A Crash Course in Oktoberfest History

Sierra Nevada Ooktoberfest Cheers
Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada. Chico, CA. Photo Credit: Brewbound

A Crash Course in Oktoberfest History

Sierra Nevada Ooktoberfest Cheers
Oktoberfest, Sierra Nevada. Chico, CA. Photo Credit: Brewbound
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With summer coming to an end and fall’s foliage slowly approaching, it means it’s time for the annual Oktoberfest. Bars of all shapes and sizes will load up on any beer that sounds remotely German, and will serve it with an oversized pretzel and maybe some sauerkraut. But what do you really know about this annual festival?

First things first: Oktoberfest is not in October (mostly). An easy error, but historically, Oktoberfest began as a celebration of royalty in Munich in the 1800s in mid-to-late September. That original festival celebrating the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen took place in 1810. Barring a few changes along the way, this celebration is a time of consumption and comradery. 

The signature style of any true Oktoberfest is of course the Oktoberfest style, or Marzen. Very simply, Marzen means “March” in German, and it signifies when the lager is brewed. Traditionally, it was lagered in underground caves during the hot summer months, and then consumed at the festival. While today you can buy this style anytime of the year, many craft brewers stick with the traditional timing.

If you want the OG Marzen, you have to go with the Spaten Oktoberfest. The only thing I can say about it is that it is what I think of when I think of German beer. If you wanted to try the more modern American versions, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest or Jack’s Abby Copper Legend are true interpretations of the style. 

Spaten or Sierra Nevada? Bottle or boot? Enjoy the season in whatever way suits you best. 

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