You might recall I brewed this one back in May, and on September 18, at precisely the same moment (give or take a couple minutes) that Christian Ude tapped the first keg with his ceremonial wooden mallet, I slipped a plastic coupler onto a stainless steel post. O’zapft is!
I’m really proud of the appearance of this beer. I guess after four months of lagering, I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s dropped crystal clear. Still, the color is exactly what I was hoping it would be, and the head retention and lacing are very good. Aroma-wise, well, it’s a lager. There’s a nice bready maltiness, and a peppery character that I think is just the right combination of Munich malt and noble hops. But overall the nose is a bit one-dimensional. Not in a bad way, but if you drink a lot of IIPAs and the like, simplicity is remarkable – and refreshing.
The taste is anything but simple. The overall impression I get is that there’s sweetness – not maltiness, but an actual caramelized sugar sweetness – trying to get through the palate, but not quite standing up to everything else that’s going on. That being lots of toasty/biscuity melanoidins, some earthiness, and a continued hint of pepper. I carbonated it a bit higher than normal (2.7 vol), which I think helps to cut through everything. It’s crack, basically. This is the only recipe I’ve brewed for the first time, tasted, and thought, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I’m really sorry most of you won’t get to try it. The closest commercial example I’ve found is Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen, although it has a slight fruitiness that isn’t in mine. Bell’s is making a great domestic example that’s also very similar. And for what it’s worth, Sam Adams’ offering seems to be much better this year than in the past. Unfortunately, the German breweries are gradually moving toward a lighter, less malty style, more of a low-gravity Helles Bock than anything. It would be a shame for this to become yet another style that’s preserved only by American craft brewers.