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Prost! My First Oktoberfest Experience And A Taste Of The Elusive Festbier!



It's Oktoberfest! 

It's perhaps one of the few festivals so celebrated that also involves some sort of alcoholic beverage - so you know we had to be there.

The festival itself is held annually in September and as most would know, originates in Munich, Bavaria,

It's what is known as a Volksfest, which is to say it's a "people's festival", and combines beer festivals with travelling funfairs - it's a time for folks to come together to have fun and originally was in honour of the royal marriage of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese all the way back in 1810.

I don't know them personally, but it seems like folks had so much fun that the festival has been held annually since then, making it a 210 year old tradition that is now a big part of Bavarian culture!


Oktoberfest has been celebrated in the grounds outside Munich called Theresienwiese since 1810! (Image Source: Oktoberfest.de)


In honour of the royal event, the fields outside Munich's city gates were turned into a giant fairground named "Theresienwiese" or Theresa's Meadow, and even held horse races, bowling alleys and tree climbing competitions. Ladies would also come dressed in traditional outfits called Dirndls. 

Till this day, Oktoberfest continues to be held at the very same grounds!

Now where's the beer you ask?

Well booths selling beers and bratwurst were a staple of the festival's stalls from Day 1, because really did we need to consult anyone on this?


Halls are lit come Oktoberfest! (Image Source: Oktoberfest.de)


Traditionally, a beer style known as Marzënbier (resembling Dunkels, a dark German lager) was served. It was a Bavarian brewed beer that would be made through the winter as preservatives weren't a thing the. And so to keep the beers in good shape, it would be brewed with more alcohol and hops to improve shelf life. They would then be stored in caves till the hot summers where they would be most crispy and fresh!

Yet one day there was shortage! An enterprising Viennese brewer quickly spotted an opportunity and offered what he called "The Original Marzën" - and boy did it take off! The beer style is less hoppy and bitter, typically amber coloured and also highly malty and sweeter than typical lagers.


Paulaner introduces the most popular Oktoberfest beer (or bier)! (Image Source: Oktoberfest.de)


Another 100 years would roll around and one day, Paulaner Brewery in Munich would decide to break away from tradition and instead create a beer that they felt would be less filling and easier drinking.

They ultimately created the Festbier, which was designed to be more refreshingly, still fairly malty, but also less heavy and dense than the Marzën.

This obviously took off and today only 6 breweries in Munich are given the honour to pour for Oktoberfest, Paulaner obviously being one of them.

In fact, each year Oktoberfest is kicked off at noon with a 12-gun salute, followed by the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer by the Mayor of Munich, who will announce "O'zapft is!" which translates as "It's tapped!"


The taping of the first keg! (Image Source: United Planet)


The President of the State of Bavaria then gets first dibs and drinks the first litre of beer.

Today the festival attracts millions of people and is celebrated worldwide - we'll take any reason to drink some beer - and over 7.7 million litres of beer is consumed during this period. Nice.

And so being in Singapore, I might have been far from Theresa's Meadow, but I assure you I shared a table with a friend of the same name - who also wore a dirndl for the occasion mind you. And being at Paulaner's Singapore outpost, well, this is as authentic as it's getting for me this year.



Given Paulaner's outsized reputation in the German beer category - which I've recently been developing quite the affinity for ever since I tried some of the more traditional German beer styles such as Helles (a more full-bodied style of lager) - I was down to go pay the Singapore Brauhaus a visit!

Of course, the chance to get to try the once a year Oktoberfest Bier was the main draw - but the food also did look really good.

The Paulaner Singapore Brauhaus is located in the city centre, near Millennial Walk, and is a three story beer house just sitting conveniently under my nose!

I actually couldn't believe I hadn't visited the place before.

Walking in, I got to a pub table on the first floor where the beer taps are at, and I really liked how buzzy the place was, decked out in Oktoberfest decorations.



Right in the center of the first floor there's the bar taps in something of a central hub, above which goes the second and third floors. 

If you look up real close, you'll notice they've lined up the Paulaner mugs in a ring around the center, and of course much like any modern bar, you've got to have a TV showing some good football.



What we're here for! Give me that Oktoberfest Bier!

From the get go, this was the colour of manuka honey, a dark hazy gold, with a foamy head.

Going in closer, you get a whiff of the mellow, almost slightly raw and herbal manuka honey scent, that's also accompanied by something of toast bread - think the white innards of a toasted baguette. There's also this unpasteurised scent of a farmhouse, or maybe walking into a cheese cellar - absolutely awesome freshness!

Let's get in for a sip! 

Oooh honey water and more of those toasty baguette whites, also a little bit savoury, hmm it's also somewhat reminiscent of kombucha!

It finishes off pretty much seamlessly much like its aromas and taste.

But wait, what's most incredible is that as time went on, this became sweeter still - incredibly similar to manuka honey and also a heap of chewy barley sugar sweetness. It has this gentle sweetness that's also quite rich, much like chewing into cooked barley. The flavours end off with this ridiculously buttery and malty texture and flavour that reminds me awfully like maltose candy - maybe it's a tie in with the mid-autumn festival?

Wow! This really delivered! I'm actually really glad it lived up to the hype and I was not one bit disappointed - I really love how fresh it is, with this unfiltered taste that you just can't beat, and boy the only way to have this proper is to have it on draft! That combination of manuka honey and toasty baguettes was also very tasty on its own, and while I might've thought it would've been too rich to go with food, I was wrong. It went very well, and we quickly wiped three mugs.

Also talk about that maltose candy, syrupy, sweetness and chewy cooked barley - can we have this year round?



Now, we (read: I) decided I shouldn't just confine myself to the Festbier as much as I really enjoyed it, so we (again, read: I) got a white beer as well, which is called a Weibbier.

This came in a dangerously tall glass which I was constantly conscious of making sure I didn't knock over. Though having held onto it abit, it did come to my mind that this would make a good glass for a toast. It felt like I was carrying a torch of sorts. A torch of beer!

In any case, aesthetically, it looked similar to the Festbier - that hazy manuka honey colour.

But nosing it, this was rather herbal - lots of coriander, as well as black pepper roastiness. And I could have sworn it had the aroma of fresh roasted crackling port - this sort of meaty smokiness. Very enticing, really.

On the palate, again more vegetal but also with some honey and savouriness. The finish continued on delivering that same vegetal bitterness.

To be honest, I wasn't much a fan of this Weibbier. I mean the aromas were great, but I found the taste far too vegetal and herbaceous for me.

Just a personal preference sort of thing - I tend to go for more savoury and sweeter beers, rather than more vegetal ones. But I could see how someone who preferred more bitterness in their beers might appreciate this more.

It had a good well-rounded body that was very drinkable and a clean finish overall, but I just couldn't appreciate the herbaceous, minty quality.

Guess, it's the Festbier for me!

Maybe ask me again when it's not Oktoberfest.



Ah the food! While there seemed to be several Oktoberfest specials that had an assortment of platters for 2-3 pax, 4-5 pax, the a la carte menu seemed to call out to us more.

And so here we have the Beer & Beef Goulash on left (in the black pan), and the Paulaner's Schwabenpfandl grilled pork tenderloin on the right (in the white plate). Can you imagine the complete awkwardness as I butchered (get the pun?) the name "Schwabenpfandl" to a waiter who looked like this happens 50x a day.

Both dishes came with a side of Spaetzle, which is a homemade Bavarian egg noodle - pasta, just say pasta! I'm kidding. I'm a fiend for Spaetzle as you might've guessed. 

The two meat dishes were really tasty, I was surprised at how tender the meats were and I couldn't decide between the dark beer sauce for the beef or the mushroom cream sauce for the pork - both were really good quite honestly, the mushroom cream sauce got the better of me by just an inch.

The portions were alot larger than I expected too - there are certainly worse problems to be had.  



Another Bavarian specialty I had been eyeing was the Semmelknodel - this time I learnt not to attempt to pronounce it - this Bavarian bread dumpling is something I had once in Europe years ago and I've always remembered it since.

It's a dense flour dumpling that I would best compare to the consistency of pumpernickel or rye bread in terms of denseness, but way softer. It comes coated in dark beer sauce too, and quite happily this one was just as good as the one I had in Europe - nice to know I can have it here as well. I would come down for this alone to be honest.

And also in a clear demonstration that we had no clue how large the portion sizes were, we had also ordered the roast beef as well that came with roasted potatoes and some Tartare sauce.

I have to tell you, this roast beef completely caught me off guard - it floored me!

Goddamn was it delicious! It was so tender and fresh - so perfect an execution of a cold cut roast beef that Gordon Ramsey would cry knowing there was no better - I am not kidding.

I hadn't thought much of it when we had ordered it - again, we had thought that perhaps there wasn't enough food - and I mean let's be honest, is there really any restaurant cooked beef that we can honestly say is 10/10? 

And yet when I tasted it, the freshness, the juiciness, the tenderness, and the lighter style Tartare sauce complemented it so well. It's a cold cut starter, so what you really want here is for it to be beefy and meaty but not dry or tasteless and too chewy.

This was absolutely fantastic - it had a good amount of beefiness and was easy to chew through and juicy as well. I would come back just for this as well.



Finally we come to dessert - because how much meat can you possibly have? The waiter recommended the Kaiserschmarr'n - and no, he too had the good sense to just call it Bavarian pancakes.

I'm not usually a fan of pancakes, but seeing as how I got what I wanted - the Festbier - I thought I should be alittle more compromising.

And as it turns out, Paulaner had more surprises up its sleeves - this pancake was actually good. It's presented rather interestingly, chopped up in bite sizes. But this was actually a well thought out format - well, obviously they knew what they were doing - because the outside of the pancake is caramelised and crispy but the insides were still fluffy and densely spongey. This textural contrast was very enjoyable and I'll concede to having had quite a fair bit of it. 

It also came with three sauces - red berry sauce, apple compote and Vanilla ice cream (it's a sauce in this context!).



And with that we come to the end of this small Oktoberfest celebration - a first for me, but I'll definitely be back. I can definitely see why the good folks of Munich decided after the first round in 1810 to just do it annually - it was alot of good food and good beer (the Oktoberfest Bier lived up to the hype!), and I'm quite pleased to have found an authentic place to get a taste of Oktoberfest - well, duh! - so thank you Paulaner for bringing a bit of the festivities over to Singapore. 

After all, Paulaner's the OG Munich Brauhaus no? 


Who am I kidding, I said "Cheers".