What is Oktoberfest Beer?

What is Oktoberfest beer? The experts at Glacier explain the significance of Oktoberfest beer

There’s a particular celebration each year that fills the hearts and steins of beer lovers around the globe – Oktoberfest. This lively festival, famously originating in Bavaria but celebrated around the world, attracts people from all walks of life to enjoy German culture. While Oktoberfest is known for many things, the first thing that comes to mind for most is the delicious brews. But, what is Oktoberfest beer?

Surprisingly, the answer to that question is more varied than you might think. Depending on what part of the world you’re in, the definition of an Oktoberfest beer may change. Even the history of Oktoberfest shows us that different types of beer have been preferred over the years.

As beer and draft system experts, the Glacier team is here to map out the history of Oktoberfest and to create a guide to the history of Oktoberfest beers.

A Brief History of Oktoberfest

Before the brews, there was a wedding. The Oktoberfest tradition so many participate in actually began as a celebration of a royal wedding in 1810. Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen wed on October 12, 1810, and a horse race was organized in honor of their marriage.

It was a five-day celebration, all taking place in Munich at Theresienwiese. Wedding guests and townspeople gathered there to congratulate the new royal couple and indulge in the merriment of the horse race. The event was such a hit that one year later, everyone agreed to continue the tradition. Today, Theresienwiese still serves as the official grounds of Munich’s Oktoberfest where about 6 million people gather each year.

You may be shocked to learn that at the first Oktoberfest, that matrimonial horse race, there were no beer tents present. Beer was introduced to the festival in 1818, as well as food tents. So, what was the first Oktoberfest beer?

Oktoberfest Beer Then

Although the brews were missing at the original Oktoberfest, the preferred beer of Munich in 1810 was a Dunkel. Dunkel means “dark” in German, and these beers are typically rich mahogany or deep brown in color. Dunkels are best known for their balanced profile that usually features flavors like caramel, toffee, chocolate, or nuts.

Before 1872, the Dunkel beer was heavily featured at each Oktoberfest. Dunkels pair very well with smoked meats, like the traditional sausages and chicken served at the fest. However, an innovating German brewer named Gabriel Sedlmayr created a new brew in 1872 made specifically for the occasion.

Sedlymayr’s brew, the first oktoberfestbier, was a märzenbier. März means March in German, and this type of beer got its name from the traditional practice of brewing beer in March. Historically, beer in Germany was brewed in March instead of the summer months to prevent the beer from being exposed to more bacteria.

Oktoberfest Beer Now

Today, märzenbier, or Märzen, is one of the most popular Oktoberfest beer types. Märzen beer is malty but balanced, offering a smooth drink that still exhibits a hoppy taste. This type of beer is often bready and tastes of toasted malt with a very clean finish. The flavor is iconic and inextricably linked to Oktoberfest, and its pale golden hue is like a beacon to all festival-goers.

There are several other types of beer to be seen at Oktoberfests in Munich and around the world. Hefeweizens, Kölschs, Pilsners, Altbeirs, and more are commonly served and enjoyed. However, for the Munich fest, only 6 breweries are allowed to participate: Hacker Pschorr, Spaten, Hofbräu, Augustiner, Paulaner, and Löwenbräu. The rule is that all beer served at the Munich Oktoberfest must be brewed in the city limits.

Traditions Live On

For over 200 years, Oktoberfest has been a bright spot in the heart of the fall season. What began as a royal wedding celebration quickly turned into the beer-praising festival we know and love. The festival even created what some believe to be the best-tasting beer in the world.

At Glacier, we are beer enthusiasts and wholeheartedly celebrate the annual tradition of Oktoberfest and all that comes with it. We have played a part in many fests by providing our top-quality draft beer systems and equipment to bars, restaurants, stadiums and more who participate in the festivities by serving German-style beers each year. We can’t think of a better way for our hard work to pay off than with a festival celebrating the art of brewing.

We hope this guide answers the question “What is Oktoberfest beer” and inspires you to find a festival near you. We are wishing a happy Oktoberfest to all who participate in the tradition now and for many years to come. As the Oktoberfest merrymakers say: One, two, drink!

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