With autumn knocking on our doors, the seasonal fall beers are beginning to arrive. Here we are, 10 days away from the official start of Oktoberfest and that means it’s time for märzen.
Very quickly, here’s my annual reminder. Oktoberfest began as the wedding party of King Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October of 1810. The event was supposed to have been a party to never be rivaled. Instead, everyone wanted to re-celebrate it annually and it grew into a city-wide celebration of Bavaria. To circumvent chillier weather and draw more attendees, the city decided to move the start-date up to September and go for 16 days ending on the first Sunday in October.
Due to the time of year Oktoberfest is held, märzen became the official beer style of the event, although hefeweizen, helles lager (meaning golden-colored) and pilsner are, naturally, also served. Märzen is named after the typical month in which it’s brewed – März is German for March – and aged in cool cellars throughout the hot summer months to be ready for fall. Also, märzen’s origins lie in Bavaria circa mid-16th century. As Oktoberfest is a celebration of all things Bavarian, it’s a perfect fit.
The 1980s saw brothers Jim and Jason Ebel travelling Europe. When they got back to the states, they realized that there was very little authentic beer representation. No one was really making the styles of beer they had tried in their journeys. They opened up a home brewers’ supply store and began to discover how to make beer on their own. They also felt the itch to start commercial production.
Scratching that itch, Jason attended Chicago’s Siebel Institute to learn advanced brewing techniques while Jim went to law school. In 1996, they began Two Brothers Brewing Company and started putting thoughtful spins on classic recipes. For example, their cleverly-named Cane & Ebel that makes use of Thai palm sugar in a spicy rye-based red ale. There’s also their German-inspired Ebel’s Weiss; a touch of vanilla shows up alongside the more traditional weizenbier notes of lemon, clove and banana.
This brings us to their take on märzenbier. They have an Oktoberfest called Atom Smasher – most likely a nod to Fermilab’s nearby particle accelerator – that spends time aging in huge oak fourdres. Those are the really big barrels one usually sees maturing wine; about 1000 liters capacity on average.
Atom Smasher is dark amber in color and offers up a good, fluffy off-white head and very nice, straight-forward scents of Hawaiian bread, caramel and a faint bit of citrus peel. Medium-bodied and slick, Atom Smasher has great flavors of sweet malt and mildly spicy, leafy hops along with a warming toasty vanilla note from the oak.
One excellent fall beer here. Danke schoen, Zwei Brüder.