Augustiner Munich Maximator
Every year as the nights begin to get cooler, a few things happen that I could do without. Things become acceptable that have no business in polite society. Oompah brass bands are referred to as “musical entertainment.” Men dressed in lederhosen gleefully wolf down thick sausages, then hop about in some sort of strange ritual dance. In Germany, this might signal evening has arrived, but here in the U.S. it means Oktoberfest time.
Perhaps the most unsavory part of it all is that every brewery in the United States suddenly decides to market a version of German-style beer, something they obviously know little about. Most of these efforts produce some sort of over-sweet, thick, dark ale that's enough to drive most beer drinkers to sobriety. I typically avoid most Oktoberfest beers, but I may have just discovered the problem. The best Oktoberfest beer doesn't mention the festival in the name at all. And, more predictably, it comes from Munich — home of the one true Oktoberfest.
The Augustiners were a family of monks who founded a brewery back in 1328. As you'd expect after seven centuries of practice, the brewery just about has beer making perfected. Their beer is so good, they don't even bother to advertise. Ever. The brewery owns several famous beer halls in Munich, and they've maintained their reputation as the best beer in the region the old fashioned way -- by being the best. Their Munich Maximator is the finest Oktoberfest beer in the world.
I'm not the biggest fan of German beer. Much of that is due to Germany's maddening habit of keeping the best for themselves, and only exporting the leftover scraps. The Bavarian Purity Law doesn't allow them to use preservatives, and this is often cited as the reason they export so little. Whatever the excuse, Augustiner isn't going to be the easiest beer to find, but it is well worth the effort.
The Munich Maximator pours a deep, dark amber with a rather small, tan head that quickly fades. The aroma isn't all that strong, and mostly consists of the sweet, roasted malt with a little chocolate tucked in underneath. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with all that. I don't know what I was expecting. It was all just perfectly as it should be but, so far, it was pretty much indistinguishable from many standard American attempts. I was preparing myself for another letdown. Maybe the American versions were spot-on, and it was just my expectations that were off?
The true quality comes out immediately in the tasting. It's not just the best doppelbock, it's the best German beer of any kind I've ever had. The flavor is rich and complex. Perfectly balanced. Unlike so many misguided attempts that have turned me off to this style, the Maximator has enough hops to counteract the roasted malt. It's not overly sweet, and still lets that crisp, dry edge come out. The taste of raisins stand out, but there's plenty of other flavors to find. Bread, caramel, dark chocolate. There's more carbonation than I expected, and with that and the 7.5 pecent alcohol helping, it leaves a bit of a tingle on the tongue. It coats the mouth, but is rather thin. The slight heft manages to be just substantial enough, without leaving you with the feeling that you are eating this beer.
Speaking of eating, the Maximator is a great dinner beer. Have it with whatever roasted or grilled meat you desire. Obviously, it was practically made to wash down a bratwurst. Even though the alcohol content might shorten a session, the beer is ideal to just stand around and knock back. (Too many of these must be the cause of the ridiculous dancing.) The sweetness doesn't get cloying, and it's not overly filling. This is a great beer to fill up the biggest stein you can find, and enjoy the party.
Augustiner Munich Maximator is just an outstanding beer. It has raised my estimation of all German brews. If it were easier to find, it would be a contender for my everyday beer. As it is, as long as I can locate some during the fall months, I'll be content. It's perfect for cool weather. If you're looking for an appropriate Oktoberfest beer, the best one doesn't announce itself as such. Skip the pretenders. Find some Maximator.