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Kelsey explains Oktoberfest beer
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It's time to talk about the history and heritage of Oktoberfest beer. - photo by Nick Bowman

Anyone who says fall isn’t their favorite season is lying. 

You’ve got Halloween, Thanksgiving, the ceremonious end of pumpkin spice latte hibernation and best of all, Oktoberfest. 

Leon’s Lederhosen 

Brewery: Oconee Brewing Co.

Alcohol by volume: 6.7%

International Bitterness Units: 24

Style: Märzen

Bottom line: An Oktoberfest beer fit for Munich 

Now that I’ve dusted off my dirndl, it’s time to pay homage to Oktoberfest beer. Those who have celebrated the glorious German holiday know that Oktoberfest’s brew of choice is the Märzen-style beer. 

Attention non-German speakers. The first syllable of Märzen rhymes with “bear,” not “car.” Say it with me — MAER-tzen, not MAR-zen. 

The beer’s origins date back to the mid-19th century before refrigeration really kicked off. Because it was hard to store beer during the warmer months due to spoilage, the brewing season typically ended in the spring. 

Munich brewers found a way to store their beers brewed in March (also known as März in German) in cold caves. The beer would last until the end of Oktoberfest. 

And boom, Märzen beer was born.

Oktoberfest beer, which people typically call Märzen-style beer, is known for its easy-drinking, smooth and malty characteristics. 

Since I have no experience brewing German beer, I thought I’d gain some insight into the fun style from Oconee Brewing Co.’s brewmaster, Taylor Lamm. 

Lamm attended the World Brewing Academy in 2012. During the second half of the program he spent a couple of months in Munich, soaking up a formal brewing education and learning the ways of German beer tradition.

Lamm came back to the U.S. and worked as the head brewer at Brewery 85 in Greenville, South Carolina, before starting Oconee Brewing in Greensboro. 

At Brewery 85 he was asked to come up with a fall seasonal beer recipe. Naturally, he chose to make an Oktoberfest beer. 

He named the Märzen-style beer, Leon’s Lederhosen.

Lamm’s first name is actually “Leon,” everyone just knows him by his middle name.

Following the traditional German ways, Lamm stuck with part of the country’s beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot) by only using grains, water, hops and yeast. 

He put his own imprint on the style by incorporating some hops from the Pacific Northwest in addition to the combination of noble hops typically found in Märzen beer. 

“With all the German styles I make, I try to keep that in mind,” Lamm said. “I brew it according to the traditional ways to some degree and put a twist on it. That’s the whole idea of what makes one brewer different from another, it’s their own interpretation of the style.”

Lamm’s Märzen is on the heavier side of the beer, coming out at 6.7% alcohol by volume, instead of the style’s usual 5-6.5% range. 

Despite its weight, he said it doesn’t taste boozy and is super easy-drinking. 

After Lamm left Brewery 85 to become the co-founder of Oconee Brewing, he decided to take Leon’s Lederhosen with him, but keep it as a collaboration with his former brewery.

He teams up with Brewery 85 each year, brewing it at both locations.

When Lamm seeks out his ideal Märzen, he looks for a beer that’s smooth with no noticeable hop aroma. Colorwise, Lamm said he always prefers the darker Märzen-style beers that are medium to full-bodied.

“In a day where IPAs are incredibly popular, it’s nice bringing it back to the basics with a good malty, slightly sweet, easy-drinking beer,” he said. 

I couldn’t agree with Lamm more on this one. 

While I love my fair share of hoppy, sour and funky brews, it’s always welcoming to kick back in the fall and enjoy a nice stein of smooth-as-silk Oktoberfest beer. 

If you’re itching to try an Oktoberfest beer, you’d be hard-pressed not to find one at your local brewery or grocery store. 

For more information about Oconee Brewing Co., visit oconeebrewingco.com

Kelsey Podo is the education reporter for The Times. She makes a weekly sacrifice for the newspaper by drinking tasty beer and writing about it.

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