The Beer: Marzen lager
The Brewery: Gordon Biersch Brewery, SanTan Village, Gilbert, AZ
The Stats: 5.7% ABV; 18 IBU
History: Marzen is the German word for "March," named so because it was in March when this style of beer was traditionally brewed before refrigeration. German brewers would brew the beer, then age or "lager" them in caves throughout the summer to help the beers condition at the proper cooler temperatures. In doing so, the beers would be ready for the annual Oktoberfest celebrations in the fall. The words "Marzen" and "Oktoberfest," when referring to a beer style, are then effectively interchangeable. Often seasonal in nature, the marzen style is brewed by a small number of breweries year round, including Gordon Biersch. It's also the brewery's most popular beer.
Aroma: Toasted bread malt with strong melanoidin character lead the beer's aroma. Melanoidins are a specific flavor and aroma profile that results from the kilning of the malt. When malt is added to a kiln and temperatures are increased, it gives the malt a darker color and toasty flavor. It's not quite fruity and not quite sweet, but has characteristics of both. Low levels of floral hops are also present, though this beer is definitely a malt showcase.
Appearance: Deep amber in color and brilliantly clear, the head consists of small bubbles that don't persist all that long, which is expected for this style.
Flavor: The aforementioned melanoidin malt flavors are dominant — the signature flavors of the marzen style of lager — along with flavors of toasted bread. Floral hop flavor is also present, though it resides in the background compared to the malt. By no means a sweet beer; it is very well attenuated (fermented), creating a smooth-drinking beer with a clean finish. Just enough hop bitterness (18 IBU) provides balance while ensuring this marzen remains a showcase of malt flavor. At 5.7 percent ABV, it's not overpowering, but has tons of flavor compared to others beers of that strength.
The "Feel": This Marzen is medium bodied and moderately carbonated, appropriate for the style. There's no astringency and a very slight, pleasant alcohol warmth can be felt toward the end.
Overall Impression: This is a wonderful example of a traditional German marzen style of beer. It remains a mystery as to why more breweries don't brew this style of beer year round, as it is easy drinking in any climate, full of flavor, and appeals to beer drinkers of all kinds.
The beers at the SanTan Village location were brewed at Gordon Biersch's Glendale location by Head Brewer Gary Fritze. Gordon Biersch does bottle some of their offerings, including the marzen, which can be found at all area Total Wine locations and other fine beer stores. For more information about Gordon Biersch, check out the Gordon Biersch website.