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Märzen: Beer of the Month

March is the month of transition here in Central New York; the first day of spring, daylight savings time, and everyone has their fingers crossed for warmer weather in lieu of snow. In celebration of the heralding of spring, did you also know that there’s an official beer for the month of March? Read on!

The German word for March is März. Märzen or Märzenbier literally means “March beer.” Märzen is a type of German/Bavarian lager beer traditionally brewed during the month of March. Per Wikipedia, in 1553, a law was decreed in Bavaria that brewers could only brew beer between the months of September through April. This law was mainly created for safety reasons. -In cooler months, there is less risk of contamination of the beer (bacteria, etc.) during the brewing process. Märzen was typically brewed during the month of March because it aged well during the non-brewing months with its hearty dose of hops and higher alcohol content. By the end of the summer, after the beer had been conditioned in either caves or cellars, it was served during Oktoberfest – Thus why, even though its name is synonymous with spring, Märzen is generally viewed as a traditional autumn beer.

The original recipes for Märzen described the brew as “dark brown, full-bodied, and bitter.” Today, Märzen is generally a medium to full-bodied beer, richly malty, and with a clean, dry finish. There are usually three different malts that are used to brew the beer – Munich, Vienna and Pilsner malts. There are also different variations of Märzen from Helles Märzen which is very pale in color, to golden and amber colors of the traditional brew, to Dunkel Märzen which is dark brown. ABV usually runs in the 5-6.5% range. Variations of Märzen beers are also brewed in Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, England, Belgium, and even here in the US.

Thankfully, you don’t have to book a flight to Germany in order to try a great Märzen beer. (Although I would encourage it!) Nor do you have to wait until September to drink said brew, however, you will find that most Märzen Oktoberfest beers are marketed as autumn beers and therefore stocked in stores during late summer through the early part of fall.

Particularly, Gordon Biersch at Destiny USA typically has Märzen on their beer menu all-year-round. This amber-colored 5.4% ABV beer is brewed with German Magnum hops and Pilsner, Dark Munich and Caramunich malts, and boasts a “mildly sweet” finish, per the description on their website. As well, don’t let the fact that Gordon Biersch is a “chain restaurant” sway you away from trying their beer; all their brews are created on-site with each location employing their own Brewmaster. Each Brewmaster also imparts their own take and variation on each brew as well. For instance, the Märzen brewed at the Gordon Biersch in Buffalo NY is brewed with Magnum and Hersbrucker hops, and Pilsner, Munich, Caramunich, Carafa Special malts. Therefore, no two Märzen beers will be exactly the same, and having tried our local Märzen, it is, in all honesty, pretty darn good. Extra Tip: for an even better
experience, pair your Märzen with the meat of your choice – grilled, dry-rubbed or roasted beef and pork dishes or sausages are best bets.

Another place in town to grab a pint (or stein) of Märzen is Wolff’s Biergarten on 106 Montgomery St. in Syracuse. (There are also 3 other locations in the Albany area.) This is the best place in town to get all of your favorite German/European brews straight from the tap. (and they’ll fill growlers too!) They also have bottled beers and local craft beers as well. Currently, you can find Spaten Oktoberfest on draft. This is a medium-bodied Märzen, 5.9% ABV, brewed in Munich, Germany. Spaten is actually the brand of Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu GmbH, which is a brewery owned by Spaten-Löwenbräu-Gruppe, which, in turn is a larger part of the Belgian-Brazilian company Anheuser-Busch InBev. Therefore, Spaten is not a small craft brewery and is instead part of a larger conglomerate. Again though, don’t let this prevent you from trying this Märzen because beer brewed in Germany is different than many of the beers you’ll typically get here in the states. (& trying new beer is half the fun!) In addition, Spaten has roots going back to 1397!

Other Märzen beers worth checking out:

Samuel Adams Octoberfest – 5.3% ABV (Boston, MA), Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen – 5.8% ABV (Aying, Germany), Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen – 5.8% ABV (Munich, Germany), Great Lakes Brewing Company Oktoberfest – 6.5% ABV (Cleveland, OH), Jacob Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest – 5.1% ABV (Chippewa Falls, WI), Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – 6% ABV (Chico, CA).


Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!