The Smooth, Nutty Malt Flavor that IS a Great Oktoberfest Beer…
by Belly Buddy Mark Stevens
At A Glance
Beer: Spaten Ur-Oktoberfest
Pros: Svelte, suave body; nutty malt sweetness; perfect balance
Cons: No cons about it!
The Bottom Line: Spaten Ur-Oktoberfest is one of the finest amber lagers that you can buy. Taste a bottle and I think you’ll agree…
I posted a review of Paulaner Oktoberfest a few days ago, but that’s far from the only good oktoberfest beer gracing your local beer retailer’s shelves. Cool fall days spell big selections of good oktoberfest beer, and it would be a shame to let a fall pass by without sampling at least a few of these wonderfully tasty, deliciously smooth lager ambers.
No discussion of oktoberfest is complete without talking about Spaten Ur-Oktoberfest — the originator of the style and one of a handful beers that truly define to beer critics what exactly it is that a good oktoberfest beer should represent.
Let’s pop the top off a bottle and take it for a test drink…
A Tall Cool Glass of Spaten Oktoberfest…
I’m a big fan of choosing the right glass for a beer, and I don’t think anything shows off the beauty of a nice Oktoberfest marzen better than a sparkling clean pilsner glass.
Nice, rocky, dense head with small tight bubbles tracing their ways upwards through the beer. Beautiful golden orange amber color with absolutely perfect clarity.
Soft and sweet and malty and nutty with just the perfect blend of subtle toasted malt aromatics. I get a very slight plum edge on this, and not a trace of hops nor of any problematic off aroma. Utterly appetizing and enticing — just like walking into a bakery and smelling fresh sweet rolls coming out of the oven…
Sweet and toasty in a deep-seated malty base that’s absolutely luscious and enticing. Well balanced, but you don’t ever really perceive the hops — they stay in the background where they belong, allowing every bit of luscious toast Munich malt flavor surge to the front of the main stage, right where it belongs.
I’m a huge fan of marzen beers, and this beer is just about the most perfect example of how it should be done. The beer is soft and gentle like the touch of a baby. It is mellow like the sound of a big bass cello. It is as complex and sophisticated as a physics professor’s undecipherable blackboard scrawls. It is as sweet as a first love, and it is as perfectly balanced as a circus tightrope walker. This is a beer that makes my tongue dance for joy like Ricky Martin and makes me wax poetic as I down the last gulp of ambrosia from my glass and immediately reach for a second bottle…
Any craft brewer thinking about making a truly smooth, authentic, deliciously satisfying marzen lager simply must taste this beer and ponder its every subtle nuance. Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Marzen IS the yardstick by which other marzens should be judged. Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr do great oktoberfests too, but my favorite has always been Spaten, and every September when I restock my supply, I taste a few bottles and understand just why and how it happens that nobody does it quite so well….
A Few Thoughts on Oktoberfest Beers…
When people think “beer” they often think “Germany”. What they may not realize is that the part of Germany where beer is truly king is Bavaria — the mountainous southern part of Germany that is home to the world’s biggest beer blowout, the annual Oktoberfest.
Sadly, too many foreign tourists don’t seem to realize that there is a “right” and “not quite right” beer to drink at this time of year. The “right” beer is obviously Oktoberfest beer — the deep amber colored sweet tasting elixir that is among the most succulent tasting lagers brewed.
Oktoberfest lagers are also called “marzen” because of their historical roots (brewers used to make the beers in March and age them for six months in deep caves throughout the summer months so that they’d be at their prime in time for the Oktoberfest).
Modern oktoberfest beers are malty tasting beers with a medium body, roughly 6 percent alcohol, and starting densities of about 14 degrees Plato. (Spaten is 5.9 percent alcohol and has a starting density of 13.7 Plato). The color is a light amber — not too dark — maybe about 10 on the SRM scale.
If you go to Oktoberfest, you may be surprised to find that there are only a handful of brands available at the festival — all from large Munich breweries. Fortunately, these brands are among the best and most venerable available. They include Spaten, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr — all of which are delicious brews, and all of which I recommend highly.
Quite a few American craft breweries make Oktoberfest beers, and the best are invariably from lager breweries. One of my favorites is Uncle Otto’s from Portland, though I’ve always been a big fan of Stoudt’s Fest, which unfortunately, doesn’t travel too far from its eastern Pennsylvania roots.
The Spaten Brewery is one of Munich’s oldest and most well-known breweries. The brewery claims a brewing heritage that goes back to 1397 (over six centuries!) Of course the story of their Ur-Marzen isn’t quite so long, stretching back only to about 1860, but it’s still plenty of time for the brewers to perfect the art of what Spaten claims is “the original marzen beer”.
Official info about Spaten and their products is on their web site.
In any case, Spaten’s Ur-Oktoberfest is a great brew, and I know this six pack isn’t going to last long in my house. It never does.
Until next time, see you at the Oktoberfest celebration. I’ll be the guy with a big krug of malty oktoberfest beer in my hand and a smile of contentment on my face…
Eins, Zwei, G’suffa!