Claire Collins
Claire Collins

14.45 18 Oct 2019


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Dean McGuinness reviews Ayinger Festmarzen and Ayinger Celebrator

CLASSIC GERMAN BEER STYLES

Germany is known for lagers, and many assume that this translates to bright, golden lagers around 5.0% a.b.v.  However, the reality is that Germany boasts a diversity of different lager styles.  Today, we will be tasting two of the classic styles that are different from what many people would be familiar with, but with which some may have some acquaintance.

The styles that we are tasting today are a Festbier (also known as a Marzen or Festmarzen or the term that most people would be familiar with – Oktoberfest), and a Bockbier – specifically a Doppelbock.  The beers that we are tasting today are Ayinger Festmarzen and Ayinger Celebrator.

 

Ayinger Festmarzen –

Beer Style                   -  Festbier / Marzen (sometimes referred to as Oktoberfest-style)

Alcohol by Volume    -  5.8% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   -  Ayinger Privatbrauerei

Brewed in                    -  Aying, Bavaria, Germany

The Festmarzen style is a beer that is associated with the Oktoberfest beer festival.  Oktoberfest is a festival that starts in September, and carries on over a number of weeks culminating in the first weekend in October.  It originated as a wedding celebration where crown prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

The style itself is descriptive of a brewing process rather than a specific style.  Oktoberfest or Marzen beers belong to the broader style of Vienna lagers, though nowadays Vienna Lager is considered to be a weaker version with an a.b.v. between 4.7% and 5.5%.  The Marzen or Oktoberfest style refers to the fact that the beer was brewed in March and stored in caves (to keep the beer cold) over the summer months.  Coming into the cooler months of autumn, the beer was brought out from their storage caves, and served as part of the Oktoberfest celebrations.

Nowadays, convention suggests that the Oktoberfest term should only be used on beers brewed within the walls of Munich.  There are fourteen breweries that qualify to use this term, though many craft breweries appropriate ‘Oktoberfest’ for beers brewed to this style.  In reality, ‘Oktoberfest-style’, ‘Marzen’, ‘Festbier’ or ‘Festmarzen’ should be used on a beer if it is brewed to this style but not within the walls of Munich.

Ayinger Festmarzen is an amber lager with an a.b.v. of 5.8%.  As a lager, the foundation of the beer is very clean, with a quick finish.  Using ingredients of superb quality is critical in brewing these beers, and the qualities from the high quality malt and hops used in brewing this beer shine through in the flavour and aroma of the beer.

Honey and toasty biscuit malt character develops further with subtle notes of burnt sugar and caramel further developing the malt base of the beer.  Almond and nutty character (walnut) further develop the complexity of these flavours.  This malt base is delicately balanced with enough bitterness to act as a counterpoint to the malt sweetness of the beer and deliver superb drinkability, but not enough bitterness to cause it to be anything other than a background character to the beer.  Hops come through as subtly spicy, with suggestions of nettles and mild herb character adding to the layered depth of this beer.

Where we are most accustomed to ales when talking about craft beer, Ayinger Festmarzen demonstrates how the other key ingredients in beer – malt and hops – can provide substantial depth and complexity in a beer that delivers incredible drinkability.  While ale fermentations provide their own dimensions of complexity to a beer – delivering flavours that can be broadly described as fruity and/or spicy – lager fermentations tend to provide a clean palate on which the other ingredients of the beer are presented.  As such, the specific flavours from the malt and hops are in evidence, and this beer demonstrates how these ingredients can achieve layers of complexity in a beer that is artistic, nuanced and yet incredibly quaffable.

This is a superb example of the Festmarzen style, to be enjoyed as a great beer or to be recognised for the many dimensions of flavour that it delivers.

 

Ayinger Celebrator –

Beer Style                   -  Doppelbock

Alcohol by Volume    -  6.7% a.b.v.

Brewed by                   -  Ayinger Privatbrauerei

Brewed in                    -  Aying, Bavaria, Germany

When it comes to Doppelbocks, the appendage ‘-ator’ is often associated with the names of these beers.  Celebrator is Ayinger’s Doppelbock, and it is considered to be a signature example of the style.

The bock style originated in Einbeck, and spread in popularity across different municipalities within the Hanseatic League – a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe from the 1100’s through to the 1500’s.  Bocks are strong lagers - Doppelbocks are notable for their strength, being typically between 7.0% and 10.0% a.b.v.  The use of ‘Starkbier’ on the label is a reference to this beer being a strong beer.  Doppelbocks can range in colour from pale amber through to quite dark brown – described as a ‘Dunkles’ (dark) beer reflects the depth of colour of Celebrator.

The dark malt character of the beer comes through on the initial aromas.  Chocolate, mocha, fresh coffee grounds, cappuccino, cocoa powder, cola cubes and even a suggestion of charcoal and dark honey bread all combine to provide a complex dark malt foundation for this beer.  There is a soft bitterness – again providing a background counterpoint in the beer rather than acting as a dominant character.  The dark malt character is developed and complemented by subtle notes of spice – white pepper and cinnamon, – and fruit (blackberry, prune, fig and suggestions of red apple and peach).  Turkish delight – floral rose (or geraniol) is also present in both the aroma and flavour of the beer as a background character.

Ayinger Celebrator has an incredibly clean finish despite the depth and complexity of the flavours that come through on tasting this beer.  Again, the fundamental character of this beer contrasts with many craft beers because, given that it is brewed as a lager, the fermentation character of the beer is incredibly clean, and the flavours from the malt and hops shine through in the beer.

Ayinger Celebrator is recognised as a signature example of the Doppelbock style.  Internationally, this beer is lauded as a classic beer.  Many brewers would use this beer as a foundation for understanding the bockbier and Doppelbock styles.

A truly delicious beer!


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