WITH A BRIEF WAFT of biscuit as it first settles into the glass, Paulaner’s Oktoberfest heralds autumn’s onset with a welcoming warmth. Light amber, well-carbonated, and with a medium frothy head, this classic German Märzen makes a good first impression both in the glass and on the palate.
Its follow-through, though, is somewhat less impressive. That initially rewarding aroma thins out over time, focusing more on crisp lager carbonate than slightly sweet pale malts—ditto the flavor. Though a little nutty and pleasantly round in mouthfeel, the pristine German water used in its brewing emerges to be the beer’s most memorable asset. Moreover, that first plume of a head took quite a vigorous pour to generate and doesn’t last long enough to contribute much character beyond the first two sips. Lacing is hardly to be discerned, and hop bitterness is minimally apparent (these were not much expected). Though its 5.8% ABV is a touch above average for the style, nary a hint of it emerges in a finish that shows rather more the beer’s soft water provenance and a mineral kiss. If anything fills out the beer’s latter half it would be a very delicate yeast flavor.
Many German Märzens seem to be headed in this same direction–lighter in body and color–perhaps to encourage revelers at Munich’s Oktoberfest to imbibe ever more prodigious quantities. If this is the goal, Paulaner’s effort is likely to be rewarded. With its perfect clarity, enticing first notes of lightly kilned grain, carbonation just ahead of the malt in the mouthfeel, and a clean finish, Oktoberfest has the slosh-and-gulp beer tent formula down pat. But for more considerate consumption it will not impress so easily.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by May 2014