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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

What is Festbier - Can I find it in Calgary? by YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tours

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

A glass of Festbier brewed by Project Vast in Calgary by YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tour

Recently YYCTOURS grabbed a pack of Project Vast’s ‘Festbier’ and we enjoyed it so much, we wanted to make sure we told as many people as we could. Unfortunately, given Festbier’s ancestry, this isn’t as easy as we thought.

Festbier, first brewed in the 1970’s is what has been served at Oktoberfest, (the annual Munich festival that runs from mid-September to early October) since the 1990’s. However, Weisn, as it is known to locals, began on October 10, 1810, when Bavaria’s King announced a multi-day event to celebrate his son's marriage and decided to invite the entire town.

Since that time, Oktoberfest has incorporated several rules such as; the beers served must conform to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516, ‘Oktoberfestbier’ is the official beer served and must be beer made by breweries inside Munich city limits and until the 1970’s this would have been Marzen (mare-tzen), a style of beer that according to a decree of 1553 was only allowed to be brewed between September 29 and April 23 as the hot summer months would often lead to spoiled beer or fires and explosions.

As we covered in the YYCTOURS Alberta craft news section “Pale Ale from England to Calgary”, in the early 1800’s, European beer would have been dark and smoky as the malts were dried over fires and therefore, something close to a Dunkel would have been the style of beer served at the first Oktoberfests. With the advent of refrigeration and coke furnaces in the early 1800’s, malting changed for the better allowing more control of the process and for finer and more flavourful malts. This helped lead the way for Spaten brewery’s ‘Marzenbier’ in 1841, an amber beer made with 100% Munich malts which became the festival’s traditional style. In the 1900’s lager was becoming increasingly popular, so Paulaner brewery created a lighter yellow-golden colour Marzen which they called Festbier. As this take on the Marzen was lighter-bodied, attendees could drink more beer, meaning more money and Festbier’s claim as the official Oktoberfestbier was solidified.

Beer colour can be measured by a scale called SRM (Standard Reference Method). When a Festbier is made for export to North America, it is often made in the traditional amber colour (8-17 SRM) and not the yellow/golden appearance seen at Oktoberfest (4-6 SRM). Further to this, most Festbiers made in North America are also closer to amber than yellow.

Project Vast’s Festbier is a perfect balance of both. A very slight amber tinge (around 9 SRM) with a light sweetness from Munich malt. It is smooth, very clear, crisp and one of the best examples of a Festbier we have ever tasted (our opinion). The beer has both strength (6% ABV) and drinkability and is not heavy or filing.

Project Vast appears to be brewed out of Delta Brewing and Distillery, so we are not sure if a taproom is in the future. Until then, happy to know we can grab this at our local beer store.

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