If the world of brewing needed an underdog, Spatenbräu wouldn't even need to audition for the part. It's one of the Big Six, to be sure, but Spaten still has to work overtime to gain the respect and recognition that is its due. It's not Spaten's fault. They brew a great beer, without question. But when you ask the average Münchner to name the six primary breweries of Munich they'll cover the first five without a problem, but then stumble over Spaten. You might expect otherwise, since Spaten is associated with perhaps the most famous brewing family Munich has ever produced. Gabriel Sedlmayr and his sons Josef and Gabriel II. The Spaten name goes back further than the Sedlmayrs, to 1397 when records showed the existence of a brewery owned by a Herr Spaeth who was busy producing his Oberspathbräu. The name was modified to Spaten later, around the time Gabriel Sedlmayr took over in 1807. Until his death in 1839, Sedlmayr set about to successfully bring Spaten up from obscurity to become the third-largest brand (behind Hacker and Pschorr) in Munich. Sons Gabriel II and Josef built a new facility in the spot where the brewery is located today on Mars Straße. Much like the Pschorr brothers, the Sedlmayr siblings parted company and began brewing competitive beers. One of these made beer history when Josef introduced the first amber-colored Märzen-style beer in the Shottenhamel tent at the 1872 Oktoberfest. Thus, Oktoberfest beer was born. Gabriel, for his part, introduced a cooling process that substantially aided the bottom-fermentation method for brewing Munich lagers. After World War I, the two brothers combined their brewing houses to a single Spaten brand. In 1972, the brewery went public, issuing stock for the first time. Spaten merged with Löwenbräu and the combined entity has been bought out by Belgian brewing giant Interbrew. The good news, mergers aside, the taste of the brew is unchanged.
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