The Oktoberfest marzen style is the most popular seasonal beer for many breweries. The number of offerings available at area retailers proves that the style is popular despite being a malt-forward lager. Marzens should not be confused with those similar beers called fest-style. These are lighter in color and flavor than the marzen.
I have tasted a number of marzens this season searching for the best examples of the style. Candidly, I was trying to find a well-made American craft version of this style, and that has been difficult.
The style was created in Munich, Germany, using the unique hops and malts of that region, and those ingredients in proper balance create this amazing beer. The best examples should have a rich elegance, with hints of baked bread deftly balanced by enough hop bitterness to give the beer an inviting drinkability. I have found that most American craft brewers cannot achieve the finesse and balance of ingredients to brew a competitive example of the style.
From my tastings, Munich’s Spaten Ur-Marzen, Paulaner’s Marzen and Ayinger’s Fest-Marzen remain the best examples of the style, with their luscious flavors.
The best American version that I have found is Highland Brewing’s Oktoberfest Clawhammer. A close second are Leinenkugal’s Oktoberfest and Sierra Nevada’s Oktoberfest 2019, a collaboration with the German brewery Bitburger. These beers are priced lower that the German versions and are all exceptional values. Cheers!