Posts Tagged With: Lager

Warsteiner Oktoberfest

Beer: Oktoberfest
Brewery: Warsteiner Brauerei
Style: Oktoberfest/Marzen
ABV: 5.9%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Clear light golden body with a nondescript head.

Smell: Nearly lacking any aroma, there’s a quiet metallic and water scent if you really look (smell?) for it.

Flavor: The initial taste is a chemical, charcoal note. After getting past that, there’s a faint bread and cardboard taste from the Munich malts. However, it ends quiet bitter–and I have a feeling that wasn’t the intention.

Feel: Standard for the style, it has a medium-thin body with moderate carbonation. It has a hot note from the higher ABV (6%).

Concluding Remark: While I was looking forward to heading back to a German beer after a series of American Oktoberfest ripoffs, that sentiment was lost after tasting Warsteiner’s Oktoberfest. It’s void of the robust malt flavors that its other German counterparts offer. Instead, I’m left with a rather mediocre and uninteresting lager. However, at 6% ABV, a few of these will turn you into a Bierleichen. If that’s what you’re going for, it’s not a terrible means towards that end. As a rule of thumb, though, stick with the Original 6 Oktoberfestbiers when choosing a German Oktoberfestbier. This is not one of them.

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Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen

Beer: Oktoberfest Märzen
Brewery: Paulaner Brauerei
Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 6.0%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Dull mahogany body with a full white, silky head.

Smell: Largely metallic and lemony aroma. A bit of caramel malt sweetness at the end.

Flavor: Shockingly watery tasting. As it sits, it becomes a pretty well balanced, straightforward lager. It’s not quite malty and not quite hoppy. It kind of lingers in this beer limbo. There’s a bit of an earthy soil taste, and at the bitter end, there’s a hint of spice from the Saaz hops.

Feel: Very thin, watery body with surprisingly low carbonation. Very dry finish.

Concluding Remark:  Oh, Paulaner. I hate to do this to you, but I have to be truthful to the internet. Your 2012 Oktoberfest has no flavor. It tastes like seltzer spiked with a Märzen. It’s not bad–and at 6%, it’s kind of amazing that this tastes as mellow and neutral as it does.

Paulaner is one of the original six Oktoberfestbiers. In reviewing our way through these festbiers, the current rank is as follows:

1. Spaten
2. Hacker-Pschorr
3. Paulaner
4. TBA
5. TBA
6. TBA

Stay tuned for the completion of the list as we find more of the originals in local beer stores. If you find an Oktoberfest Augustiner or Lowenbrau, please let us know!!

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Spaten Oktoberfest Ur-Märzen

Beer: Oktoberfest Ur-Märzen
Brewery: Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu
Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 5.7%


Serving Style: Bottle
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Clear, dark amber body with an inch of foamy head that quickly settles to a wisp of tiny bubbles.

Smell: Full range of malt aromas, from toasted to caramel. After a few more wafts, it smells like a freshly baked pretzel with a hint of herbal hops at the end.

Flavor: Like the aroma, it’s like a kaleidoscope of malt flavors. One sip is an explosion of  sweet caramely malt and the next tastes like a variety of nuts. It’s almost too sweet until the hops stage a friendly take over. All of a sudden, the beer goes from sweet to bright, citrusy, and a little herbal. At the end, there’s a bit of peppery, gingery bite. All in all, quite a good amount of flavor given the style!

Feel: Thin body with medium carbonation and a wet finish.

Concluding Remark:  Holy crap, this is Oktoberfest in a sip. As evident by its name “Ur-Märzen” (i.e., original Märzen), Spaten is one of the six breweries in Munich that produces a Märzen for The Oktoberfest. In fact, it was a Spaten brewer that developed what is known as “the world’s first Oktoberfest bier” in 1872. This is hands down my favorite festbier this season (so far). It’s not as sweet as other Oktoberfests; the hops balance the sweetness of the malts and it has quite a complex flavor, given the nature of the style. Spaten’s Ur is not characteristic of all Oktoberfestbiers, but I certainly could keep refilling my Maß with it. It reminds me of my Oktoberfest days, which is really a fallacy as I don’t remember anything. Prost!

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Samuel Adams Oktoberfest

Beer: Octoberfest
Brewery: Samuel Adams
Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 5.3%


Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Stein
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Cloudy amber body with a small head that disappeared instantly.

Smell: This smells like a generic amber lager. There’s an initial aroma of caramel and toasted malts. It doesn’t progress much past that.

Flavor: Slightly nutty and surprisingly bitter, not dissimilar to the flavor of burnt sugar. The backbone of the flavor profile is a caramel malt and it finishes with just a hint of Noble hops.

Feel: Medium-thin body with great carbonation.

Concluding Remark:  More flavorful than some German Märzens, Sam Adams’ Oktoberfest resembles more of a Vienna Lager than an authentic Oktoberfestbier. It has a pleasant enough caramel taste, but it’s missing a little of that German je ne sais pas. Uh, I mean, ich weiß nicht.

You’ll inevitably find it on tap anywhere in this country for the next month, so you might as well try it. But I doubt it will have you dancing on tables and singing “Country Roads” by the great John Denver. 

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Lakefront Brewery Oktoberfest Lager Beer

Beer: Oktoberfest Lager Beer
Brewery: Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen
ABV: 5.3%


Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Stein
Drinking Establishment: Chez Wood
Primary Consumer: Kerensa



Sight: Bright blood orange body with a reddish, frothy head.

Smell: Oddly enough, it smells like a sweet lemon vinaigrette.

Flavor: The sweet lemon aroma translates into a lemony, Pine-sol-esque flavor. The malts make a final act appearance in the flavor of pastries. So, it kind of tastes like eating a sweet pastry that fell on a freshly cleaned floor.

Feel: It’s well carbonated, but the body is a little too thin for the style.

Concluding Remark:  Lakefront Brewery, hailing from the fine city of Milwaukee, puts out a bizarre  American-style Oktoberfest. The beer is more aggressive in flavor than traditional Oktoberfestbiers, as is to be expected of an American brewery. However, I have a hard time getting over the soapy, herbal note. It’s hard not to think of the head as a bucket of suds. Luckily I found this in a mixed six-pack, otherwise it would be taking up space in my refrigerator long after the Oktoberfest tents had been packed up for the year.

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PROST! A History of Oktoberfest and the Märzen

Annnnnd we’re back! For the next two weeks, we will be celebrating the 16-day Oktoberfest alongside the Germans and fortunate foreigners drinking copious litres of beer and snacking on brezn at Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich. Oktoberfest, now in its 202nd year, evolved from a royal festival celebrating the marriage of Konig Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (trying pronouncing that after a few beers).

Happy wedding, Ludwig and Therese, you crazy kids!

The festival was such a hit in Bavaria that the party never actually stopped. Oktoberfest has been held on the field in front of the historic city gate since 1810 (with some exceptions, such as years during cholera outbreaks and those wars). Over two centuries later, Oktoberfest is now the world’s largest festival, with over 6.4 million attendees in 2010. There have been some minor changes to the fest over the last two hundred years. What were once beer stalls to spend time between horse races are now beer tents that can accommodate thousands of thirsty celebrators. Swings have been replaced by multiple-looped roller coasters (I still don’t know whose good idea that was). Nevertheless, what was once a celebration of love, is now a celebration of the love of beer.

Oktoberfest: Then and Now

BUT! It’s not just a celebration of any beer. No, at Oktoberfest, you drink Oktoberfestbier. Maß und Maß of Oktoberfestbier. While your local liquor store will have a number of Oktoberfestbier-style six-packs on the shelves, there are only six beers in the world that hold the title of Official Oktoberfestbier. In order to qualify as a true Oktoberfest, the beer must be brewed in Munich by a Munich brewery and meet a number of other technical criteria, from ABV to gravity levels. This pretty much leaves six breweries with the permission to serve their Oktoberfest brews at Oktoberfest: Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu-München, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten.

So what IS an Oktoberfestbier, exactly? Is it called as such for its association to the event? Or is there a unique style only produced this time of year? The answers are ‘absolutely’ and ‘it’s not that simple.’ Since the dawn of Oktoberfest, the Märzen has been the only style served. Märzen, which comes from the German word “März” for March, was a dark amber lager brewed in March and left to ferment all the summer long in dark caves. Thus, Märzens were available for enjoyment just in time for Oktoberfest. Over the years, the Oktoberfestbier has slightly deviated from the historic Märzen recipe. Now, you’ll find Oktoberfesters drinking a lighter Märzen (Helles Märzen), for example. But we’re avoiding the stein-sized question in the proverbial room: WHAT IS A MARZEN?


DAS MARZEN, or Märzen-Oktoberfest-Wiener

As can be inferred by its provenance, the Märzen is a Bavarian beer. Like many other Bavarian beers, the Märzen appeared on the scene sometime in late 15th century. Brewing occurred in March, as it was prohibited to brew beer in the summer to prevent spoilage. In order to maintain fermentation through the summer, more hops and sugars were introduced to the wort. Lo and behold, this made for a more alcoholic and fuller beer than other German lagers. Unsurprisingly, it was a hit.

A major moment in Märzen history occurred in 1840. Two brewers, one from Spaten Brewery and one from Austrian Dreher, decided to add a new malt to the Märzen recipe. This malt, the Vienna malt, rendered the beer sweeter and lighter than the Bavarian counterpart. This new brew was known as Märzen “brewed the Vienna way” in Germany and as a Vienna Lager in Austria.

Before long, Spaten retooled their recipe and added a Munich malt. This new recipe was marketed as THE “Oktoberfestbier” and is the one we drink today. It is almost unrecognizable from the original full-bodied, dark amber Märzens that were first consumed on Oktoberfest grounds. However, these lighter Märzens (Helles Märzen, or Wiesens) go down with a certain ease, enabling the attendees to sit in the beer tents for hours on end until they fully transform into Bierleichen. This is German for beer corpses. I think this term needs to be introduced into everyday English.

Bierleichen of all varieties.

So, what to expect from a Märzen/Oktoberfestbier?

While there are a number of variations, the major characteristic is that these beers are freaking balanced. A slightly more alcoholic lager, the average Märzen is between 5.8-6.3%.

Sight: The color will vary greatly from Märzen to Märzen. If you find yourself at Oktoberfest, you’ll be looking at a golden body with a springy white head. Most American Märzens hark back to historic recipes and will be a dark amber or copper.

Smell: Depending on the brewery, a strong Vienna or Munich malt will be the predominant aroma. Hops will be undetectable.

Flavor: This beer is all about the malts. There will be flavors of  toasted malts, sweet malts, biscuity malts. The Bavarian Märzen will have little to no hop presence. However, American breweries do as they do, and an inappropriate amount of hops will sneak through.

Feel: Expect a medium body with moderate carbonation and an overall creaminess. It will also be quite dry and crisp, a result of a longer fermentation.

SO. MUCH. BEER. (Getty Images)

So, then, it would seem that all Oktoberfestbiers are Märzens, but not all Märzens are Oktoberfestbiers. From this discourse, it ought not be surprising that the definition of a Märzen-Oktoberfest-Vienna is somewhat ambiguous. The best way to wrap your head around the many variations of this style? Drink as many as possible! So, go forth and join us on the two week Oktoberfest challenge! May we all be Bierleichen for weeks to come.

Motherf’ing PROST.


Tip: there are many Oktoberfest celebrations happening in the tri-state area. Clearly going to one of these is the best way to get into the Oktoberfest spirit, short of booking a very expensive ticket to Munich. I highly recommend checking out Zum Schneider (try the Paulaner Original Wies’n), Radegast Hall (try the Hofbrau Oktoberfest), Pilsner Haus (try the Ramstein Oktoberfest), and Zeppelin Hall (try the Spaten Oktoberfest).

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Beercation 2012: Thailand Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The fourth and final Asian destination was the truly exotic and intoxicating Thailand. Well, those are definitely not words I would use to describe the beers of Thailand. I’ll be honest, beer reviewing (not drinking) took a back seat on this leg of the trip. Time normally spent thinking about the nuances of malts and hops was replaced with endless site visits to temples and pad thai street stalls. Regardless, the following photograph accurately depicts the beer scene in Thailand.

Beer is a relatively modern phenomenon in Thailand. The first brewery, Boon Rawd Brewery, was opened in 1934. This is likely due to the fact that Thailand was the only country in the region not subjected to European colonialism. Boon Rawd, producer of ‘premium’ Singha, ruled the beer market for most of the 20th century, only facing competition from Chang in 1995, the sweetheart of ThaiBev. Boon Rawd also began producing Leo, a ‘non-premium’ and cheaper lager later in the game and ThaiBev countered with its own ‘non-premium’ beer, Archa. While the aforementioned beers are the heavy hitters in Thailand, there are regionally-produced brews as well (which are generally the more interesting ones). For example, Phuket Beer (yes, found in Phuket) is actually brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (German purity law). Unfortunately for me, I did not travel south and was unable to find Phuket.

There are very few foreign options, as Thailand imposes a heavy duty on foreign imports. As a result, a number of large international beverage companies have made deals with the Thai beverage industry (ahem, ThaiBev and Carlsberg) in order to get in on the beer market.

One country simply cannot be home to both the best food and beer in the world (just look at Germany as an example). Thus, the fate of Thailand’s beer is to be mediocre and flavorless for years to come. Don’t cry over this unfortunate situation; just go to the closest noodle station instead. You’ll forget there was ever a problem in this world.

Beer: Leo
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

A Thai favorite (their website is, Boon Rawd’s budget beer is not any worse than, let’s say, Milwaukee’s Best or Coors. Like many beers in the region, the body is pale gold and the flavor profile is predominantly corn and grain. The mouthfeel is a little thinner than other Southeast Asian lagers, and actually a bit oily. Despite the adorable leopard on the label, I would not drink this again. It was almost a pour-out, but my hotel room was hot and I forgot to buy water at the nearby 7-11.

Beer: Singha
Brewery: Boon Rawd Brewery
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5%

Singha is indisputably the best mass-produced beer in Thailand (sorry, Chang). While it also comes attached to the highest price tag, it’s worth the extra Thai baht. Singha is light, crisp, and is free of any unpleasant aftertastes. There’s actually a trace of hops in there, and it’s not impossible to detect an aroma. However, Singha is best had in Thailand; I purchased a six-pack the other day to indulge in my Southeast Asian nostalgia. The mission was a complete bust, as it didn’t come alongside a carton of mango sticky rice. Also, at the end of the day, it is just a pale lager.

Beer: Chang
Brewery: Cosmos Brewery (ThaiBev)
Style: Pale Lager
ABV: 5.0%

While Singha might be the best beer in Thailand, Chang is the most readily available. I’ll be honest, 90% of the time I drank a cold Chang alongside a large plate of Pad See Ew. This pairing was deceptive: I was convinced that Chang was best beer I’d have ever tried. However, the illusion was shattered when I went to a bar and ordered a Chang sans noodles. Turns out, Chang tastes like water and sweet corn. It does have an exceptional mouthfeel, but it fails every other “premium quality beer” test.

All in all, do not go to Thailand for the beer. I can give you a hundred other reasons to go…just try to sneak an IPA or Tripel in your suitcase.

TYIB, exploring mediocre lagers, one beer at a time.

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Beercation 2012: Northern Vietnam Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The third SEA destination was Northern Vietnam. It’s important to make this directional distinction, as there is an established Bohemian beer scene and burgeoning home-brewing community in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s capital in the south. These do not exist in Hanoi and the surrounding areas in the north. Instead, a collection of mediocre pale lagers and the wildly adored Bia Hoi flow freely in the streets (literally, as beer is consumed while sitting on small plastic chairs outside).

As the story goes, beer was introduced to Vietnam by French colonialists in the 1890s. It was pretty nice of les Francaise to promote the exchange of les traditions culturelle, oui? MAIS NO! Looking to increase profits in their colonial outposts, the French began to charge an exorbitant tax on rice liquor, the primary libation in Vietnam at the time. Simultaneously, they introduced French wine and beer to the country. In order to avoid paying the high tax, the Vietnamese slowly started to purchase the cheaper beer. While the means by which beer became an integral part of Vietnamese culture are dubious, I doubt many would trade Bia Hoi and Hanoi Lager for homemade rice liquor. Well, depending on the night, at least.

A little trivia for the soul: the word for beer in Vietnamese (bia) comes from the French word “biere.” Less letters, same result. Vietnamese efficiency!


Beer: Bia Hoi
Brewery: varies
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: ~3%

Bia Hoi, said to be Vietnamese for “fresh beer” (it actually translates to “gas beer”), is an unpasteurized beer brewed daily with no preservatives by breweries and local shops. Renowned for its low price tag, it’s as good as you would expect a $.20 beer to be. It tastes like a watered-down version of Bud Light, which as you know tastes like a watered-down version of Budweiser, which as you know tastes like a watered-down version of a Czech Pilsner (and that’s a serious compliment to the American classic). It’s quite difficult to read any flavor in this watery concoction, but after enough, themes of straw, rice, and corn emerge. However, what it lacks in flavor, it makes up for in experience. Bia Hoi can only be consumed in Bia Hoi street stalls. You can imagine how rowdy a Friday night in Hanoi can be with thousands of people drinking on the street for hours on end (and don’t forget to factor in thousands of motorbikes!) Now, while this all sounds like fun, there are possible side effects. Other than a hangover, there is no actual way of knowing if your Bia Hoi is actually hoi: some beer vendors have been known to sell the dregs of old kegs of the unpasteurized brew.  I’m not advising against a night of Bia Hoi, but maybe packs some Tums and antibiotics just in case.


Beer: Hanoi Beer
Brewery: Hanoi Beer Company
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: 5.1%

Hanoi Beer is the jewel of Northern Vietnam. Golden in color and rich in mouthfeel, this bia would satisfy most on a steamy Hanoi day. As with many beers of the region, Hanoi Beer is a rice-based lager. The flavor of the rice, however, is not the dominant flavor. Instead, notes of grain, yeast, and grass prevail. It’s a thoroughly average lager, but as the temperature rises, it only tastes better and better. Just like Bia Hoi, Hanoi Beer is brewed with no preservatives and must be consumed the day it is produced.

As an aside, the Hanoi Beer Company was the first brewery in Vietnam. Originally owned by a Frenchman named Hommel, Hanoi Beer was produced using local rice and imported hops and marketed to French expats. However, as the French emptied out of the area in the 1950s, Hommel Brewery was left to the government and was renamed Hanoi Brewery. Hanoi Brewery is still owned by the government and allegedly produces 90% of the beer in Hanoi.


Beer: Biere Larue
Brewery: VBL Tien Giang
Style: Euro Pale Lager
ABV: 4.2%

Biere Larue was the first beer I tried in Vietnam. After a month in Myanmar, I was looking forward to pouring something other than Myanmar Lager into my glass. However, after a few sips of Biere Larue, I developed a major case of nostalgia for my 640ml of Myanmar. It was completely mediocre and unmemorable, with a generic grain taste as the predominant flavor. Nevertheless, Biere Larue is an integral part of Vietnamese beer culture: it was established in 1909 by Frenchman Victor Larue as part of the Brasseries et Placieres de L’Indochine Brewery and was once regarded as one of the best European lagers in the region. Clearly, times have changed, but Biere Larue continues to remind us how far humankind has come in our beer-discerning abilities.


Beer: 333 Premium Export Lager
Brewery: Saigon Beer  Company
Style: Rice Lager
ABV: 5.3%

I debated whether or not to include the 333 in this report, as it hails from Southern Vietnam. It also happens to be the blandest of the Vietnamese beers available in the Hanoi region. I have very few words for this beer. Alright, fine, okay, it has a generic grain flavor profile and is moderately carbonated. There, I did my homework.

In lieu of anything insightful to say about its character, I will impart some knowledge onto you. Production of 333 began in France in 1893 as an attempt to create the sacred German lager (FAIL). Production was exported to Ho Chi Mihn City in the early 1900s, where the recipe became known as the 333 Export Lager. I am going to fashion a guess that when the French left the Indochine colonies in 1954, the brewing facility was handed over to the government and became known as the Saigon Beer Company.

i hope this bia hoi is hoi! một hai ba, yo!

TYIB, exploring colonial history, one beer at a time.

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Beercation 2012: Bali Edition

Where in the world was TYIB?

The first destination of the summer was Bali, perhaps one of the most romanticized islands in the world. Known for its beaches, Hindu temples, and epicurean delights, Bali is as much a surfer’s dream as it is a spiritual center. Annnnd where there is tropical weather, tourist sites, and spicy food, I’ve learned, there is a generic pilsner-style lager lurking nearby to cool down the body, mind, and mouth. Bali was no exception. The Balinese cold one? “International Quality” BINTANG. Oh, and no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: this label looks exceedingly similar to that of “International Quality” Heineken. Oh, how the remnants of Dutch colonialism linger!

Beer: Bintang
Brewery: Multi Bintang Indonesia
Style: American “Adjunct Lager” (haha not even a real Pilsner–nice try, Bali)
ABV: 4.7%

Serving Style: Bottle
Glassware: Pilsner glass
Drinking Establishment: some cafe on Monkey Jungle Road
Primary Consumer: Kerensa
Secondary Consumers: Traveler-in-crime Lauren


Sight: Clear, pale yellow body with a thin white head.

Smell: Not completely unpleasant, but reeks of corn and mediocrity.

Flavor: It tastes like carbonation. Yes, it also feels like carbonation, but because of its dearth of flavor, the predominant taste is…carbonation. There are faint traces of hops, but that could’ve been from the last IPA I had back in the States.

Feel: See above.

Concluding Remarks:  Well, I didn’t come across any articles on the booming craft beer scene in Indonesia, so I wasn’t expecting a wide variety of Balinese beers upon arrival. However, Bintang appeared to be the only beer available, at least in the center of Bali (Ubud) where we stayed. (If you are interested in reading about the beers I missed in Bali, check out this guy’s survey.) As I concluded all that I can about Bintang in the above remarks, I will leave you with a bit of information that might save your ass in trivia night:

Bintang facilities were constructed under Dutch Colonial rule in 1929. After Indonesian independence in 1949, the facility was called “Heineken’s Indonesian Brewery Company.” The Indonesian government wasn’t having any of this association with the Dutch, and took control over the brewery in 1957. However, the powerful forces of Heineken reigned supreme, and they reclaimed brewing authority in 1967. It was in 1981 that the brewery finally received a Dutch-free identity: Multi Bintang Indonesia. While it certainly has a nice exotic ring to it, a pale lager is still a pale lager.

TYIB, exploring world history, one beer at a time.

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