Author Topic: American Märzen  (Read 7293 times)

Offline Saccharomyces

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American Märzen
« on: September 05, 2021, 08:11:58 am »
Words cannot explain how much I despise this sickly sweet style.  It needs to go away, but I doubt that it will because the craft focus still remains on ale.  American 2-row malt has no place in this type of lager and the Americanized version of Märzen was created back when caramel malt was used in excess.  In my humble opinion, it will take as long to ween the American beer drinker off of this mess of style as it took to get a sizable percentage of people weened off of industrial lager.  Sweet and bland is not a replacement for rich and malty. However, we are a Coca Cola drinking nation, so sweet rules.

Online Megary

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2021, 08:25:42 am »
Every year I buy one American “Oktoberfest”, always from a different brewery.  Some are better than others of course, but all are far too sweet for my liking, and none were ever worthy of repeated drinking.  I just picked up a six from a local brewery whose beers I’ve enjoyed in the past.  Theirs is no different…*sigh*.  I’m willing to accept that this seemingly popular style just ain’t for me.

Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2021, 08:41:33 am »
I've had good American Marzens before but clearly those brewers knew what they were doing.  I've been brewing now for 22+ years and my use of crystal has significantly dropped over that time as I realize what I want and how some styles should be brewed.  My first batch of 2021 was a Marzen:  40% Vienna, 35% Munich 1, 25% Munich 2.  Tettnanger hops and 838 Southern German Lager yeast. 



I'll be honest:  A lot of small breweries in my area are turning out dreadful beer.  Dreadful.  I had a dunkel recently that tasted like an ashtray filled with black malt.  It was entirely too roasty.  Do these brewers do any homework before brewing or do they just assume that Americans will drink anything? 
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Offline Iliff Ave

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2021, 08:54:44 am »
I get great American marzen this time of year
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2021, 09:04:34 am »
The problem with the American Märzen style is that it was created back in the nineties before we had affordable access to richly flavored Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malt.  In essense, it was a make-do style like a lot of other early craft adaptions. Crystal/caramel malt was overused because it was the primary type of malt available to brewers other than American 2-row, which is the tofu of brewing malts.  I am certain that American Märzen will get updated when lager brewing comes full circle in the craft world.  However, it is going to take a lot of effort to undo the damage that a style that was created during a decade of make-do brewing has done to the American beer drinking audience.  The reality is that the American beer drinker has associated Octoberfest with a sweet, bland, caramelly mess.  I am certain that is the reality Sierra Nevada has experienced every time they partnered with a German brewery for this seasonal.  This year they went at it alone and the sweet, bland beer known as Sierra Nevada 2021 Octoberfest is the result.  I do not fault the brewery.  They are in business to make money.  If the American public does not know the difference between German Märzen, German Festbier, and American Märzen and prefers American Märzen out of shear ignorance, any brewery that is in business to make money is going to cater to that ignorance.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2021, 09:25:27 am by Saccharomyces »

Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2021, 09:21:00 am »
The problem with the American Märzen style is that it was created back in the nineties before we had affordable access to richly flavored Pilsner, Vienna, and Munich malt.  In essense, it was a make-do style like a lot of other early craft adaptions. Crystal/caramel malt was over used because it was the primary type of malt available to brewers other than American 2-row, which is the tofu of brewing malts.  I am certain that American Märzen will get updated when lager brewing comes full circle in the craft world.  However, it is going to take a lot of effort to undo the damage that a style that was created during a decade of make-do brewing has done to the American beer drinking audience.  The reality is that the American beer drinker has associated Octoberfest with a sweet, bland, caramelly mess.  I am certain that is the reality Sierra Nevada has experienced every time they partnered with a German brewery for this seasonal.  This year they went at it alone and the sweet, bland beer known as Sierra Nevada 2021 Octoberfest is the result.  I do not fault the brewery.  They are in business to make money.  If the American public does not know the difference between German Märzen, German Festbier, and American Märzen and prefers American Märzen out of shear ignorance, any brewery that is in business to make money is going to cater to that ignorance.

As I said in another thread, then SN Ore at I got is decidedly not over sweet.  It is surprisingly dry, AAMOF.

I think that to some extent the sweet American style can be blamed on Designing Great Beers.  Munich malt 2as pretty much unavailable back then, so homebrewers started using crystal.  Ray documented that, and suddenly it became one of those myths that gets passed on because it was in a book.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2021, 09:26:56 am »
I was staying in Washington DC a few years ago and there was a Gordon Biersch Brewpub in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.  They had a nice Marzen on tap at the time and it was very well made.  I could go hang there for a bit and then get another beer and they would let you take it up to your room.  I think some of their glassware found its way into my luggage.  :D  I would also mention that it's possible to use some crystal in a beer and still have it finish dry with a lower mash temp, longer mash, the proper water, a higher-attenuating yeast, maybe some amylase enzyme, etc.  Crystal isn't a deal-breaker, necessarily but depending on the brewer... it could be. 
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2021, 09:33:39 am »
As I said in another thread, then SN Ore at I got is decidedly not over sweet.  It is surprisingly dry, AAMOF.

I think that to some extent the sweet American style can be blamed on Designing Great Beers.  Munich malt 2as pretty much unavailable back then, so homebrewers started using crystal.  Ray documented that, and suddenly it became one of those myths that gets passed on because it was in a book.

I am beginning to wonder if there are differences between the products that ship from Chico and the products that ship from Mills River.  I have been around long enough to remember when Mills River did not exist.  All I know is this year's Octoberfest is very pedestrian compared to last year's offering.  I recall many people complaining, some on this forum, that last year's Octoberfest was not an Octoberfest.  If we are discussing American  Märzen, then they were right.  Last year's beer was a modern Festbier that was very close to what is consumed in Germany today during Octoberfest. Luckily, I am apparently not the only person who feels this year's offering is a step backwards for Sierra Nevada.  The beer is not getting the same level of praise in the beer drinking community as last year's offering.

Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2021, 09:41:24 am »
I was staying in Washington DC a few years ago and there was a Gordon Biersch Brewpub in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.  They had a nice Marzen on tap at the time and it was very well made.  I could go hang there for a bit and then get another beer and they would let you take it up to your room.  I think some of their glassware found its way into my luggage.  :D  I would also mention that it's possible to use some crystal in a beer and still have it finish dry with a lower mash temp, longer mash, the proper water, a higher-attenuating yeast, maybe some amylase enzyme, etc.  Crystal isn't a deal-breaker, necessarily but depending on the brewer... it could be.

My girlfriend and I eat at GB several times a year.  Their Märzen is a prime example of a 90s American Märzen. 

From their website:

Märzen

A GB classic. This original Oktoberfest style lager is extremely smooth, auburn colored with a mildly sweet Munich Malt finish.

5.7% abv
18 bu
Hallertauer Magnum, Hersbrucker hops
2-Row Pale, Caramunich, Munich malt


In my humble opinion, the best lager beer GB makes is their Golden Export Helles lager.  You can tell that they use American 2-row without looking at the menu, but there is a lot of finesse in that beer.  Is it a true-to-style helles? No, not by a large margin!  Is it a good beer? Absolutely!

Offline erockrph

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2021, 10:03:12 am »
If used carefully, I think there is room for CaraMunich in this style if used with a light hand. I think that problems arise when you use richly flavored base malts, don't attenuate well, and then add a lot of Cara malt on top of it. I generally use a 2:2:1 ratio of Pils:Munich I:Vienna for my base, and then add no more than 4 ounces of CaraMunich or Aromatic malt (in 3 gallons). It works as an accent malt in this style, but not as 10% of your recipe.
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Offline Andy Farke

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2021, 10:04:41 am »
I think that to some extent the sweet American style can be blamed on Designing Great Beers.  Munich malt 2as pretty much unavailable back then, so homebrewers started using crystal.  Ray documented that, and suddenly it became one of those myths that gets passed on because it was in a book.

I would love to see that book updated! I'm a sucker for data and stats, and even if the ingredient guidelines are historical artifacts, I find the format super useful. I've put together parallel databases for personal projects (e.g., plotting average ABV in different recipe books, or looking at score distribution in Zymurgy's Commercial Calibration column)...maybe I'll have to do this for styles that interest me. Or be super lazy, and hope someone else does it for every major style!
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Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2021, 10:31:56 am »
I was staying in Washington DC a few years ago and there was a Gordon Biersch Brewpub in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.  They had a nice Marzen on tap at the time and it was very well made.  I could go hang there for a bit and then get another beer and they would let you take it up to your room.  I think some of their glassware found its way into my luggage.  :D  I would also mention that it's possible to use some crystal in a beer and still have it finish dry with a lower mash temp, longer mash, the proper water, a higher-attenuating yeast, maybe some amylase enzyme, etc.  Crystal isn't a deal-breaker, necessarily but depending on the brewer... it could be.

And proper hopping.
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Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2021, 10:33:08 am »
I think that to some extent the sweet American style can be blamed on Designing Great Beers.  Munich malt 2as pretty much unavailable back then, so homebrewers started using crystal.  Ray documented that, and suddenly it became one of those myths that gets passed on because it was in a book.

I would love to see that book updated! I'm a sucker for data and stats, and even if the ingredient guidelines are historical artifacts, I find the format super useful. I've put together parallel databases for personal projects (e.g., plotting average ABV in different recipe books, or looking at score distribution in Zymurgy's Commercial Calibration column)...maybe I'll have to do this for styles that interest me. Or be super lazy, and hope someone else does it for every major style!

10 years ago there was rumor of an update or new edition. At this point I doubt we'll see it.
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2021, 10:53:24 am »
10 years ago there was rumor of an update or new edition. At this point I doubt we'll see it.

When the book was published, it is was pretty much the bible for making beer.  Today, it seems quaint.  We made do with subpar ingredients in the 90s. Today, there is no excuse for not attempting to be true to style. I can purchase imported German malt for almost the same price per pound as domestic malt from a large domestic maltster.  American 2-row does not have the tell-tale graham cracker taste of good continental Pilsner malt.  That shows up in these much lighter continental-style beers.  I love what we have done with domestic malt and domestic hops, but at this point, I am brewing mainly because I cannot obtain authentic fresh continental and British styles.  Those styles are not served best with domestic malt.

Offline tommymorris

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2021, 11:05:01 am »
I was staying in Washington DC a few years ago and there was a Gordon Biersch Brewpub in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at.  They had a nice Marzen on tap at the time and it was very well made.  I could go hang there for a bit and then get another beer and they would let you take it up to your room.  I think some of their glassware found its way into my luggage.  :D  I would also mention that it's possible to use some crystal in a beer and still have it finish dry with a lower mash temp, longer mash, the proper water, a higher-attenuating yeast, maybe some amylase enzyme, etc.  Crystal isn't a deal-breaker, necessarily but depending on the brewer... it could be.

My girlfriend and I eat at GB several times a year.  Their Märzen is a prime example of a 90s American Märzen. 

From their website:

Märzen

A GB classic. This original Oktoberfest style lager is extremely smooth, auburn colored with a mildly sweet Munich Malt finish.

5.7% abv
18 bu
Hallertauer Magnum, Hersbrucker hops
2-Row Pale, Caramunich, Munich malt


In my humble opinion, the best lager beer GB makes is their Golden Export Helles lager.  You can tell that they use American 2-row without looking at the menu, but there is a lot of finesse in that beer.  Is it a true-to-style helles? No, not by a large margin!  Is it a good beer? Absolutely!
I get that GB Golden Export Helles every time I fly through Atlanta. It is great!