Author Topic: American Märzen  (Read 7292 times)

Offline jeffy

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2021, 11:29:34 am »
I wonder if the American style was made to mimic the Ofest beers that we used to get here past their prime or oxidized.  If all you could get was an oxidized Marzen at the store, then of course you would try to emulate the sweetness and lack of fresh hop flavor that you perceived when trying to clone it.
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Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2021, 11:48:20 am »
I wonder if the American style was made to mimic the Ofest beers that we used to get here past their prime or oxidized.  If all you could get was an oxidized Marzen at the store, then of course you would try to emulate the sweetness and lack of fresh hop flavor that you perceived when trying to clone it.

I think that's a reasonable assumption.  I've found that a lot of IPA I've had in Latin American countries seems to come from the same premise.  This is what we get, it tastes like this, so it must be how IPA tastes
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Offline jeffy

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2021, 12:23:27 pm »
I wonder if the American style was made to mimic the Ofest beers that we used to get here past their prime or oxidized.  If all you could get was an oxidized Marzen at the store, then of course you would try to emulate the sweetness and lack of fresh hop flavor that you perceived when trying to clone it.

I think that's a reasonable assumption.  I've found that a lot of IPA I've had in Latin American countries seems to come from the same premise.  This is what we get, it tastes like this, so it must be how IPA tastes
When I first started judging homebrews in the early 90’s I was benchmarking the flavors of past-their-prime European lagers available to me at the time.  I was mistaken and I’m sure others were as well.
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Offline Megary

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2021, 12:34:51 pm »
…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.
I think you’re going a bit too far here.  Only beer geeks (on beer forums) or those lucky enough to have been to Germany will really know the difference between a German Marzen and an American.  But that really isn’t the point.  Given that the market gets flooded with Oktoberfests every year, it should be apparent that the average beer drinking Joes don’t care if it’s “to style”.  And frankly, they shouldn’t care.  Style is pretty subjective and pointless anyway.  They drink it not out of ignorance, but because they like it (or at least think they do!). And it doesn’t matter to them if you and I don’t.

Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2021, 12:47:43 pm »
…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.
I think you’re going a bit too far here.  Only beer geeks (on beer forums) or those lucky enough to have been to Germany will really know the difference between a German Marzen and an American.  But that really isn’t the point.  Given that the market gets flooded with Oktoberfests every year, it should be apparent that the average beer drinking Joes don’t care if it’s “to style”.  And frankly, they shouldn’t care.  Style is pretty subjective and pointless anyway.  They drink it not out of ignorance, but because they like it (or at least think they do!). And it doesn’t matter to them if you and I don’t.

Well said, and that's true of about any beer.  We beer geeks tend to forget what a small segment of the market we are.  Most people buying beer don't care or know if it's to style.  They just decide of they like it or not.  No need for us to get upset...it's only beer.
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Offline Bel Air Brewing

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2021, 12:53:36 pm »
Having consumed Fest Bier at Paulaner in Frankfurt, I cannot really enjoy any of the American Oktoberfest beers. They all seem heavy on the caramel, with the sweetness that goes with it.

Certainly not what they drink in the Fatherland.
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Offline RC

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2021, 02:16:58 pm »
10 years ago there was rumor of an update or new edition. At this point I doubt we'll see it.

Today, there is no excuse for not attempting to be true to style.

This comment makes me cringe.

Offline denny

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2021, 02:20:39 pm »
10 years ago there was rumor of an update or new edition. At this point I doubt we'll see it.

Today, there is no excuse for not attempting to be true to style.

This comment makes me cringe.

Indeed.
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2021, 02:35:28 pm »
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!
It's possible for there to be a good resulting beer that is made in a way that might not satisfy the brewer or beer geek in us.  I have asked commercial brewers for countless recipes for Alts, Kolsch, Helles, Vienna, Pilsner, Festbier, etc. and when I saw the recipe I winced a little bit.  But when I was at the brewery or bar or bowling alley or bocce court the beer was delicious.  It's possible for brewers to make the best out of what they have and I never checked the GB website for information about their Marzen.  Personally, I would not use Caramunich in a Marzen but at the end of the day... good beer is good beer and we may have to form an opinion more about what the beer *IS* as opposed to what it's not.   
« Last Edit: September 05, 2021, 02:37:06 pm by Village Taphouse »
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Offline Saccharomyces

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2021, 03:38:20 pm »
I think you’re going a bit too far here.  Only beer geeks (on beer forums) or those lucky enough to have been to Germany will really know the difference between a German Marzen and an American.  But that really isn’t the point.  Given that the market gets flooded with Oktoberfests every year, it should be apparent that the average beer drinking Joes don’t care if it’s “to style”.  And frankly, they shouldn’t care.  Style is pretty subjective and pointless anyway.  They drink it not out of ignorance, but because they like it (or at least think they do!). And it doesn’t matter to them if you and I don’t.

If beer drinkers are complaining to a brewer who is brewing to style that the beer they are brewing is not Octoberfest, then yes, they are complaining out of ignorance.  Sierra Nevada received quite a bit of negative feedback that last year's Octoberfest was not Octoberfest beer because it was not the sweet, caramelly mess that Americans have been led to believe is Märzen.  Märzen is not an American beer style and Octoberfest is not an American event.  Märzen is not even the primary beer style at Octoberfest and has not been for a long time.  That is why the beer served today is called festbier. Acting out of a lack of knowledge is the very definition of ignorance.  We have to remember that American's thought that North American Industrial Lager (NAIL) was how beer was supposed to taste for a long time.  A lot of Americans did not like the taste, so they did not drink beer, that is, until craft beers started to show up on shelves. Heck, I was primarily a wine and spirits drinker when I drank before I started to brew because I was not a fan of most NAILs.

I started to brew in the early nineties when American Märzen came into style.  I am partly with Jeffy. The style is the result of using imported beer that was past its prime as a reference (Vienna suffered a somewhat similar fate via its association with Mexican brewers).  However, it is also due to ignorance about ingredients, which in large part was due to lack of access to high quality ingredients.  The North American brewing economy was radically different in the early 90s than it is today.  The major industrial brewers controlled everything.  The microbrewers, as they were called at the time, received what the industrial brewers did not want and the home brewing supply chain received what the microbrewers did not want.  The first decent imported continental malt did not show up until the mid-nineties and when it did, it showed up in 50kg/110lbs bags. The maltster was DeWolf-Cosyns. George Fix pimped the heck out of that malt, but it was still 50% more expensive in bulk than domestic 2-row. 

Most of the breweries, and I will use the word "brewery" loosely here, that brewed micro lager during the early days did so on the East Coast as the West Coast was busy with with American ale creations.  The reason why I used the word brewery loosely here is that most of the micros that were producing lager were little more than labels at that point in time.  Beer production was primarily handled by regional industrial lager breweries under contract.  Samuel Adams was one the major players in the contract brewing world.  Their early beer was brewed at the Pittsburgh Brewery Company, which was home to Iron City industrial lager.  Other contract lagers were brewed by F.X. Matt such as New Amsterdam and Olde Heurich.  F.X. Matt's main beer was its Saranac industrial lager.  Contract brewing breathed new life into regional industrial brewers who were fighting for their very existence due to consolidation. Hence, all of the beers that would establish the American Märzen style were formulated with malts commonly available to NAIL brewers, which were a far cry from the malts that were available to German and continental brewers. Jim Koch made a sales pitch about how his beer was all-malt and used imported Mittelfrüh and Tettnanger hops, but the reality is that North American brewers already used these hops, albeit in smaller quantities, because they were part of the North American industrial lager brewing supply chain.  Almost all of the work performed by Al Haunold and his predecessors at USDA ARS Corvallis, Oregon was in an effort to replace the imported noble hops with "like" hops that had better agronomics when grown in the United States. All of that research was in large part funded by the large industrial brewers, mainly Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch eventually built Elk Mountain Farms in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho near the Canadian border in order to obtain a peak photo period that was long enough to successfully grow landrace noble hops.  Heck, even Willamette research was funded by Anheuser-Busch because they used Fuggle to finish Budweiser.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2021, 07:36:25 pm by Saccharomyces »

Offline RC

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #25 on: September 05, 2021, 03:51:06 pm »
I think you’re going a bit too far here.  Only beer geeks (on beer forums) or those lucky enough to have been to Germany will really know the difference between a German Marzen and an American.  But that really isn’t the point.  Given that the market gets flooded with Oktoberfests every year, it should be apparent that the average beer drinking Joes don’t care if it’s “to style”.  And frankly, they shouldn’t care.  Style is pretty subjective and pointless anyway.  They drink it not out of ignorance, but because they like it (or at least think they do!). And it doesn’t matter to them if you and I don’t.

If beer drinkers are complaining to a brewer who is brewing to style that the beer they are brewing is not Octoberfest, then yes, they are complaining out of ignorance.  Sierra Nevada received quite a bit of negative feedback that last year's Octoberfest was not Octoberfest beer because it was not the sweet, caramelly mess that Americans have been led to believe is Märzen.  Märzen is not an American beer style and Octoberfest is not an American event.  Märzen is not even the primary beer style at Octoberfest and has not been for a long time.  That is why the beer served today is called festbier. Acting out of a lack of knowledge is the very definition of ignorance.  We have to remember that American's thought that North American Industrial Lager (NAIL) was how beer was supposed to taste for a long time.  A lot of Americans did not like the taste, so they did not drink beer, that is, until craft beers started to show up on shelves. Heck, I was primarily a wine and spirits drinker when I drank before I started to brew because I was not a fan of most NAILs.

I started to brew in the early nineties when American Märzen came into style.  I am partly with Jeffy. I too started to brew in the early 90s. The style is the result of using imported beer that was past its prime as a reference (Vienna suffered a somewhat similar fate via its association with Mexican brewers).  However, it is also due to ignorance about ingredients, which in large part was due to lack of access to high quality ingredients.  The North American brewing economy was radically different in the early 90s than it is today.  The major industrial brewers controlled everything.  The microbrewers, as they were called at the time, received what the industrial brewers did not want and the home brewing supply chain received what the microbrewers did not want.  The first decent imported continental malt did not show up until the mid-nineties and when it dd, it showed up in 50kg/110lbs bags. The maltster was DeWolf-Cosyns. George Fix pimped the heck out of that malt, but it was still 50% more expensive in bulk than domestic 2-row. 

Most the breweries, and I will use the word "brewery" loosely here, that brewed micro lager during the early days did so on the East Coast as the West Coast was busy with with American ale creations.  The reason why I used the word brewery loosely here is that most of the micros that were producing lager were little more than labels at that point in time.  Beer production was primarily handled by regional industrial lager breweries under contract.  Samuel Adams was one the major players in the contract brewing world.  Their early beer was brewed at the Pittsburgh Brewery Company, which was home to Iron City industrial lager.  Other contract lagers were brewed by F.X. Matt such as New Amsterdam and Olde Heurich.  F.X. Matt's main beer was its Saranac industrial lager.  Contract brewing breathed new life into regional industrial brewers who were fighting for their very existence due to consolidation. Hence, all of the beers that would establish the American Märzen style were formulated with malts commonly available to NAIL brewers, which were a far cry from the malts that were available to German and continental brewers. Jim Koch made a sales pitch about how his beer was all-malt and used imported Mittelfrüh and Tettnanger hops, but the reality is that North American brewers already used these hops, albeit in smaller quantities, because they were part of the North American industrial lager brewing supply chain.  Almost all of the work performed by Al Haunold and his predecessors at USDA ARS Corvallis, Oregon was in an effort to replace the imported noble hops with "like" hops that had better agronomics when grown in the United States. All of that research was in large part funded by the large industrial brewers, mainly Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch eventually built Elk Mountain Farms in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho near the Canadian border in order to obtain a peak photo period that was long enough to successfully grow landrace noble hops.  Heck, even Willamette research was funded by Anheuser-Busch because they used Fuggle to finish Budweiser.

Or we could just make the beers that we like to drink.

Offline Bel Air Brewing

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #26 on: September 05, 2021, 04:36:43 pm »
And that is exactly what we do!
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Offline Village Taphouse

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #27 on: September 05, 2021, 05:38:28 pm »
I touched on this in my last post.  There are brewers, beer geeks (ahem... enthusiasts) and then there are everyday beer drinkers.  We all have our idea of beer, our preferences, etc.  You can say that a certain brewery's approach to a style is not your thing... that's your right.  But you're not allowed to tell others what to like.  As beer people we have some amount of information regarding various styles so we might have a more detailed eye (and tastebuds).  I have seen beers called a Kolsch where the hops are Nugget and Santiam and the yeast is 1056.  I wince a little but because that's not a kolsch but sure enough the beer itself was quite delicious.  The brewery doesn't need to hear from some homebrewer that they shouldn't call their beer a kolsch and so I happily order another one and keep my mouth shut.  American breweries often whiff mightily on German (and Czech) styles and we would have to quit our job to be able to comment on each and every one.  Drink and brew what you like.  Avoid what you dislike. 
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Offline Megary

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #28 on: September 05, 2021, 05:52:43 pm »
I touched on this in my last post.  There are brewers, beer geeks (ahem... enthusiasts) and then there are everyday beer drinkers.  We all have our idea of beer, our preferences, etc.  You can say that a certain brewery's approach to a style is not your thing... that's your right.  But you're not allowed to tell others what to like.  As beer people we have some amount of information regarding various styles so we might have a more detailed eye (and tastebuds).  I have seen beers called a Kolsch where the hops are Nugget and Santiam and the yeast is 1056.  I wince a little but because that's not a kolsch but sure enough the beer itself was quite delicious.  The brewery doesn't need to hear from some homebrewer that they shouldn't call their beer a kolsch and so I happily order another one and keep my mouth shut.  American breweries often whiff mightily on German (and Czech) styles and we would have to quit our job to be able to comment on each and every one.  Drink and brew what you like.  Avoid what you dislike.

Exactly. If American brewers had originally decided to call their Fall beer “Sweet, Caramelly Mess” I don’t think it would have been a big mover. Instead they called it Oktoberfest, enough people were intrigued, and now they apparently have a big enough following that it is a highly anticipated release every year.  Marzen, Oktoberfest, Festbier…it means nothing to the average beer drinker.
Maybe, every year, Sierra Nevada should release an American Oktoberfest and a German Festbier.  The first to make money, the second to sleep at night.

Offline Bel Air Brewing

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Re: American Märzen
« Reply #29 on: September 05, 2021, 06:44:37 pm »
Had a Sierra Nevada O-Fest yesterday. Alongside a Shiner O-fest. Did not care for either of them.
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