Oktoberfestbiers are the beers that have been served at the Oktoberfest event in Munich since 1818, and are supplied by 6 breweries known as the Big Six: Spaten, Lowenbrau, Augustiner, Hofbrau, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr. Traditionally, Oktoberfestbiers were lagers of around 5.5% to 6% ABV called Märzen, brewed in March and allowed to ferment slowly during the summer months. Originally, these would have been dark lagers, but from 1872, a strong March-brewed version of an amber-red Vienna lager, made by Josef Sedlmayr, became the favorite Oktoberfestbier.
Since the 1970s, the type of beer served at the festival has been a pale lager between 5% and 6% ABV, and the terms Oktoberfest and Märzen are used by non-Oktoberfest brewers in Germany and the US to market pale lagers of this style. The color of these lagers may range from pale gold to deep amber, with the darker colors more common in the US. Hop levels tend not to be distinctive, though some US examples may be firmly hopped. Modern beers sold as Oktoberfest and Märzen in Europe tend not to be too differentiated from other pale lagers of this strength, while older, German- and American-influenced examples will be fairly malty in flavor and inclined to use a range of malts, especially dark malts such as Vienna or Munich.
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