The Oktoberfest and How to Brew It

Oktoberfest

Overview

I have been waiting to write about this beer style for months, and it’s finally here! While the Oktoberfest celebration is held in September and early October, the beer has traditionally been brewed in March. The Oktoberfest is known for having a rich malt character with a clean bitterness. The style guidelines are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.050 – 1.060
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 – 1.020
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.1% – 6.0%
  • Bitterness: 18 – 25 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 4 – 15

Oktoberfest Ingredients

Malt

The Oktoberfest is traditionally made using German Munich, Vienna, and Pilsen malts. These malts will give you a nice malty, bready, toasty base. If you want to bump up the toastiness a little, feel free to add a small amount of victory to your grain bill. Oktoberfests do not have a caramel character, so caution on the lower side of crystal malt additions if you are using it for color adjustments. Oktoberfest’s are traditionally brewed with a decoction mash, but you can ‘somewhat’ imitate this by adding melanoidin malt.

Hops

For the Oktoberfest, I would recommend using a German noble hop that adds a nice clean bitterness, such as Tettnang, Saaz, or Hallertau. If none of these are available to you, you can use a noble hop substitute like Liberty, or Mt. Hood. I like to keep the IBU’s in the low 20’s, and typically have a 60-minute and 30-minute hop addition.

Yeast

For the Oktoberfest, you want a lager yeast that enhances a rich, full-bodied, malty beer. There are many Oktoberfest-specific strains available. Our favorites are listed below.

  • Oktoberfest/Marzen Lager Yeast – WLP820
    • This yeast is ideal for malty lagers that leaves a slight residual sweetness that enhances the malt character.
  • Bavarian Lager – 2206 (Wyeast)
    • This yeast is great for rich, malty beer styles. This strain in particular recommends a sufficient diacetyl rest.
  • Oktoberfest Lager Blend – 2633 (Wyeast)
    • This strain produces rich, malty, complex beers and pairs perfectly with your Oktoberfest.
  • German Lager Yeast – WLP830
    • This strain works with almost any lager beer style and produces a crisp, clean beer.

Water

I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and add any additional salts. For the Oktoberfest, I add both Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulfate (gypsum). I also add 10% phosphoric acid to reduce my mash pH to 5.4.

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a sample Oktoberfest. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.059
  • Final Gravity: 1.012 – 1.020
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.8%
  • Bitterness: 20.5 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 11.0

Grain Bill

  • Vienna – 4 lbs (35.6%)
  • Munich – 2 lbs 8 ounces (22.2%)
  • Pilsen – 2 lbs 8 ounces (22.2%)
  • Crystal 40L – 12 ounces (6.7%)
  • Victory – 12 ounces (6.7%)
  • Melanoidin – 12 ounces (6.7%)

I use Vienna, Munich, and Pilsen as the base malts for this recipe. I added a small amount of crystal 40L to add some color, Victory to bump up the toastiness, and Melanoidin to increase maltiness.

Hops

Bittering

  • 1 ounce of Hallertauer Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (13.0 IBUs)

Flavoring

  • 0.75 ounces of Hallertauer Mittelfruh at 30 minutes (7.5 IBUs)

Yeast

Oktoberfest/Marzen Lager Yeast – WLP820

Mash

Add any brewing salts and enough acid, if needed, to get the mash pH to 5.4. I use 10% phosphoric acid. If you want to perform a decoction or step mash, follow the temperature schedule listed under the mash section of the Dunkel Recipe. For this recipe, I mashed the Oktoberfest right at 152 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. The strike water was at 3.5 gallons and 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, proceed to mash out to 168 degrees. After your sparge (4.6 gallons), your pre-boil gravity should be around 1.052.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes and add the hops in at 60 minutes and 30 minutes. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 48 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.059. I let the temperature free rise to 54 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 54 degrees for 7-10 days until the primary fermentation is finished, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees. Hold this temperature for at least one week, maybe even two, to ensure you have a successful diacetyl rest. As with all lagers, this step is critical. Once your fermentation is fully complete, cold crash to 33 degrees for at least a day and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, and let it lager for at least 12 weeks. Once the lagering is complete, enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Oktoberfest recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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