It’s the heart of the Oktoberfest season, and the spotlight is shining brightly on Märzen lagers in the U.S. and festbiers in Munich. However, another German style, the dunkel, is a nice companion for the cooler weather: Offering complex toasty flavors, these malt-forward lagers are still easily quaffable, making them a splendid choice before winter’s frigid bite sends us reaching for boozy barleywines and strong ales.
We recently opened a 2014 bottle of Capital Brewery’s Garten Bräu Munich Dark. The year-old dunkel from the Middleton, Wisconsin-based brewery offers a dry aroma filled with a sweetness reminiscent of molasses and sassafras root (two traditional ingredients of root beer), hints of fig and charred wood. Layers of rich rye toast and a roasted nuttiness drove the taste before an ashy dry finish cut in, which alleviated any heaviness. A faint hint of sweet prunes (courtesy of time in the cellar) joined the fray as the beer warmed. A light body, at least for a dunkel, helps make the Garten Bräu Munich Dark an easy-drinking brew for sweater weather. No need to sit on this beer any longer; it’s drinking fine right now.