PAULANER’S SALVATOR may have defined the modern doppelbock, but Ayinger’s Celebrator has come to dominate it. Adorned with red twine and a white goat trinket, this full-bodied dark lager is also one of the most iconic and well-named beers on the market; opening each bottle is a ceremony, as if it were a gift.
And deservedly so, for Celebrator is a world-class doppelbock that deserves to be treated with patience and even some pomp. Once its wintry white cap is popped, the beer pours an alluring garnet color with a modest yet highly tenacious and ultra-fine head that is borne up by persistently beading bubbles. Its aromas, naturally, are deeply malty, caramelized to red, and pricked with dates, cola, a few subtle floral notes, and licorice. On the palate it reigns in the fruitiness to deliver a cleaner, more grain-focused flavor (husks, bread crust, a little toast) bracketed with molasses and coffee. The mouthfeel is full of classic German crystal malt, dextrinous but not gummy, and each sip is capped by a touch of that creamy head.
Then, befitting its lager fermentation, Celebrator kicks into its second act with alacrity. Its effervescence gains momentum and bits of citric oil and phenol combine with a hint of flinty water to sweep away some malt sweetness, leaving the finish a little woody and almost dry. This graceful a pivot is remarkable considering that Celebrator’s body is unusually full, even for the style (estimated 5.5 Plato). With such limited attenuation its 6.7% ABV is among the lowest of any doppelbock currently produced, and yet it never tastes too stuffed or sweet. A feat of magic, really.
Still, Celebrator is still not a beer likely to be quaffed by its lonesome. Yet its combination of thick malts and assertive, almost spritzy finish make it a surprisingly flexible beverage. Its effervescence refreshes the palate enough for the last bite of beef stew to be as stimulating as the first, and the combination of hearty malt and tangy carbonation would make an attractive pairing for game with robust sauces, reductions, or chutney. Indeed, for any seasonal spread between Oktoberfest and Easter, arriving with four Celebrators in hand will guarantee one a warm and esteemed welcome.
Served: 33 cl bottle