"It tastes kind of skunky."
Frankly, I sort of like it. Light lagers aren't typically my thing, but when you're sitting out on the Terrace on a gorgeous summer evening, it's sort of difficult to go for anything else. Does the terrace have other beers? Of course. But, all the way from dinner over to the terrace I was thinking "Man, I could go for a Spaten." Of course, I was thinking about the Optimator, but honestly I didn't even know that the Terrace would have either.
I'm not a native Madisonian. I didn't even go to school here. The Terrace, while in theory is not unique - it's just a lake-side bar and meeting place - manages to show off all of the things that make Madison unique. For example, to get there you have to drive all the way through the heart of the city; it is rather out of the way (at least for those of us that don't live on campus). You go on to the isthmus, past at least 2 lakes, within sight of the capitol, through most of the university, and have to fight for parking. Thus, you are forced to experience the city. When you get there, you are treated to unique architectural artifacts (the chairs) and sit next to an iconic lake. If you are as lucky as we were, the weather is 75 degrees and cloudless, and the patio bustles with academic energy even when school isn't in. Moreover, the Terrace requires you to at least pretend to be a Madisonian - thus, you must get into character; because unless you are a student, or a member of the Union, you cannot purchase beer at the Terrace. (perhaps when you catch me on a day that I've had a few too many you'll get my rant about how this, in itself is typically Madisonian)
But, if and when you can purchase beer there (or have someone buy the beer for you, or simply lie to the bartenders) you are treated to a surprisingly decent beer list. It leans toward the typical college fare (Leinies, PBR, etc.) for the "cheap stuff", but for a mere $10 you can have a pitcher of Stella Artois, Great Lakes Burning River, Bells Oberon, Capital Fest or Island Wheat, Sprecher Dark, Spotted Cow, and a beer specially brewed for the Terrace by Grays, among others. It turns out you can also get the Spaten Premium Lager and Optimator.
Our table bore out the split regarding the Spaten Lager. (BA. RB.) Some people really like it, others think it is dreck. I fall on the side of liking it. Or at least liking it enough that I don't think it is dreck. As I said, it's not generally my thing, but for a light beer, it's malty sweet (almost cloying) but a nice, if unbalanced, hoppy bitterness. Others find its aroma to be skunky and unbearable. Its taste too sharp. I found the aftertaste pretty tolerable; if anything it makes you want to have more (if only to get the slight metallic taste out of your mouth).
Is it the best beer ever? No. But, on a nice summer evening watching the sun set over Lake Mendota (I think, or is Lake Monona?) with 2000 people you've never met, preparing to watch a highlight reel of kayaking in Canada, it really hits the spot. Besides, if you have enough it makes you say things like "Man, those kayakers look like retarded birds."