The Brewer: Christian Muckerman
It is very common to grow up with the aspiration to be a fireman or an astronaut, but for me, as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a brewer! Growing up, my parents frequently enjoyed craft beer. In the infancy of the craft brewing industry, my dad, a general manager of a local restaurant in the 1980’s & 90’s, brought what was then a relatively new concept known as craft beer or micro brews (from breweries like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Abita…etc.) to our town.
Growing up around this, it was only a matter of time until I developed a taste for good beer.
Throughout college, I dabbled with homebrewing, but my homebrewing journey really took off a couple of years ago. I knew I was serious and had a vision for my home brewery. Early on, I invested in the industry’s best homebrewing equipment, the Spike Trio Brewing System. The main reason for this was because Spike’s equipment mimics the look and feel of a professional brewery on the homebrewing scale, something I really wanted for my space. While I was procuring equipment for my home brewery, I also enrolled in an accredited program jointly run through Virginia Tech and the University of Richmond for a Professional Brewer’s Certificate. I was eager to do whatever I could to learn as much as possible about brewing, and the logistics of starting a brewery. Although books are helpful, I believe there is no better learning process than by getting your hands dirty and learning from mistakes. Spike does a great job of making the Brew Day accessible to anyone willing to put their heart into this hobby.
The Legacy: Mishicott Brewing
Mishicott Brewing was the name of my family’s brewing company located in Mishicot, Wisconsin which operated at its peak prior to the onset of Prohibition in the United States. Unfortunately, prohibition meant that the brewery would close never to re-open. It is my ambition to finish what was started. Another reason for choosing Spike was that their equipment is engineered and assembled in Wisconsin.
In the early 1900’s, the other side of my family owned and operated an icehouse in St. Louis Missouri, and delivered ice to a young company at the time known as Anheuser-Busch. We all know beer has to be kept cold. With a family legacy like this, I like to think golden ale runs through my veins, especially on Brew Day!
The Beer: Märzen
A Märzen beer, also known as a Märzenbier or simply Märzen, is a traditional German lager that originated in Bavaria. The name "Märzen" comes from the German word for "March," as historically, this style of beer was brewed in March and then aged over the summer months to be enjoyed during Oktoberfest in September and October.
Märzen beers typically have the following characteristics:
- Amber to copper color: They often exhibit a rich, deep amber or copper hue, which is a result of the use of Munich and Vienna malts.
- Malty sweetness: Märzen beers are known for their prominent maltiness. They use a higher proportion of malt, which contributes to the beer's sweet and rich flavor profile.
- Medium body: This style generally has a medium body, which adds to its smooth and easy-drinking nature.
- Balanced hop bitterness: While malty, Märzen beers are still balanced with a moderate hop bitterness. The hop presence helps to prevent the beer from becoming overly sweet.
- Clean finish: A well-crafted Märzen beer should have a clean and crisp finish, making it very quaffable.
- Moderate alcohol content: Typically, Märzen beers have a moderate alcohol content, usually ranging from 4.8% to 5.7% ABV (alcohol by volume).
Today, Märzen beers are still popular in Germany and are widely enjoyed during Oktoberfest celebrations around the world. However, many craft breweries globally have also embraced this style, offering their interpretations of the classic Märzen.
The Recipe: Oktoberfest
- 4 lbs German Pilsner
- 3 lbs Light Munich
- 3 lbs Vienna
- 1 lbs Caramunich
- 1 lbs Carafoam
- Boil hops: 1.25 oz Hallertau - 0:60 min
- Boil hops: 2 oz Tettnang - Whirlpool
- WLP833 German Bock Lager Yeast
BATCH SIZE: 5 gal
MASH TEMP: 152ºF
BOIL: 60 min
- 54ºF - 10 days
- 62ºF - 4 days
- 36ºF - 4+ weeks
SYSTEM: Spike Trio
- Lager your lager. "A Lager" is a noun. "To Lager" is a verb. A lager is not produced simply by pitching lager yeast and cold fermenting your beer to produce a delicious drink. To produce a true lager the brewer must lager their beer i.e. age their beer in storage tanks just above freezing temperatures for a minimum of 4 weeks (preferably longer).
- Conduct a diacetyl rest. If you are able to control the temperature of your ferment, then as you approach terminal gravity, begin increasing your fermentation temperature by 2 degrees per day until you reach a stable 62F. Holding this temperature for a couple of days will ensure a clean and crisp tasting beer with minimal diacetyl.
- Simple recipe’s make great beer. Don't overthink your grain bill. A great beer can be brewed with only one or two ingredients. A less complicated grain bill can help your choice of malt shine on their own. Particularly at the scale of most home brewers, a complex grain bill will often over complicate things. For this recipe, I stuck to the basics with three main malt profiles (Pilsner, Light Munich, & Vienna) with a couple minor inclusions for improved body and head retention (Caramunich & Carafoam). You could try this recipe with and without these minor additions to see what your preference is, after all, testing recipes is part of the fun.
Christian Muckerman - Mishicott Brewing
Spike Summarizes: All Things Oktoberfest
What is an Oktoberfest beer?
An Oktoberfest beer, also known as Märzen, is a rich, full-bodied German lager traditionally brewed in March (März is German for March) and kept in cold storage over the summer for consumption at Oktoberfest, the world-renowned autumn beer festival in Munich, Germany.
What distinguishes Oktoberfest beer from other beers?
Oktoberfest beers are distinguished by their deep amber color, rich malty flavor, smooth drinkability, and clean lager finish. This lager style is malt-forward, often showcasing toasty and biscuity notes, with a moderately dry finish and a well-balanced hop bitterness.
What's the history of Oktoberfest beer?
The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th wedding of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The event was such a success that it was decided to celebrate it annually, eventually morphing into the Oktoberfest beer festival known worldwide today.
What does an Oktoberfest beer taste like?
An Oktoberfest beer showcases a complex malt character with a balance of sweetness and toasty flavors. Notes of caramel, bread crust, and biscuits are common. Hop bitterness is present but restrained, allowing the malt to shine. The finish is typically clean and dry, encouraging another sip.
How is Oktoberfest beer made?
Oktoberfest beer is made using a lager brewing process, which includes a cool fermentation followed by a period of cold storage, or lagering. The malt bill traditionally includes Munich and Vienna malts which give the beer its characteristic color and flavor. Noble hops like Hallertau are used for bittering and the yeast strains are typically German lager yeasts.
What are the essential ingredients in an Oktoberfest beer?
Key ingredients in an Oktoberfest beer include water, lager yeast, malted barley, and hops. The malted barley typically includes Munich and/or Vienna malts, lending a rich, toasty character. Noble hops like Hallertau or Tettnanger are commonly used, and German lager yeast ferments the beer.
What foods go best with an Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beers pair wonderfully with traditional German fare. This includes foods like bratwurst, pretzels, sauerkraut, and various cheeses. Its maltiness also complements roasted pork, smoked meats, and dishes with a slight sweetness.
Is Oktoberfest a year-round beer?
While traditionally Oktoberfest beers were brewed in March and served in the fall, with modern refrigeration techniques, many breweries now produce this style year-round. However, it's most commonly associated with autumn and particularly the Oktoberfest festival.
How strong is a typical Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beers typically have an alcohol by volume (ABV) between 5.0% and 6.0%, making them stronger than light lager styles, but not as potent as many ales. The goal is a well-rounded beer that invites steady drinking over the long Oktoberfest celebrations.
Are there different types of Oktoberfest beers?
Yes, there are essentially two types of Oktoberfest beers: the traditional Märzen style and the lighter Festbier. The Märzen, with its amber color and rich malt character, is what most people outside Germany associate with Oktoberfest. However, in recent years, Munich's Oktoberfest predominantly serves Festbier - a paler, lighter-bodied beer, but still with a notable malt character.
What's the correct temperature for serving Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beer should be served at 'cellar temperature', roughly 46-54°F (8-12°C). This allows the intricate malt flavors to be fully appreciated without reducing the refreshing quality of the beer.
What are some popular brands of Oktoberfest beer?
Popular Oktoberfest brands include Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Augustiner, which are all traditional Munich breweries. Many breweries outside of Germany, especially craft breweries in the United States, also produce Oktoberfest-style beers.
Why does Oktoberfest beer have an amber color?
The amber color of Oktoberfest beer comes from the use of Munich and Vienna malts in the brewing process. These malts are kilned at higher temperatures than pale malts, developing color and the toasty, biscuity flavors characteristic of the style.
How does the brewing process affect Oktoberfest's flavor?
The use of lager yeast and cold fermentation in the brewing process results in a beer that is clean and crisp, allowing the rich malt character to be the star. The length of the lagering period can also influence the beer's flavor, with a longer lagering time generally leading to a smoother, more well-rounded beer.
Are Oktoberfest beers more bitter than other beers?
No, Oktoberfest beers are typically more malt-forward and less bitter than many other beer styles. They do contain some hop bitterness, but it is usually well-balanced and does not overpower the malt flavors. The International Bitterness Units (IBU) are generally around 20-30.
Why is Oktoberfest often served in a specific type of glass?
Oktoberfest beers are traditionally served in a Maß (pronounced "mass"), a one-liter glass mug. This large glassware is a staple of the Oktoberfest celebration and allows drinkers to enjoy the beer's color and aroma while also reducing the need for frequent refills during the festivities.
Is Oktoberfest beer good for beginners?
Oktoberfest beer is an excellent style for beer beginners. Its smooth, balanced, and approachable flavor profile makes it a great introduction to the wider world of beer. However, its rich malty character also makes it complex enough to be enjoyed by seasoned beer connoisseurs.
How does Munich Oktoberfest beer differ from non-German Oktoberfest beer?
While both aim to capture the spirit of the festival, Munich Oktoberfest beer adheres to the Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law), meaning it only uses water, barley, hops, and yeast. On the other hand, non-German Oktoberfest beers, especially those from craft breweries, might experiment with ingredients and techniques, though they generally stick to the style's malty character.
Where can I buy the best Oktoberfest beers?
The best Oktoberfest beers can usually be found at well-stocked liquor stores or beer-specialty shops. Online beer retailers also often carry a selection. If you're lucky enough to be in Munich during Oktoberfest, there's no better place to enjoy these beers than at the festival itself!
Is there an alcohol-free version of Oktoberfest beer?
Some breweries do offer alcohol-free or low-alcohol versions of Oktoberfest beer. These beers aim to deliver the same malty flavor and smooth drinkability, but with significantly reduced or no alcohol content. However, these versions are less common.
What kind of malt is used in an Oktoberfest beer?
The malt used in an Oktoberfest beer typically includes a mix of Munich and Vienna malts. These malt types lend the beer its characteristic amber color and a complex, toasted malt flavor. Pilsner malt can also be used as a base malt in some recipes.
Are all Oktoberfest beers lagers?
Yes, by tradition, all Oktoberfest beers are lagers. This means they use lager yeast and undergo a cold fermentation process, followed by a lagering (or cold storage) period. The result is a beer that's crisp, clean, and allows the malt and hops to shine.
How long does it take to brew an Oktoberfest beer?
The brewing process for an Oktoberfest beer, like other lagers, takes a bit longer than that for ales due to the cold fermentation and lagering period. From start to finish, it can take several weeks to a few months to brew an Oktoberfest beer.
What makes a good Oktoberfest beer?
A good Oktoberfest beer should have a clear, deep amber color, a frothy head, and a rich, toasted malt aroma and flavor. It should be medium to full-bodied with a smooth, creamy texture and a balanced sweetness. A hint of hop bitterness and a clean, dry finish round out the profile.
Why is Oktoberfest beer sometimes called Märzen?
Oktoberfest beer is sometimes called Märzen because it was traditionally brewed in March (März in German). Brewing in March allowed the beer to be lagered in cool cellars over the hot summer months, resulting in a beer that was perfect for autumn drinking, just in time for Oktoberfest.
Does Oktoberfest beer have a higher calorie content?
Yes, Oktoberfest beer typically has a higher calorie content compared to light lagers due to its increased malt content and higher alcohol by volume (ABV). However, the exact calorie count will vary depending on the specific beer.
What's the difference between an Oktoberfest beer and a Vienna Lager?
While both beer styles showcase a malty profile and similar amber color, there are a few differences. A Vienna Lager tends to be lighter in color and body with a more pronounced hop character compared to an Oktoberfest beer, which is richer, with a more robust malt profile.
What type of water is best for brewing an Oktoberfest beer?
Traditionally, Munich's moderately hard water, rich in carbonates, is used for brewing Oktoberfest beer. This type of water is great for enhancing the malt characteristics that define the style. However, with water treatment methods, breweries outside of Munich can adjust their water profile to mimic these conditions.
How long can I store an Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beer is a lager, and lagers tend to have a longer shelf life than ales. It's best consumed within a few months of bottling, but if stored properly — in a cool, dark place — it can last for six months to a year. However, it's always best to check the 'best by' date if provided by the brewery.
Is it true that only Munich breweries can make authentic Oktoberfest beer?
For the official Munich Oktoberfest, only beers from six breweries — all located within Munich's city limits — are served. These breweries are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten. These beers are deemed "Oktoberfest Beer" under German beer tax law and are all members of the Munich Brewers' Club. However, many breweries outside Munich around the world make their versions of Oktoberfest-style beers.
Why does Oktoberfest beer taste good with spicy food?
The rich, malty sweetness of an Oktoberfest beer can balance the heat in spicy dishes, while its moderate alcohol content won't intensify the spiciness as higher ABV beers can. Its clean, lager finish also helps refresh the palate after each bite.
Can I use Oktoberfest beer for cooking?
Absolutely! Oktoberfest beer can be used in a variety of cooking applications. It's great in marinades for meats due to its tenderizing properties, in stews and soups for added depth of flavor, and even in baking where its maltiness can complement sweet flavors.
Is it difficult to brew Oktoberfest beer at home?
Brewing Oktoberfest beer at home is a bit more challenging than brewing ales, primarily because it involves lagering, which requires strict temperature control during fermentation. However, for homebrewers who are up for the challenge, it can be a rewarding beer to make. There are numerous kits and recipes available for homebrewers to create their own Oktoberfest beer.
Can vegetarians and vegans drink Oktoberfest beer?
Most Oktoberfest beers are suitable for vegetarians and vegans as they are made from plant-based ingredients like water, barley, hops, and yeast. However, some brewers might use fining agents derived from animal products to clarify the beer. If this is a concern, it's always best to check with the specific brewery.
How much alcohol is in an Oktoberfest beer?
The alcohol content in an Oktoberfest beer can vary from around 5.0% to 6.0% ABV. This is slightly higher than many standard lagers, making it a hearty brew fitting for a cool autumn festival.
What is the history of Oktoberfest beer?
The history of Oktoberfest beer is deeply tied to the Oktoberfest festival itself, which began in 1810 in Munich, Germany, to celebrate the October 12th wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig. The Märzen style was served due to its seasonality and availability. Over the years, the beer served at Oktoberfest has evolved, with the lighter Festbier now being the primary style served at the Munich festival.
What yeast is used in an Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beers use lager yeast, which ferments at colder temperatures compared to ale yeast. This cold fermentation, followed by a lagering period at near-freezing temperatures, gives the beer its clean taste and allows the malt and hops flavors to be more prominent.
What is the difference between Märzen and Festbier?
The main difference between Märzen and Festbier lies in their color and malt character. Märzen is darker (amber) and has a stronger, richer malt profile, while Festbier is lighter (golden) and has a more balanced, less intense maltiness. Despite these differences, both are part of the Oktoberfest beer tradition.
Is Oktoberfest beer gluten-free?
Oktoberfest beer is not gluten-free as it's brewed with barley malt, which contains gluten. However, some breweries might offer gluten-removed or gluten-reduced beers using special enzymes. Always check with the brewery if you have concerns about gluten.
What kind of hops are used in an Oktoberfest beer?
Traditionally, German hop varieties like Hallertau, Tettnang, or Spalt are used in Oktoberfest beer. These hops are known for their floral and spicy notes, but their use in Oktoberfest beer is restrained to allow the malt to take center stage.
Can I find Oktoberfest beers all year round?
While Oktoberfest beers are typically seasonal and associated with autumn, many breweries, especially outside of Germany, offer Oktoberfest-style beers year-round. However, for the most authentic experience, enjoying these beers during the Oktoberfest season is recommended.
Is Oktoberfest beer expensive?
The price of Oktoberfest beer can vary greatly depending on the brewery, location, and whether you're buying a single bottle, a six-pack, or a case. Generally, it can be slightly more expensive than basic lagers due to the extended lagering process and the quality of ingredients used. However, compared to many specialty or craft beers, it's typically reasonably priced.
Does the taste of Oktoberfest beer change over time?
Like most beers, the flavor of an Oktoberfest beer can change over time. Fresh Oktoberfest beer showcases a bright, malty profile with a clean finish. Over time, the flavors can mellow out, and the beer can lose some of its freshness. It's generally best to drink Oktoberfest beer within the same brewing season.
What is the international reception of Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beer is celebrated worldwide. Many breweries across the globe craft their versions of Oktoberfest beer to celebrate the season, with Oktoberfest-style events taking place from the United States to Australia. The style's accessibility, balanced flavors, and festive spirit contribute to its international appeal.
What is the cultural significance of Oktoberfest beer in Germany?
In Germany, Oktoberfest beer holds a special place as the highlight of the largest folk festival in the world — Oktoberfest. It is part of a centuries-old tradition that involves not just beer drinking, but also music, dance, food, and communal celebration. Oktoberfest beer, with its convivial spirit, embodies this sense of community and celebration.
What glassware is appropriate for Oktoberfest beer?
Oktoberfest beer is traditionally served in a Maß, a large glass mug that holds one liter of beer, at the Oktoberfest festival. At home, it's commonly enjoyed in a beer stein or a mug. A tall, slender glass called a "stange" can also be used to highlight the beer's color and retain the head.
How important is the water quality in brewing Oktoberfest beer?
The quality of water is critical in brewing Oktoberfest beer as it makes up about 95% of the beer. Munich's water, rich in carbonates, naturally highlights the malt flavors that define Oktoberfest beer. Many breweries outside Munich adjust their water profile to mimic these conditions to brew an authentic Oktoberfest beer.
Why is Oktoberfest beer usually amber in color?
The amber color of Oktoberfest beer comes from the type of malts used. Munich and Vienna malts, which have been kilned to a higher degree than pale malts, impart a deeper color and richer flavor to the beer. The specific balance of these malts used in the brewing process determines the final color and taste of the beer.
Is Oktoberfest beer suitable for beer beginners?
Absolutely! Oktoberfest beer, with its balanced flavor profile and medium body, can be a great choice for those new to beer. It offers more complexity than a standard lager but is not as intense or challenging as some other styles. It's a delightful beer style that invites beginners to explore the world of craft beer.