Arches Brewing Festbier | ABV 6.8%
BJCP Style: Marzen
CraftBeer.com Style: German Style Marzen
CraftBeer.com Sensory Style: Malty & Sweet
Hops: Typically German Noble Type
Malts: Typically Pilsner, Vienna, & Munich
Brewery: Arches Brewing Co.
City: Hapeville, GA
(A quick note on Sensory Style: A recent, very thought provoking article from CraftBeer.com (It’s Time to Rethink How We Talk About Craft Beer Basics) by Mirella Amato introduced the idea that separating beers into Ale or Lager categories really doesn’t help newer craft beer consumers determine what beers they may or may not like to try. Sensory Style is actually more informative. I tend to agree with this, so I have introduced CraftBeer.com’s Sensory Style categories, in addition to beer style, to help someone reading my reviews get quicker understanding of the overall experience they should expect from the beer. Sensory Style is divided into six broad categories: Sour/Tart/Funky, Crisp/Clean, Dark/Roasty, Malty/Sweet, Hoppy/Bitter and Fruity/Spicy. If you would like to explore these more on your on, you’ll find them here: CraftBeer.com Beer Styles. Go ahead and explore, you’ll find they work quite well.)
Appearance: Clear copper color, fluffy off-white head with good retention.
Aroma: Malt forward with bready & toasty notes.
Flavor & Aftertaste: Spicy hops, bready & toasty flavors. Medium malt sweetness, restrained bitterness, alcohol not noticeable.
Palate: Medium bodied. Low carbonation. Finish is crisp, clean and on the dry side. Medium in length.
It’s mid-October and this year’s Oktoberfest beer reviews (LUDB Oktoberfest Beers Roundup) has been completed, but there are still a few Märzen and Festbiers hanging around out there that I did not get to for one reason or another. One I have been wanting to try for a couple of years now, but I seem to miss every year because it to does not usually reach general distribution and the brewery runs out of it pretty quickly, is Arches Brewing’s Festbier Märzen. I would loved to have included it in this year’s roundup; however, it was not out yet at that time. This year I got lucky and just happened to stumble upon some at my local Total Wine & More store. There were on a few four packs left, so I happily grabbed some on my way out. For those not familiar, Arches Brewing is a premiere lager brewery in Georgia, having produced several lagers highly rated by The Beer Connoisseur. I expected this one to be a high quality beer and was not disappointed in the least.
Before I jump into the review, I feel the need to clear up what is often confusing about Oktoberfest/Festbiers here in the States. For many years, the beer served at the Oktoberfest celebration in Germany was a Märzen – an amber colored, full-bodied beer brewed in March, cold stored all summer and served in September/October. Sometime in the mid-1970’s, Paulaner Brewery, in Germany, decided to brew a more pale, less full-bodied version that people could drink more of. This is the primary version served today. Here in the States, we’ve mostly adopted the Märzen version, which is what you will primarily find on the shelves. We’ve begun to see Festbier versions as well, like Weihenstephaner Festbier, but Märzen is still dominant. It’s most of what the German breweries ship over and what most breweries her make. But what about Arches Festbier? If you are paying close enough attention to my photos, you’ll notice it is the amber colored Märzen. What gives? The brewers at Arches are pretty traditional in most of their approaches to beer. In Germany, you are not allowed to use the term Oktoberfest on your beer unless you are one of the six Munich based breweries that make beer for the festival. Everyone else describes their beer as Festbier. Thus, Weihenstephaner is not located in Munich, so they call their beer Festbier. I heard in an interview with the brewers at Arches once, they call theirs Festbier out of respect for the German rules. I respect that too, even though it causes some confusion; however, they clearly note “Märzen” on their label to let you know what you’re getting.
In their Festbier, I think Arches makes one of the best Märzen’s in Georgia. It’s very attractive in appearance, pouring a clear, amber/copper color and producing a nice, off-white head with good retention. The bready, toasty aromas are quite inviting and prime the senses for the oncoming malty goodness. A nice big quaff of this brew reveals rich malty flavors of bread, toast and hint of nuttiness. The sweet malt flavors are accented well with the spiciness of German noble hops. The finish is crisp, clean and medium in length. It has a slight more bitterness than most Märzens, but it is quite appropriate to balance the malt backbone. At 6.8%, it’s on the high side of the ABV for Oktoberfest beers, so you’ll definitely want to pace yourself if attempting a lengthy drinking session with this one.
Arches Festbier Märzen is wonderfully drinkable Oktoberfest style beer. You’ll quickly find yourself at the bottom of your glass before you realize it and ready for another pint. That’s exactly how an Oktoberfest beer should be and Arches delivers. I’d love for them to make more of this available to distribution next year. If you are wondering about my local preferences, I’d list them in the following order:
- Arches Brewing Festbier Märzen
- Tucker Brewing Tucktoberfest Märzen
- New Realm Brewing The Bavarian Prince Märzen
- NoFo Brew Co Klettersteig Märzen
With more craft beer breweries around Georgia than ever, there are easily more Oktoberfest beers out there that I have not had an opportunity to try yet. The quality seems to get better every year too. This is a very satisfying time of year for beer lovers, as Oktoberfest beers provide some of the most enjoyable beers made. I encourage you to take some time out, sit out on your deck or front porch with a full pint or mug of one of these malty, amber beauties, and enjoy the cool air and fall colors bursting out all around you. Prost!
Thanks for reading, until next time…Let Us Drink Beer!