On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) of Bavaria married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The entire city of Munich was invited to the gates of the castle to celebrate this joyous occasion. And the royals pulled out all the stops.
The fields in front of the castle were renamed Therese's Fields, or Theresienwiese, to honor the new Princess. (The name for the festival ground remains, but it has been abbreviated to Wiesn.) Some 8,000 locals dressed in traditional clothing paraded through the center of Munich, ending at Theresienwiese, where an even bigger event was waiting.
Horse Races For Everybody
The main attraction that day was a tough, two-mile-long horse race – a local tradition that was so popular that grandstands were built for 40,000 spectators. There was wine and beer for the better-heeled, and a concert by a school choir. In 1811, the crown decided to add an agriculture show to boost the local industry. By 1818, carnival booths were added. Then rides – a carousel, swings – it kept growing incrementally, until...
The Breweries Took Over
The first beer tents were erected in 1896. Munich’s breweries paid for the tents and served a unique brew -- Oktoberfest Marzen, a springtime beer. Wait – springtime in October?
Oktoberfest Marzen Beer
In the 19th century, before refrigeration, brewers had a difficult time creating fresh, crisp beer in the summer, when the heat would turn beer sour. So they worked overtime during the late winter and early spring to make enough beer to last through the summer. They stored the full barrels in icy caves through the summer and had to get rid of the stockpile of wonderfully aged beer during Oktoberfest. The type of beer they served was called Marzen, or March beer.
Eventually, the breweries and the city fathers of Munich decided that folks would have more fun if the festival were held a few weeks earlier, in September, when it’s a bit warmer. And so it has been, for more than a century.
Oktoberfest has spread around the world, and so has Marzen. You can likely attend an Oktoberfest celebration in your region of the country. Only beers that are brewed within the city limits of Munich can be called Oktoberfest beer, but anyone make one that they call Oktoberfest-style beer, and they can call it Marzen too.
One of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in America is in Southwest Harbor, Maine. Check out the Acadia Oktoberfest website for details. Among the local brewers whose beer will be on tap there are Rock Harbor. We hope to see you there.