October is here, which means SoCal beer lovers don’t have to search hard to find delicious Oktoberfest-style brews popping up on craft brewery menus all over Orange County. While some breweries routinely add an Oktoberfest beer to their fall seasonal lineup, others, like Cismontane Brewing Company in Rancho Santa Margarita, gave thirsty patrons a special treat this year by brewing their first-ever Oktoberfest Märzen.
The name Märzen comes from the word “March” in German, which refers to the practice of brewing beer in late spring to use up the last of the previous fall’s hops before the summer heat set in and brewing halted until fall. History tells us that the first Oktoberfest event happened in 1810, but back then attendees were likely drinking Munich’s famous dunkel, since what we refer to as an Oktoberfest beer didn’t even exist for another 50 years. That said, today’s Märzen is medium to full-bodied, rich and toasty, with caramel malt flavor and aroma. The maltiness is barely balanced by hops, rendering it low in bitterness, and its color is typically pale gold to dark amber in color. It’s a delicious fall seasonal that pairs well with spicy food (the sweetness cutting the spice), chicken sausage, and milder cheeses.
As the Cismontane brewers explained during their release party on September 17th (the first day of Oktoberfest) at the brewery, they were inspired by the season and took advantage of the fact that the California Buckwheat is going to seed and therefore integrated it into the beer. They collaborated with Derek Bougie, head brewer at Newport Beach Brewing, to kick off a new series of beers that will be incorporating native species into their beers. At 5.2% ABV and 30 IBU, their deep copper-colored brew was a deliciously balanced, mild, drinkable Märzen… with the cool addition of locally-harvested ingredients.