Marzen's are a delicious seasonal beer found on menus in the Fall. They are a great style in their own right but tend to take a back seat to the trendy pumpkin beers and even festbiers. A Marzen (German for "March Beer") is a medium to full body lager typically amber in color though can be brown. It was the beer traditionally served at the Munich Oktoberfest.
So, if the name is translated to mean March Beer, why is it considered a seasonal beer?
In 1553, there was a Bavarian brewing ordinance stating that beer could only be produced during cooler months between St. Michael's Day (29 September) and St. George's Day (23 April). The high temperatures required to brew beer were more likely to cause explosions and fires during the hotter summer months so brewing was banned.
Märzen was brewed in March, hence the name March Beer. In order to last until September 29 when fresh batches of Marzen could be brewed again, extra hops and malt where used in the recipe.
The beer was often kept in the cellar until late summer and then served at the Oktoberfest. Because it the association with Oktoberfest, Marzen is considered a seasonal Fall beer.
What is the proper way to pronounce the beer style?
It is easy to think a "mar-zen" is the name of the style. Most commonly in the US, people pronounce it as "mart-zen" with a hard "t" sound. Given the German origin, the proper way to pronounce it is actually "mare-tsen."
The Austrian style Marzen is typically a little lighter and sweeter than the German version and overlaps with the Helles style beer.