifnkovhg Initiate (184) Aug 12, 2008 California

    I noticed that the Brewers Association beer style guidelines differentiate between the two. Is this practice an outlier? Will the Alstrom Bros. follow suit?
  2. officerbill

    officerbill Disciple (368) Feb 9, 2019 New York

    Somebody had the Paulaner weisn on WBAYDN yesterday. That's not available anywhere around here. I have the Paulaner märzen in my fridge and would love to be able to do a side by side comparison.
    My Octoberfest visits were märzens in the late 70's, my understanding is that most of the beer served there now are weisns.
    So far I've had oktoberfests from seven breweries this year, 4 have been märzen & 3 weisn styles. For me the märzens are “all afternoon & snacking on soft pretzels” beers while the weisns are “all day & eating half-chickens” beers.
  3. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,993) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society

    I'd down for splitting them up. It would take some work to move beers around, but certainly doable with help from the community and mods.
  4. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    As I've discussed in the past they're surprisingly more similar than you'd think.

    I recommend doing a blind side by side tasting.

    While you can find amber Oktoberfests in Munich, all of the Oktoberfest beer served at the festival are pale Oktoberfests.

    It's easier to distinguish between the two styles than it is to determine if a beer is an "American IPA" or a "New England IPA" in my opinion.
  5. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,720) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Put me down in camp “Keep them all in one category, please.”

    I like being able to review my Oktoberfests all in one place rather than switching between two different substyles.
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  6. invertalon

    invertalon Crusader (777) Jan 27, 2009 Ohio
    Society Trader

    If I recall, I don't know the percentage off the top of my head, but Paulaner Marzen is something like 30% Pilsner, 70% Munich malt... While Weisn is the inverse, at 30% Munich, 70% Pilsner.
  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,470) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    The BJCP and European Beer Stat Awards have different categories for Festbier and Märzen, so the Brewers Association guidelines are not an outlier.
  8. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,599) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Then we'll need an Imperial of each, maybe a Brut of each, maybe a hazy of each, maybe in addition to the German, an American of each, maybe ...

    Keep going and what was once 1 style becomes 30+ Yippee! :slight_smile:
  9. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Should we put Vienna lagers and Helles into one category as well?

    I know this was likely meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the Germans just straight up have different style names for the "single" versions.

    At least for the pale style anyways with a Helles. I suppose you could argue the Vienna lager being akin to the amber Oktoberfests part, as I've had far less Vienna lagers than I have Helles, so I'm less familiar with the style.
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  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,179) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I often tell folks who are less experienced with the Vienna Lager style to view them as lower gravity (lower in alcohol) Amber Oktoberfest beers.

    Because of this lower gravity aspect Vienna Lagers tend to have a greater 'drinkability' factor for my palate. YMMV.

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  11. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (76) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    I tend to prefer amber Märzens for a similar reason, and I don’t find problems with either style. Although I do notice that Vienna’s tend to be drier than Märzen. I suppose it makes sense, considering the identical origins between Dreher’s Vienna Lager and Sedlmayer’s Münchner Märzen.

    It should be worth remembering that Märzen is not a color, but instead a strength-level between a normal-strength (~5% ABV) Vollbier and Starkbier such as Bocks. The Austrian brewery Hofstetten makes a Märzen called Hochzeitsbier apparently based on what the beer would’ve likely been served at the first Oktoberfest in 1810, and it is therefore a distinctively strong Dunkel.

  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,179) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    You are indeed correct here but I wonder how frequently the term of Märzen is utilized in this manner for German brewed beers. Have you ever seen a light colored German brewed beer of Märzen alcohol strength labeled using the word Märzen? For example Augustiner Edelstoff has an alcohol strength of 5.7% ABV but I have never seen the word Märzen on that beer's labeling.

    If we take German beer rules out of the picture, beer drinkers typically associate the term of Märzen with Amber Oktoberfest beers.

  13. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I've often thought of Sam Adams Octoberfest as a higher gravity (albeit slightly now with it being 5.3%) Boston Lager.

    And Boston Lager is considered by some (including the company in the past) as a Vienna Lager, and is labeled as such on this website (I don't think of it as a Vienna though).


    When I was in Darmstadt last year in January a local brewery had a Märzen that I drank. It was amber colored but it also wasn't even close to Oktoberfest season.
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  14. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (2,243) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    I'm far from an expert on Oktoberfestbiers, but isn't the whole "Oktoberfest / Märzen" category a little outdated anyway, as most modern Oktoberfestbiers are more pale and more akin to Vienna Lagers?

    Since there are plenty of non-Oktoberfest Märzen being brewed as well, maybe change "Oktoberfest / Märzen" to "Märzen" and add a "Festbier" style.
    JLaw55, ifnkovhg, Bitterbill and 3 others like this.
  15. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (76) Mar 16, 2018 District of Columbia

    I suspect that, as a niche style, Märzen is difficult to find at most breweries. As consumer preferences have gravitated towards pale lagers like Helles and Pilsner, I think Märzen has been discontinued or modified into the pale Wiesn beers today - and I think that the modern Wiesn style is a mere evolution of Märzen rather than something entirely new, especially as the strength has been maintained.

    FWIW based on my observations in Austria, some smaller breweries continued to offered an amber, slightly-stronger lager called a Märzen, especially if their flagship was labeled as a Helles, as either a seasonal beer for the late summer and early autumn, or as a permanent part of their year-round lineup. One example of this is the Märzen made by Fischerbräu in Vienna. However, this picture becomes more complicated as Märzen in Austria is generally synonymous with Helles, being pale in color, balanced flavor, and around 5% ABV. That is totally unrelated to our discussion here though.
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  16. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,720) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Depends if you’re drinking them while watching football
  17. Amendm

    Amendm Defender (604) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    I like this idea, the Marzen could become more true to original style while a Festbier category could contain the pale outlier and such.
  18. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,470) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen is 5.4% and is darker than Amber in color, available year round.
  19. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    The Oktoberfestbiers served at the Oktoberfest in Munich are more akin to Helles in color.

    And any pale Oktoberfest I’ve seen here in the US certainly looks like a Helles.
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  20. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,470) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    They slot between an export Helles and a Heller Bock.
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  21. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Right, more akin to a Helles rather than a Vienna.

    Although I’d be curious what the SRM is on Weihenstephan’s Festbier. That one is very light in color.

    I was curious what the BJCP lists as SRMs and appearance descriptions for all these styles.

    Munich Helles: 3 - 5
    Appearance: Medium yellow to pale gold. Clear. Persistent creamy white head.

    German Helles Exportbier: 4 - 7
    Appearance: Light gold to deep gold. Clear. Persistent white head.

    Festbier: 4 - 7
    Appearance: Deep yellow to deep gold color; should not have amber hues. Bright clarity. Persistent white to off-white foam stand. Most commercial examples are medium gold in color.

    Helles Bock: 6 - 11
    Appearance: Deep gold to light amber in color. Bright to clear clarity. Large, creamy, persistent, white head.

    Vienna Lager: 9 - 15
    Appearance: Light reddish amber to copper color. Bright clarity. Large, off-white, persistent head.

    Märzen: 8 - 17
    Appearance: Amber-orange to deep reddish-copper color; should not be golden. Bright clarity, with persistent, off-white foam stand.

    Dunkles Bock: 14 - 22
    Appearance: Light copper to brown color, often with attractive garnet highlights. Lagering should provide good clarity despite the dark color. Large, creamy, persistent, off- white head.
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  22. officerbill

    officerbill Disciple (368) Feb 9, 2019 New York

    I've had nine different "oktoberfest" beers so far this year (five German, four American). Five of those, including two of the Germans, have called themselves "marzen" . Marzens might no longer be served at Oktoberfest, but marzen still seems to be the style identified with Oktoberfest.

    It's also definitely a rauchbier. It would be difficult, and unfair, to rank it against a regular marzen. I almost wish they called it something else.
  23. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,654) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Agreed for the most part, but I also believe that this is one of those times where Marzen simply refers to the strength, and not so much style.
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  24. officerbill

    officerbill Disciple (368) Feb 9, 2019 New York

    True, I'm speaking strictly about how it would rank in a BA "marzen" category
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  25. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,654) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Oh yeah! Also, along those lines, back when the pale O'fests started to become available here in the US (maybe a decade ago?) you'd frequently see reviews complaining that they weren't real Oktoberfests, tasted like Budweiser, stuff like that.

    At least if the categories were separated, the reviewers would be given more of a heads-up and an opportunity to enjoy the beer on its own terms.
  26. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,968) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Not worth much, but I greatly favor the pale Fest Beers. But I have to fairly add the Ayinger I had the other day was better than I remember.
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  27. chrismattlin

    chrismattlin Crusader (735) May 10, 2014 Ohio

    Ayinger Okto is great, however, it's a crap shoot buy. I'm positive I've gotten year old packs in the past and, unfortunately, there's no way to tell if what you're buying is (relatively) fresh. Distributors suck like that from time to time.
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  28. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,470) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Rauchbier Märzen,i strength. The Urbock is a Bock strength Rauchbier. The Eiche Doppelbock is oak smoked. The Helles Lager Bier is Helles strength, no smoked malts, but has some smoked character from the process.

    Edit - strength categories are important, as the Tax Law has defined strengths for the beers.
  29. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,968) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    I’ve heard that, it’s why I only but these beers from only one place.
  30. jeebeel

    jeebeel Initiate (176) Jun 17, 2003 Texas

    I was in Munich in June and managed a brief detour to http://www.giesinger-braeu.de before meeting the family for dinner. I had .5L of both their Kellerbier (5.3%), which looked like a slightly hazy wiesn style and tasted the same, and their Maerzen (5.4%), which was a full-on malty beer, deep amber in color, minimal hops. 2 very different beers, and both were great.

    The brewer's short video descriptions of his beers (in German FYI) on the website are interesting. 4 types of malt in the Maerzen, 3 in the Kellerbier, both beers have 3 types of hops.
  31. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,479) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    For what it’s worth, when I went to Oktoberfest in Munich last year, I had many more “light” festbiers than “dark”.

    All of the US brewed Octoberfests, which in my experience tended to be “darker” skewed my expectations.

    Believe me, I wasn’t complaining. One day I drank 9 liters. The next day I required much Weisswurst and Weissbier to recuperate!
  32. cheeseheadinMinneapolis

    cheeseheadinMinneapolis Aspirant (230) Sep 20, 2017 Minnesota

    Great thread.............But holy shit
    The more i read it the more my head spins. maybe I need to give up beer:wink:
    What is what? is a simple way to put it.

    I don't know if it is true or not but what is the ABV of those beers recently served at Oktoberfest in Germany? I have heard that it is low and at some of the fests it is below 4.0 ABV.

    So What was/ is the true Ocktoberfest style of beer like 100 years ago or more in Germany?
    #32 cheeseheadinMinneapolis, Aug 20, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
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  33. cheeseheadinMinneapolis

    cheeseheadinMinneapolis Aspirant (230) Sep 20, 2017 Minnesota

    That is why it should be a standard law and a rigidly enforced law all beer imported and brewed in country and sold in the USA should have a bottled on date.
    I can just see how breweries/importers etc will play games with this too. That why the fines must be massive.
    chrismattlin likes this.
  34. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Do any breweries outside of the Munich breweries actually call their amber Oktoberfests a "Märzen"?

    I don't know the exact history behind it, but I believe Paulaner had a hand in splitting the nomenclature up between the two styles, most likely in a marketing effort.

    Calling their year-round amber Oktoberfest a "Märzen" and then creating the name "Wiesn" for their pale Oktoberfest. Although "Wiesn" is technically what the fairgrounds are called where the Oktoberfest is held.

    Perhaps the "Märzen" designation is simply for beers exported to the US? At least, maybe that's when the term should apply to an amber Oktoberfest beer.

    With the strength designation applying only in Germany. Maybe Schlenkerla should rename their exported beer?

    I've often thought this may be what has contributed to lower ratings for some of the pale Oktoberfests.

    For example, Weihenstephan's Festbier is rated at a 3.76, and it's 72nd on the top rated Oktoberfests list!

    That is criminal.

    In contrast, Paulaner's Wiesn is rated at a 3.88 (albeit with about 1100 less ratings) and is 17th on the list. Perhaps this has to do with Paulaner specifically labeling and splitting up the two styles, so people ACTUALLY know it's a different style, as opposed to Weihenstephan's offering.

    For more detail:

    Hofbrau's is rated as a 3.52 and is 467th on the list. Although I imagine a lot of this has to do with it formerly being packaged in green bottles.

    Andech's Spezial Hell is an interesting one. Labeled as a Helles on here (appropriately), but drinks like a pale Oktoberfest to me. Our local bar gets this one every year along with the other imported Oktoberfests.

    This one is a 3.87 and is ranked at #26 on the Helles top rated list.

    Ayinger dates their bottles now.

    It reads, "L9073"

    The "9" stands for the year, and the last three numbers are the Julian date.

    So this would be March 14th, 2019 (FYI, this is an actual bottling date I saw in my area for the Ayinger Oktoberfest).

    9 liters! Impressive!

    I can empathize with your hangover. I had 7 liters the first day I went...then left the tents at 4 pm and partied until midnight in downtown Munich.

    The ABV ranges between the six Munich breweries' Oktoberfests are 5.8% (Hacker-Pschorr) - 6.3% (Hofbrau). See the link below:


    Here's a bit of history on the nomenclature that I've gathered over the years (obligatory "someone fix anything here that I have wrong"):

    Märzen - a strength designation in Germany

    Festbier - Festbier simply means a beer brewed for a festival. It can be any style.

    Oktoberfest(bier) - Technically only the six Munich breweries that brew this beer for the festival can call their beers an "Oktoberfest".

    For example, Weihenstephan calls theirs a "Festbier" because they are not located in Munich.

    Although as I'm sure you've seen, many MANY breweries in the US use the term Oktoberfest. However, Sam Adams does do it right by labeling theirs as an "Octoberfest" with a "c".

    Wiesn - The fairgrounds in which the Oktoberfest is held. Paulaner labeled their Oktoberfest (pale) as a Wiesn. Their year-round amber style is labeled as a Märzen.

    What do I do?

    I just call them amber and pale Oktoberfests and call it a day.

    I believe it was a Munich Dunkel (maybe a Vienna)?

  35. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (289) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I think the whole thing becomes alot easier to understand if one ignores the rating side of things.

    Festbier: 13% plato or above, sometimes brewed for an actual fest or season, sometimes not. Often pale. Distinguishing feature: higher gravity (than either pilsner or contemporary pale Export beers) lager beer.
    Märzenbier: 13% plato or above, most often brewed year round. Often darker than festbiere but with a wide spectrum of colors: golden brown-brown-dark brown. Distinguishing features: higher gravity (than either pilsner or contemporary pale Export beers) lager beers, often darker than a typical pilsner or pale Export beer. Alot of history behind the name dating back to the law of 1516 and onwards, many breweries emphasise the historical background behind the term.
    Oktoberfestbier: brewed by the Munich breweries for Oktoberfest, 13.5% plato or above (all of them stay within the vollbierclass of 11-14% plato). Pale or dark golden color. Distinguishing feature: higher gravity (than either pilsner or contemporary pale Export beers), brewed by Munich breweries. Evolved from the Vienna-type Märzen. In the US Paulaner Oktoberfestbier transforms into Paulaner Wiesn.

    Festbier is more contemporary since it is free from the historical connotations of Märzenbier, denoting higher gravity lager beer. Märzenbier is very strongly tied to the history of Bavarian brewing, being one of the two main kinds of braunbier (brown beer) i.e bottom fermented beer. Oktoberfestbier is simply marketing connected to a specific festival. If a brewery wants to brew a higher gravity lager beer, in a pale color in line with pils, helles and Export, then festbier is a logical choice. If a brewery wishes to give a higher gravity lager beer more historical background and significance, and brew it darker, then Märzen is a good choice. If they want to fight a lawsuit, then Oktoberfestbier is a good choice as a name.
  36. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts


    The only question I have is related to what I bolded in your post.

    My experience with pale export beers we receive here in the US, is that they are similar strength to all of these styles you mentioned. I assume you're talking about starting gravities being higher than the export beers then?

    For example, Augustiner's Edelstoff is 5.7% ABV.
  37. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (2,243) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    This is actually a change purely for the American Market, where an Oktoberfest Wiesn and an Oktoberfest Märzen are available. There is only an Oktoberfest Bier available in Germany, which corresponds to the Wiesn in the USA. The Oktoberfest Märzen does not exist in Germany, at least not according to Paulaner's German website.
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  38. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (289) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    That is correct, I'm talking about the original gravity. Differences in degree of attenuation can result in beers of quite different original gravities having the same or similar abv. Knowing the abv without knowing the original gravity makes comparing two different beers stylistically alot harder, and I would even say impractical.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  39. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,968) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    I think Amber and Fest beers are as about as clear as it gets, it’s all I use too.
  40. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,101) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I remember when I first went to the Marienplatz I bought an amber Oktoberfest to take with me while walking around and drinking.

    I think it was from Hacker-Pschorr though.

    Here in the US, the BJCP lists these are the OG's for each style in competition (assuming my conversions to degrees Plato are correct):

    Helles Exportbier: 1.048 - 1.056 (12 to ~13.75 °P)

    Festbier: 1.054 - 1.057 (~13.25 - 14 °P)

    Certainly not a HUGE difference, but there is a difference. And it appears to line up with your post (granted this is just the BJCP).