Paulaner Brauerei (Brewery) first opened its doors in 1634, the same year that the citizens of Boston purchased (for 30 pounds!) the land that became Boston Common, the country’s first public park. Like many breweries in Europe, this one was founded by monks – in this case, the Minim friars of the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au. The brewery was named after St. Francis of Paola, the founder of the Minim Order.
The Paulaner Brewery is located in Munich, the capital of Bavaria and longtime home to Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is a sixteen day festival with attendance ranging in the millions, attracting natives and foreigners alike. Chickens and whole oxen are roasted on spits, char-grilled mackerel are a specialty and, of course, there is the beer. Only beer from Munich breweries is permitted at the festival.
Oktoberfest finds its origins in a five-day festival that kicked off on October 15, 1810, the day when Crown Prince Ludwig of Wittelsbach married Therese Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806 and Ludwig’s wedding was the first opportunity local royalty had to introduce some pomp and circumstance. Since that first festival, Oktoberfest has only been canceled 24 times, due to insurmountable obstacles such as war, hyper-inflation or cholera.
Bavaria lends its own unique terroir to beer. Water, comprising roughly 90% of any brew, is always crucial to flavor and, in the Munich area, the water is sourced from a strata of the earth that is generally inaccessible. About 65 million years ago, tectonic plate activity led to the creation of the Molasse basin, a sedimentary deposit at the foot of the Alps. Consisting of clay, sand and gravel it can be up to 16,250 feet underground. However, near Munich the strata above the basin are shallow and the upper Molasse basin is accessed at depths of 325-975 ft. Generally not used for everyday drinking water, this fresh water source is, however, tapped by breweries. The water is soft and has lower levels of calcium and magnesium salts than the “hard” water found in the Alps, making it ideal for beer brewing.
To me, this beer is what Oktoberfest tastes like, especially when you drink it with some roasted or grilled game meats. Balance means different things on different continents, and thus, the balance of this beer is between malt and grain, without much to offer in the way of hops, which is true to the Märzen style. It is sweet without seeming so, with a subtle grassyness and a clean dry finish. Easy to drink and meant to be consumed in quantity, it is perfect for that last BBQ of summer or first BBQ of autumn.
Note: this year, Oktoberfest goes from September 17 through October 3.
Among the many hats he wears, Eric Meyer is the beer buyer, grillmaster and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.