Victory’s Festbier Ages Well Over Past Year
We’re barely out of August, but I don’t care. For a lot of people, this means it’s pumpkin spice season. From lattes to bath balms, it’s time to bring on the pumpkin. I’m not going to rain on anyone’s parade by complaining it’s too early. Go enjoy yourself. Have fun. Who am I to judge?
For myself, however, it’s time for Oktoberfest. While we’re not quite there yet, that celebration of Germany’s malty beers is quickly approaching. With it will come Marzen, the official beer style of Oktoberfest. I love these bready brews, so much so that I saved one from last year just so I could get an early sip. What is the story of the Marzen? Well, it comes down to sanitation.
An old Bavarian brewing ordinance decreed that beer could only be brewed between Sept. 29 and April 23. That may seem arbitrary, but they had a good reason. It had nothing to do with over consumption but everything to do with temperature.
In a time before refrigeration, there was no way to keep beer cold while it fermented unless it was already cold enough outside. During those hot months, the environmental conditions were just right for all kinds of nasty things to grow inside beer before the beer yeast could completely colonize it. It’s a product quality thing.
What does that have to do with the Marzen? Well, Marzen was brewed in March and had more hops as well as a little extra alcohol. This wasn’t a taste consideration. Hops have an antimicrobial effect, and higher alcohol content tends to make a harsh environment for gross things. Marzen was meant to be in cellars until late summer after all the other beers had been drunk. Then, come Oktoberfest, the rest of the bottles were served in celebration, as fresh beer would be available again soon.
This week, I’m drinking Victory Brewing Co.’s Festbier from a bottle I saved. It’s been around a year since it was brewed, so I thought it would be a fun thing to see how it aged. The pour went better than expected, with almost a full finger’s worth of gray foam sitting on top of a lovely amber liquid. There were no off scents that were apparent. Instead, malt, pretzel and caramel were in the nose. My guess was the malt was ever so slightly roasted to caramelize some of those sugars in it, if the smell was any indication.
I was worried about the brew tasting of pennies, as some will tend to do if they are aged too long. Thankfully, it was an unfounded concern. Alternatively, I got a mouthful of bread. This was one of the most grainy beers I’ve ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. There was a little bit of sweetness in there as well, feeding into the caramel taste. It complemented the brew as opposed to being overly sweet. Hops came through at the tail end, but not aggressively. The malt is certainly the star with the hops just coming in to balance it all out and make it that much more savory.
Festbier seems to have aged well. My mouth it quite happy with it, and I’m certainly thanking past me for saving a bottle. I’ll be on the lookout for it again this year, if only to compare the two. It certainly is a beer to celebrate with.