Oktoberfest season is wrapping up. I know, I know. It seems silly when we're not even half way through the month of October itself, and yet, who are we to argue with the Germans? As I'm sure you know (or can find out on the googlemachinethingy), Oktoberfest generally begins late-September and runs for just over two weeks. All the beer served must be brewed inside the Munich city limits. If you think this might be a touch limiting, you'd be... well... right.
Traditionally, Octoberfest beer was rich, malty, strong, and hearty. The style served was known as Märzen, in that it was brewed in March, lagered ("stored" - if you ask for a lager in Germany, don't be surprised if somebody gives you a suitcase and a puzzled look) through the summer in cold caves, and served in Spring. It was strong, around 6-7%, malty, and with a smooth, warming drinkability so common to the darker German beer styles. Sadly in modern Germany, as elsewhere in the world, the trend towards paler, lighter beers has overtaken tradition, and jumped up and down upon it's jaunty Tyrolean Fedora. The most popular style of beer now served at Oktoberfest is the Helles or Hell, meaning "pale", and being a 5.2-6% abv malty pale lager. It's still very tasty and thirst quenching, and goes wonderfully with your Weisswurst or Steckerlfisch, but if you yearn for complex maltyness and strength, you may wish to leave the Wies'n and head into town to the Spaten bierhalle.
There are many funny stories and myths about the origin of the term "bock", but the true etymology is lost in the beer haze of history. Suffice to say that bock is simply strong beer. A doppelbock is a double-strength bock, and was (arguably) created by Munich's Paulaner monks as "liquid bread" to sustain them through Lentern fasting. Apparently getting rat-arsed is OK in the eyes of the Lord, but eating is cheating! The original was named "Salvator", and by way of homage, most doppelbocks are given a monicker ending in -ator.
Optimator is Spaten's contender in the doppelbock stakes. It pours a deep brown with coppery highlights, and throws a massive nose of fresh baked pumpernickel bread (perhaps with a thin spread of marmite), chocolate, and black forest cherries. The palate is full bodied, almost syrupy, but without being cloying. There's an excellent balance between malt, hops, and yeast, with a beautiful delicate spicyness (nutmeg?) and notes of caramel joining the promised bready nose. The finish is warming, with a sweet and slightly peppery purr of alcohol blending the flavours, and leaving you with a slightly heady and sensuous joy.
Get yourself a traditional German Brezln and pour a glass of Optimator. A match made in Munich.