Our next category of beer, the European Amber Lager, is a surprisingly specific category. This type has only two subtypes and refers to a small geographic area of Germany and Austria. However, while this beer type has specific roots (so specific we can even give credit to actual brewers for inventing the styles), its reach is broad.
The first subsection of the European Amber Lagers is the Vienna Lager. This style was developed in Vienna, Austria, in 1841 by Anton Dreher. Initially a very popular beer, it faded to a status of near extinct in Europe. However, Austrian and German immigrants brought the recipe and technique to Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where it flourished. Many of the most popular beers in Latin American
and Spanish-speaking Pacific Islands are based off the original Vienna Lager recipe.
The second subsection is also a derivative of Vienna Lager however, instead of nearly fading from history, it has become the official beer of the world’s largest kegger–Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest Beer is technically a style as recognized by the BJCP. The Oktoberfest or “Fest Beer” was developed for the Oktoberfest Celebration in Munich by Gabriel Sedlmayr III in 1871. Sedlmayr worked for the Spaten Brewery and attempted to recreate the Vienna Lager for the Spaten tent at that year’s Oktoberfest. Sedlmayr’s lager was so popular, it became the official beer of the Oktoberfest.
It was also Sedlmayr’s work with Pasteur and refrigeration that allowed his beers to be saved from the brew year’s end in March (Marz) to the celebration in October (Oktober). For this reason, the European Amber Lager is also commonly known as a “Marzen.”
BJCP Category 3- European Amber Lagers
Subcategories: Vienna Lager, Oktoberfest
Aroma: Moderate rich German malts (Vienna or Munich Malts), a light to moderate toast to the malts may be present.
Appearance: Light red to copper for a Vienna Lager. Dark gold to orange-red for Oktoberfest. Both have a thick, off-white and persistent head. Both have bright clarity.
Flavor: Both beers have a complex and sweet malt front from the Munich or Vienna malts but finish clean and dry. No caramel or fruity esters should be present. And noble hops should be subtle.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium. Smooth, creamy, with light to medium carbonation. Should be clean and fully fermented with no stickiness or cloying finish.
Ingredients: Vienna malts should be the main backbone of the grist. For Oktoberfest, some Munich malts are appropriate and caramel malts should be used sparingly. Hops should be Continental and preferably noble (from Germany or Czech Republic). Water should be hard and slightly alkaline.
Original Gravity: 1.046-1.057
Final Gravity: 1.010-1.016
ABV: 4.5-5.7% IBUs: 18-30
SRMs (Malt Color): 7-16
Vienna Lager: Great Lakes Eliot Ness (unusual in its 6.2% strength and 35 IBUs), Boulevard Bobs 47 Munich-Style Lager, Negra Modelo, Old Dominion Aviator Amber Lager, Gordon Biersch Vienna Lager, Capital Wisconsin Amber, Olde Saratoga Lager, Penn Pilsner
Oktoberfest: Paulaner Oktoberfest, Ayinger Oktoberfest-Märzen, Hacker-Pschorr Original Oktoberfest, Hofbräu Oktoberfest, Victory Festbier, Great Lakes Oktoberfest, Spaten Oktoberfest, Capital Oktoberfest, Gordon Biersch Märzen, Goose Island Oktoberfest, Samuel Adams Oktoberfest (a bit unusual in its late hopping)