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The recent sunshine has got me thinking of Lager. That and a link posted on BeerAdvocate.

It was to a book called "Jahresbericht über die Leistungen der chemischen Technologie", published in 1901. In it are analyses of five beers served at the Oktoberfest in 1901. Right down my street. That's just the sort of stuff I collect.

As you must have noticed, I have an unhealthy interest in Lager styles and their development. It surprised me how little attention has been paid to their history. It's as if everyone assumes they've remained constant. Which obviously they haven't. If there's one point I've tried to get across it's that the past was a dynamic place.

If I'm honest, I'm not surprised at the difference between modern versions and those from more than 100 years ago. It's a pattern I've seen repeated over other styles. The gravity has fallen but the degree of attenuation has increased, leaving the ABV about the same.

It's even more extreme in the case of Salvator, where some 19th-century versions were under 50% apparent attenuation. The modern Paulaner beer is about 75%.

It's slightly odd that every one of the examples from 1901 has too high a gravity to be called Märzen in Germany today. The upper limit is 14º Plato. The two over 16º Plato would now be classified as Bock. There's also more variation in gravity than you see across modern examples.

But the biggest difference is in the degree of attenuation, which averages 80% for the modern ones, and 68% for those from 1901. Which leaves the Hacker-Pschorr beer from 1998 stronger than any of those from 1901, even though it has one of the lowest gravities.

I'm quite surprised by the amount of lactic acid in all those from 1910. I'd have expected a Lager to be below 0.10.

Munich Oktoberfestbier 1901 - 2006
Year Brewer package Lactic acid OG Plato OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
1901 Unknown Munich draught 0.18 15.19 1061.8 1019.3 5.41 67.48%
1901 Unknown Munich draught 0.17 16.07 1065.6 1020.3 5.78 67.78%
1901 Unknown Munich draught 0.17 15.40 1062.7 1017.3 5.83 71.24%
1901 Unknown Munich draught 0.16 14.60 1059.3 1018.8 5.15 67.11%
1901 Unknown Munich draught 0.17 16.27 1066.5 1020.6 5.85 67.63%
1992 Löwenbräu draught 13.74 1055.6 1011.9 5.74 78.60%
1998 Hacker-Pschorr draught 13.60 1055 1010.5 5.90 80.91%
2004 Löwenbräu bottled 13.70 1055.4 1008.7 6.10 83.50%
2004 Spaten bottled 13.70 1055.4 1010.2 5.90 80.80%
2006 Paulaner draught 13.10 1052.9 1012.1 5.40 77.20%
Jahresbericht über die Leistungen der chemischen Technologie, 1903 page 434.
Derek Walsh analysis
Löwenbräu website
Spaten website

"Jahresbericht über die Leistungen der chemischen Technologie" also had an analysis of Schwechater Märzen. One that surprised me. Which is why we'll be looking at Austrian Märzen next.