Every year, thirsty flocks of wide-eyed travelers wander into southern Germany with one purpose — to drink and celebrate beer! Oktoberfest, which is German for October Fest (did you know that?), happens every year from late September until early October in Munich, Bavaria. The festival actually began in 1810 as a celebration of King Ludwig I’s marriage to Princess Therese, for whom the traditional celebration grounds are named Theresienwiese (Theresa’s meadow). Somehow, Oktoberfest slowly became a beer-drinking festival, and in 1910 over 100,000 liters of beer were served.
Recent years have seen an influx of tourists from all over the world, and millions now don lederhosen and converge in Munich for what has become the world’s largest beer fair. In 2012, about 7 million liters of beer were consumed over the course of the 16-day festival. To put that in perspective, that’s an average of five liters per second, which is roughly the flow rate of a standard fire hose. Whoa! There is also no shortage of shenanigans and ridiculous goings-on at Oktoberfest. Last year over 4,500 items were lost, including two French horns and a Viking helmet. Also, 445 people drank themselves into a state of unconsciousness, or as the Germans say, became bierleichen (literally, “beer corpses”).
In addition to the debauchery and drunken revelry, Oktoberfest brings to beer lovers a beloved style of beer known simply as Oktoberfest. As a style, Oktoberfest beers encompass a range of malty, lightly hopped golden lagers. The defining characteristic of an Oktoberfest is its intense malt flavors derived from traditional German barley malts, which are kiln dried at slightly higher temperatures than standard American malts, lending a more interesting and “toastier” flavor to the final product. The beers are hopped using only traditional continental varieties known as noble hops. These mellow, earthy hops fit in well with the malty flavor profile of Oktoberfest lagers.
Only six breweries are allowed to brew beer for the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, and among them is Paulaner brewery. Paulaner was founded in 1634 and is Munich’s largest brewery in terms of production. To get a taste of the celebration for myself, I grabbed some of Paulaner’s Oktoberfest Wiesn. Wiesn is a German colloquial term used to refer to the main Oktoberfest celebration grounds in Munich. As the name would suggest, Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn was originally sold exclusively in the Oktoberfest tents. Fortunately for us stateside beer drinkers, the brewery has recently begun exporting this offering to spread the enjoyment of Oktoberfest throughout the world. I picked up a six-pack for $12 at my local bottle shop.
I poured the beer from a 12-ounce bottle into a pint glass and immediately noticed the crystal clarity and deep straw-yellow appearance. The aroma was malty and sweet with biscuitlike and grainy notes as well. The taste was crisp and sweet, with tons of malt flavor and little hops presence. This is a very clean and dry beer and is smooth and medium-bodied. Overall, this beer is not anything overly exciting, but it is definitely an authentic version of this great style — or at least the closest you can get on this side of the pond.
Oktoberfest is currently underway in Munich, and the best way to enjoy it is to buy a plane ticket and get over there! However, if you’re on a budget but still want the authentic Oktoberfest beer experience, grab a six-pack of Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn. Prost!
6.0 percent ABV
$12 per six-pack
My ratings (out of 5):