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Why Is Summit Oktoberfest Only Brewed Once A Year?

Ah, fall.

The season of crisper air and lagers, of heavier sweaters and stouts and of amber colored leaves and beers. The season that Minnesotans perhaps love the most, often because it’s gone too quickly.

Much like our Summit Oktoberfest.

The crisp, malty, amber colored Märzen-style lager that is our fall seasonal is perhaps the most popular seasonal we brew. And just like the season it’s released in, it’s around for much too short of a time.

But, why is that?

Fans of our Oktoberfest have asked for years why we can’t just brew up another batch when we run out (and we do always run out).

The answer has to do with, what else, brewing tradition.

Summit Oktoberfest in Boot on Ratskeller Patio
(credit: Summit Brewing Company)

A Quick History Lesson

Oktoberfest and Märzen beers originated in Bavaria, Germany.

Märzen-style beers were first being brewed before the 16th century, but they weren’t given a name until then. As All About Beer explains, before refrigeration it was most logical to brew from fall to spring as fermentation was trickier in the warmer summer months. In 1533, an ordinance was passed that declared beer had to be brewed between September 29 and April 23. Thus, March became the last acceptable month to brew in. March in German is Märzen.

These Märzen beers were fermented and then stored to age all summer. They were made with more hops and a slightly higher alcohol content to help keep them from spoiling during the aging process. However, the hops, German Noble (Saaz and Hallertau), were more subtle than what we now experience in Pale Ales and IPAs, according to CraftBeer.com. Instead of strong citrus aromas and bitter flavors, these hops had more spicy or floral notes to them. This lead for the brew to be malt-forward in flavor, lightly hopped, high in alcohol and amber in color when it was opened come autumn.

The Märzen and The Oktobefest

While these beers had been brewed for centuries, they became popular once they were served at an early Oktobefest celebration in the 1800s. The beer sold so well that it soon became the signature beer of the celebration in years to come. Thus, Märzen became synonymous with the name Oktoberfest.

Summit Oktoberfest cans
(credit: Summit Brewing Co.)

So, Why Does Summit Oktoberfest Come Out Only Once in Fall?

Based on the above, it’s the traditional way!

A Märzen-style lager is brewed in March. Then, it ages for 3 – 4 months before it’s ready for consumption. This means it’s ready by July/August.

And, while U.S. celebrations of Oktoberfest tend to fall in October, the actual festival in Munich, Germany falls at the end of September. While it can sometimes spill into the month of October, some years it wraps up before.

Why is the celebration called Oktoberfest when it’s not held in October? Well, that’s another article for another time.

Summit Oktoberfest Can, Pour Shot & 12-pack
(credit: Summit Brewing Co.)

But, back to Summit Oktoberfest…

At Summit Brewing Co., tradition is incredibly important to us. So, while we could potentially brew up another batch that may taste something like a Märzen-style lager, it wouldn’t be the real experience.

Thus, we brew one batch in March to let it age and release it close to autumn to end during its namesake to not only ensure tradition but to ensure the best damn tasting Märzen-style on this side of the pond.

Prost!

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