Oktoberfest in Munich starts September 22 so it seems an appropriate time to learn about the Märzen/Oktoberfest style. These medium-bodied lager beers range across a palette of dark golden, coppery, and amber colors to combine with malty flavors, which make a perfect companion to the slightly cooler days and chilly evenings of early fall. Oktoberfests generally contain no discernable hops flavors, although they can sometimes have a little breadiness or cracker flavors to accompany the malt. They also trend higher in ABV than most other German beers.
The tradition of Märzen goes back to the days before refrigeration when March (März in German) was the last month cool enough to allow for consistent and safe lager brewing. Brewers brewed these beers in March and then let them mature over the summer in cool caves, to be consumed in the fall. Generally brewers use well-kilned malt to produce the darker colors and deeper malty flavors, and bottom-fermenting lager yeast that does its best work slowly and at cooler temperatures.
All of the elements that resulted in our current association of Märzen with Oktoberfest, fall, and Germany came together in the early 1800s with the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in Munich, Bavaria. The epic party that followed the 1810 wedding went on for five days and was so popular that it became an annual tradition that continues to this day. The celebration happily coincided with the annual tapping of the Märzen beers and the two became intertwined.