Occasionally, I write about other things: Things outside the world of Higher Education. This is one of those times.
I love a good Bier, even though I only drink about two a week. My favorite style is Märzen Bier, a German style known for its copper color, tan head, very smooth caramel malt flavor, and its low bitterness. For me, that last part is especially important: Although you can’t really brew Bier without hops, a tendency in the last decade is to see just how much hop bitterness you can cram into a Bier (another is to try to make Belgian styles. That’s a rant for another day). Some Bier geeks like to find the hoppiest Bier they can, and lots of microbreweries are catering to them. I just don’t like Bier with high hop profiles, but I do like this line from a New Yorker article about extreme Bier as it sums up my opinion perfectly:
Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, told me recently. “When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?,’ it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’
So, this is my favorite time of the year, in part because I love cooler weather, but mostly because Märzen Bier is now available in stores. You probably don’t know what Märzen Bier is, unless I call it by its more traditional name: Oktoberfest beer. There are lots of good ones out there: Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Great Lakes, Samuel Adams, and Köstritzer, to name a few, and others, like Spaten, Ayinger, and Erdinger that other people seem to like more than I do.
In the 1800’s in Germany, when Märzen became the de facto Oktoberfest style, it was seasonal because there was no refrigeration. You can read about that here. I’m glad to say we’ve come a long way in 200 years, and you can now brew and lager Märzen all year long. But the Oktoberfest name makes it sound like you’d only want to drink it in the fall.
It occured to me that it suffers the same fate as the Dan Fogelberg song, Same Old Lang Syne. You hear it every year at Christmas just because the song’s story line takes place on Christmas Eve. But the song is not about Christmas. Similarly, we get Märzen in the Fall because it’s been labeled Oktoberfest Bier. But it’s delicious all year long, and I find it extremely refreshing even on a hot summer evening. If you don’t believe me, ask Gordon Biersch, the restaurant where a waitress told me that Märzen is the biggest seller all year round.
Now, I don’t really care if I hear the Dan Fogelberg song in July. But I’d like to get Märzen available more widely all year long. Just stop calling it Oktoberfest Bier, and see what happens.
Who’s with me?