It’s always one of the happiest times of the year…Oktoberfest! While we continue the celebration across all twelve Iron Hill locations through the middle of the month, we started thinking about the origin of this themed festival and who we had to thank for the excitement it brings to us each fall. When you stop in to visit and toast with our festival lager, be sure to raise your glass to Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Theresa of Saxony-Hildburghausen, without whom there would be no Oktoberfest.
The two were married on October 12, 1810 and all Bavarian citizens were invited to attend a five-day long celebration following the ceremony. The festivities included carnival games and rides, food and beer and concluded with a horse race. It was such a hit that on the same site the following year the festival was repeated, this time including an agriculture show, and Oktoberfest was born. Over the years it has grown, but is still held on the original site, includes the agriculture show every four years, and, until 1960, included a horse race.
While Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration, with 7.7 million litres (over 16 million pints!) of beer served to about six million people during the 16-day festival every year, we all know what’s really important, the beer! In fact, Germans take their beer so seriously that only one of six German breweries are allowed to serve beer at the event and it must be brewed according to Reinheitsgebot, a purity law from 1516.
The beer available at Oktoberfest now varies in color, flavor and alcohol content, but in the early years only one beer was even available in October, Marzen. Meaning March in German, Marzen was created because of a 1553 Bavarian brewing ordinance stating, due to a risk of bacterial infection in warmer weather, beer may only be brewed from September 29th through April 23rd. It’s traditionally a dark copper, fuller-bodied, roasty lager with an ABV of 5.5-6% that would have been brewed in spring, specifically to survive the summer months. Eventually the risk of infection went away and in 1872 one brewery introduced a lighter version that sold like crazy, causing other breweries to offer similar beers the following years. These lighter beers have since taken over Oktoberfest.
At Iron Hill we brew an Oktoberfest Lager that is the best of both options, flavorful like the traditional and drinkable like the modern. It is a medium-bodied, German-style festival beer, with a wonderful malty and bready aroma, and a firm malt flavor balanced with mild bitterness and a clean, dry finish. You can find it at any of our twelve locations on tap and in cans from September 29th through October 15th and thank the prince and princess for their wonderful contribution to the world. Prost!
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With 12 locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, there’s an Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant near you. We specialize in handcrafted beers and fresh, from-scratch New American cuisine. Monthly releases vary by location, so scout out our beers on tap and visit us soon.
This article was contributed by Nadine Banks. Nadine is an assistant brewer in Iron Hill West Chester.