In Franconia, small villages celebrate their Parish Fairs, or “Kerwa”, in open spaces or large barns. The Gäubodenfest in the Lower Bavarian city of Straubing, the Gillamoos in Abensberg in the heart of the Hallertau region, the Allgau Festival Week in Kempten/Schwaben, the Autumn Festivals in Erding and Rosenheim and, naturally, Munich’s world-famous Oktoberfest all attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. However, late summer festivals are celebrated in many of Bavaria’s small communities, which often preserve the special charm of their folkloric origins and are a well-kept insider secret.
These special occasions naturally require a special beer: a festival beer.Festival beers are what are known as “bottom-fermented” beers. Their fermentation requires consistently low temperatures, which cannot be guaranteed in the summer months. Until the artificial cooling of beer was made possible by the refrigerator, invented by Carl von Linde (1871), for a long time there was a summer ban on brewing in Bavaria. In order to guarantee the high quality of the bottom-fermented beers, their production was prohibited between Georgi (23 April) and Michaeli (29 September).
The beer brewed in March for consumption in late summer was not only brewed to be slightly stronger, but also had a more intense hop content. The higher original gravity (or the percentage of fermentable and unfermentable substances in beer wort – malt sugars – before fermentation) as well as the increased hop content ensured that the beer would keep better.
The description “Märzen”, or March beer, for Bavarian festival beers is still used today. A Märzen must have a minimum original gravity of 13%, which corresponds to an alcohol content of around 5.5% to 6%. The Munich Oktoberfest beer, which is a special form of Märzen, must even have an original gravity of at least 13.5%.
Where these March beers used to have a glowing dark, reddish-gold colour, nowadays they tend to be pale to golden yellow.
The festival beers from various Bavarian breweries can be found at a well-stocked specialist retailer. This means you can create some of the blue-and-white festival atmosphere in the comfort of your own living room or garden. And enjoy a particularly attractive treat thanks to the unique diversity of Bavarian beers.