Origin: Ochsenfurt, Franken (Bayern), Germany
Date: 9 October 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit. I resisted the temptation to correct the bit where I show my ignorance of the long history of brewing black beers in Franconia. This is probably the first time I used the breakfast cereal Shreddies as a taste comparison.
Johann Georg Oechsner began brewing in 1798 at a brewpub in Frickenhausen called Zum Bären (‘the Bear’), with a history dating back to the 16th century. Over the next two centuries the family added several other pubs in the area and in 1902 opened a production brewery in Ochsenfurt. It’s still in business today, now in the seventh generation of family ownership, and still brewing this beer.
Black beers of this kind are normally considered a speciality of Thuringia (Köstritzer is the classic), but this example, picked up in the Pitfield Beer Shop, London, is from Ochsenfurt in Franconia: whether it’s a long-established speciality there or the result of the current spirit of innovation and experiment among German brewers, I’m not sure.
It’s certainly a very enjoyable half-litre. The beer is almost jet black, with a good foamy head. The aroma is smooth, sweetish and very malty: it reminded me of the breakfast cereal Shreddies. Somewhere in there, there are also sweaty and flowery hints. The palate is biscuity-sweet and malty, with a good creamy texture lifted by a hint of sourness and a fruity currant-like flavour. The beer moves towards a nicely drying, grapefruity finish with a malty, curranty tang.
I’ve had some German dark beers that treat you to the same kind of inviting, fruity-malty flavours then lay it on too thick with the hops: I’m glad to say this isn’t one of them, and the balance is just right.