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Marzen madness

These golden German brews mean spring is just around the corner

By Mark Andel

Marzen (pronounced MART-sen) is German for March, so what better time to enjoy these rich, slightly sweet beers than right now? In the old days, the German brewing season would end every March. The "Marzenbier" would be stored beside chunks of alpine ice, and whatever bottles remained come autumn would be finished up at Oktoberfest. Here's how to taste the tradition.

Schlenkerla Smoked Marzen
The Map Room is well known for its unique beer selection, and Schlenkerla is near the top of that list. Bartender Brandon Surprenant describes the taste as slightly "porky." The brew is fermented in oak casks that impart spiciness and smokehouse flavor. If variety is the spice of life, this Marzen is worth a try. $5 for a half-liter bottle. 1949 N. Hoyne Ave. 773-252-7636.

BBK Marzen
Pull up a stool at Resi's Bierstube, a popular hangout that looks like a rec room with its beer signs and Bavarian bric-a-brac, and enjoy this Marzen with some schnitzel and German potato salad ($13.95). Feeling brave? Try the full liter, but be warned: BBK's alcohol content is nearly 6 percent. $5 for a half-liter bottle, $9 for full liter. 2034 W. Irving Park Rd. 773-472-1749.

Paulaner Marzen
Fresh and invigorating, this full-bodied beer can be found at the quirky Mirabell Restaurant and Lounge amid the Hummel figurine collection and a designated smoking room. You can enjoy Paulaner (creamier and maltier than many other Marzens) while gazing at a huge mural of the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria, and munching on a bratwurst and sauerkraut dinner, complete with a delightful beef goulash soup ($14.95). $4 for a 12-ounce bottle.

Stiegl Marzen
This brew with a spun-gold color and crisp, slightly sweet metallic finish can be found at Grizzly's Lodge, a Wisconsin north woods-style lodge where you can sip your Marzen while sampling the popular mixed grill, which includes wild boar chop, elk steak and quail. Stiegl, an Austrian brew that's been around since 1492, is representative of Marzen's sweet-and-tart style. Mozart liked it, for what that's worth. $4.25 for a 16-ounce pour.

Spaten Maibock Marzen
This Marzen has a lighter, more aromatic nose and delicate fruity flavors. It's served at Glunz Bavarian Haus in a traditional glass and matching coaster. Try it with a veal chop marinated with thyme and lemon pepper, served with a potato-truffle mousseline ($33.95). $4.85 for a half-liter pour.

Mark Andel is a metromix special contributor.

Originally published March 24, 2004.