As Scott observed recently in his review of Left Hand Oktoberfest beer for The Brew Club, the purists would have you believe that a true Oktoberfest beer can only be brewed by one of the ‘big six’ breweries in Munich.
Well a Lowenbrau (literally “Lion’s Brew”) was first brewed in the Lion’s Inn (Zum Löwen) in Munich 1383; whether the Lowenbrau we now enjoy can trace its roots back to that original brew is a matter for conjecture, but you need to remember that that pre-dates Columbus by over a hundred years.
Lowenbrau was probably at its most popular in the nineteen seventies and eighties when it was brewed globally under licence – by Miller in the US, Molson in Canada and Ind Coope in the UK as I recall. A change of policy in 2002 (maybe they spoke to the brewmaster at Staropramen) means that Lowenbrau is now brewed in Munich and exported globally.
This has meant some subtle changes in the beer recipes, the Oktoberfest Bier brewed under licence in the old days was a ‘Marzen’, while today it’s paler, closer to the regular Lowenbrau brew, but still brewed to over 6%.
Lowenbrau was always a favourite of mine when I was younger, and I was looking forward to this, until I read The Professor’s comment to Scott’s review of Left Hand Oktoberfest Beer:
“Lowenbrau Oktoberfest has been a disappointment in recent years. 40 years ago it was a big favorite of mine when it was actually a Maerzen style beer.
As of a few years ago, after a long absence, Munich brewed Lowenbrau Oktoberfest is back in the US but it is unfortunately a different brew than it was; it is now merely a stronger version of their standard pale lager (unless they’ve changed something back in the last 2 years). The deep flavor of the old brew as well as the beautiful dark amber/copper color is gone.”
And The Professor is right, this is simply a beefed up lager, like the Spaten Oktoberfestbier I reviewed recently. It shows no subtlety, no complexity, no artistry in it’s brewing. I actually preferred the flavour of the Lowenbrau offering over the Spaten, but not by much.
I’m sure that when quaffed by the stein in a tent in Munich these beers go down a treat, but as examples of the brewers art, frankly they’re not worth exporting. What’s your take?