Looking for a Great German Beer
I always assumed I liked German beer, but apparently this was a myth. I mean how could I not, really? I love beer, in every shape, size and variety. Germans practically invented the stuff, certainly perfected it anyway -- or so the story goes. Germans make cars, the trains run on time, and beer. So, I’m sitting in a bar, happily minding my own business and swigging down my British ale, when some idiot next to me asks me if I didn’t like the German stuff. Well, sure, I do. Doesn’t everyone? Not good enough for this geezer, though. He wanted specifics, and the myth was exposed.
I’ve had all the usual suspects, the Warsteiners, the Bitburgers, etc. etc., and they all sprang to mind. But, what also sprang to mind was that I considered all of them...well, good. At best. None of them great. None of them are ever my beer of choice. So I hedged, and cleverly came up with the old “can’t really get a fresh tasting German beer here owing to the Purity Laws.” There is some truth to that, and the problem is compounded by them insisting on sticking everything in the dreaded green bottles. But, he knew I wasn’t really trying. He said, "Have a Spaten; if you don’t like that one, you might as well not drink German beer."
I’d seen Spaten around, which isn’t surprising since they’ve been around for 600 years, but I never had one. I hadn’t even noticed before that this bar actually had it on tap. A rarity, and much better than the skunky, green bottled ones I’ve tried since. Anyway, it was time to put the old myth to the test. I ordered a Spaten.
This was the Spaten Premium, which is generally the one you’ll find most often. They make a few others, including an Oktoberfest I’m still searching for. The massive beer conglomerate, Interbrew, now owns this brand as well, so they should get easier and easier to find. The Premium is a light lager. It’s golden, with a medium-sized but thick head. It’s got the nice, but typical, sweet malt and grassy aroma you often find in the beers of the region.
Before I tasted it, I already had the expectation of it being about the same class as all the other German beers I’ve had. Good, but not great.
It’s better than good. It tastes similar to a pilsner, but sweeter. The slight grassiness is still there in the flavor as well. It’s not heavy at all, and there’s almost no aftertaste. Even though most beers I would consider refreshing have that crisp bite, this one doesn’t, but it still refreshes. An ideal beer for the beer garden on a summer day. At least out of a keg. If you have to have it from the bottle, you probably know what to expect. It’s likely to be skunked. I’ve never had one that wasn’t. But, they are still very drinkable, and at 5.2% alcohol you might want several.
So it wasn’t a myth. I do like German beer. A lot. Spaten anyway, and I’m sure there are more. I’ll make more of an effort to find some others now. All German beer is a shadow of its former self by the time it makes the journey to the States. That country is overflowing with great beer, and it’s a good idea to get as much of it down as is prudent whenever you’re there. In the meantime, go ahead and have the Spaten. Even here, it’s great. That geezer was right. If you don’t like Spaten, you’ll probably want to skip the German beers altogether.