Märzen has its origins in Bavaria, probably before the 16th century. A Bavarian brewing ordinance decreed in 1553 that beer may be brewed only between 29 September and 23 April. The original Märzen was described as "dark brown, full-bodied, and bitter". The beer was often kept in the cellar until late in the summer, and remaining bottles were served at the Oktoberfest. In order to last so long, either the original gravity and alcohol were increased or the hopping was strengthened.
The style is characterized by a medium to full body, a malty flavour and a clean dry finish. In Germany, the term covers beers which vary in colour from pale (Helles Märzen), through amber to dark brown (Dunkles Märzen). Common names for Märzen include Märzenbier, Wiener Märzen, Festbier, and Oktoberfestbier.
The Austrian style is light in colour, body, and flavour balance, and is the most popular beer style among the beers in Austria. Austrian Märzenbiers often use caramel malts that impart a sweeter flavour than their German counterparts.
- "Märzenbier" by Dorst Hornbusch, page 573, "The Oxford Companion to Beer" edited by Garrett Oliver, 2012
- "Oekonomische Encyklopädie" by Johann Georg Krünitz, 1773, vol. 5 page 156.
- "Bierspezialitäten". Märzen. Deutscher Brauer Bund. Retrieved 2006-11-02.
- The New World Guide to Beer, Michael Jackson page 193, ISBN 0-7475-0227-7