Category Archives: american lager

The Very Long Trail Of Beer Adventures

Editor’s note: The never ending search for good tasting beer goes way back. In my case, the quest to find flavorful beer goes all the way back to the second half of the 1970’s (at least legally) when domestic beer was essentially lager brewed with rice and/or corn, which in the case of Schlitz, the disastrous use of anti-foaming agents made Budweiser the king of American beers.
In those days, with the delightful exception of spring American bock, flavorful beer was found in imported beer, although obtaining fresh examples from Europe was dubious at best.

Carlsberg then and now

Carlsberg brewery which often gets pooh-poohed from the beer expert crowd. Is now doing collaborative with Brooklyn Brewery. Long before its recognition as a global futbol brand 1960s-advert-magazine-advertisement-dated-1968-advertising-carlsberg-f0ey8y Carlsberg had a special place in American beer history, with its introduction of beer_712Carlsberg Elephant malt liquor (as it was called, addressing taxation concerns) was an early example of strong beer, although by today’s standard of strength, would be considered somewhat mild. But in those days, most beer was weak and watery. The Elephant, as it was commonly referred to, was in a class by itself. It was a beer my lost friend TA said he would serve to Hunter S. Thompson.

Before It was called fresh hop IPA

sierra_nevada_celebration_ale Sierra Nevada beers were rare anywhere east of the Mississippi river. When Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale first appeared in the Midwest, there was no reference of it being an IPA. It was just an extraordinary tasting ale. This was before hops became marketing drudgery.

Great tasting beer existed before anyone had the idea of saying the word “craft”

augbockThe fabulous recipe from Huber Brewing in Monroe, Wisconsin was a prime example of the Augsburger brand and their commitment to the German bock tradition. Education was sparse, to say the least, concerning beer in those days, with many folks still believing that bock was created by cleaning out the vats. Augsburger countered this misinformation by printing up a bock marker explaining the Einbeck roots of the style, placed inside each six pack.

Imported, no Transported to Another World

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I recall my friend Gary, who in those days was strictly a Bud man, preferring the can to the bottle. He had a nice deli sandwich he was about to eat and he poured the weissbier into a ceramic mug. He took a healthy quaff and developed a new found expression on his face. One I had never seen before: a moment of surprised delight. Can one beer experience change your reality? Well all I can say that Gary, the hard working Bud man, 10 years later was ordering for Christmas, a half barrel of August Schell Cherry Bock, their holiday Blizzard/Snow Storm recipe that year.
Prost!

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Concerning Taft’s Brewing Company

September 15 of this year will be the 160th birthday of the Cincinnati born, 27th President of the United States, who also became the 10th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Taft’s Ale House, located in Over-The-Rhine, became a popular brew pub before it branched out as Taft’s Brewing Company, located at 4831 Spring Grove, (which is not all that far from my house), and that concerns me here:18382309_1881393515453989_2480501474962964480_n Having arrived at my local shop, I decided to investigate all three. From left to right, first there is Nellie’s Caribbean-Style Ale, a delicious lime juice infused beer with coriander, named after Big Bill’s beloved wife, Helen Herron’s nickname.
Then there is Gavel Banger American IPA, a 7% lupulin war chief tribute to the Chief Justice. My least favorite of the three, but that is just because I have grown weary, after tasting so many India Pale Ales, that I do not care much for this style of beer. Nonetheless, Taft’s version is straight forward and very well done.
And then there is 27 LAGER, a very tasty gold coloured beer in the Dortmunder/Export style. At 5.3% it is a slammer with substance, at the end of a dry day.

Building a beer portfolio around a locally famous historic figure requires some poetic license Tafts-Ale-House First off the use of the bathtub, referring to Big Bill (all 350 lbs.) getting stuck in the White House tub, is simply not true. But he did have a very large bath tub fabricated, a porcelain production that weighed, literally, a ton.
Something else to note: William Howard Taft was the last US president to have facial hair. Everyone since in that office has been clean shaved, no matter if they have to razor twice a day.
Did William Howard Taft drink beer? No he did not. But his thoughts on Prohibition were abundantly clear:

“I am opposed to national prohibition. I am opposed to it because I think it is a mixing of the national Government in a matter which should be one of local settlement.”

I’ll drink to that,
Cheers!
The Beer Doctor

September Is Already Here

Every year there is always controversy about exactly when seasonal beers should appear on the market. I’ve read anguished responses by those who complain that autumnal creations have no business appearing in August. Well, this may bother the weather-cycle sensitive, but the truth of the matter is that breweries want to sell more beer in an ever-expanding platform of choices. So getting their products in the hands of their customers is definitely a priority.
According to the 2012 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Craft Beer is a specialty beer produced in limited quantities, which provides plenty of room to dispel many notions of what craft is suppose to mean. It is downright silly to hear such terms as microand macroused in an attempt to define the quality of a recipe. Never for a moment it seems, that the term craftsmen is ever applied to those brewers who apply their skills to make a beer consistently. Even those wretched pale lagers that the beer elite sneer at, who are shocked (absolutely shocked!) that so many millions not only drink those beers, but actually love them.
But taking into consideration the quantities part of the craft definition, this also can become problematic. Some craft beer seekers are surprised that their favourite brands are made by regional breweries, the unsung heroes of the beer revolution, who, in fact, make much of the good beer possible; whether they are located in Rochester and Utica, New York, or Wilkes-Barre and Pottsville, Pennsylvania, or St. Paul, Minnesota. They also are often surprised to learn that those lagers dreaded by the extreme India Pale Ale crowd, actually take longer to produce than their top-fermented favourites. Take for example, what happened with the Saint Arnold Brewery in Texas, when they decided to make a seasonal Oktoberfest, that was top fermented:
“When it came time to do our blind tasting to choose our beer, the ale version won by a large margin. And the ale took only two weeks to make, versus seven weeks for the lager. Tastes better, brews faster, easy decision. The ale won out.”
Which also reveals that when it comes to traditional Oktoberfest/ Marzen a considerable passage of time is required to make this great brewing style successful.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest
Probably the closest thing to a national Oktoberfest, partially due to being available nearly everywhere. This is an exquisite malt showcase recipe that is celebratory and a delicious accompaniment to a wide variety of foods.

Yuengling Oktoberfest
The first time this seasonal has been bottled. America’s oldest brewery does a solid job using their famous house yeast. Very refreshing and focused.

Great Lakes Oktoberfest
Cleveland, Ohio brewer’s malty strong production of Marzen. Eliot Ness Amber Lager’s big brother. Strong and sweet. Plenty of flavour notes.

Christian Moerlein Fifth & Vine Oktoberfest
Perfectly balanced rendition, brewed in honor of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.

Hudepohl Oktoberfest Bier
A Beer Doctor personal favourite. This recipe has a very tasty nut-malty character that I never grow tired of.

From The Foothills Of The Alps

There was a time when it seemed the most enjoyable beers were part of the winter holidays. Well that certainly can be disputed now by the middle of January, when new spring beers begin to arrive.
Of great interest is the debut of Samuel Adams Alpine Spring, a historically thirst quenching unfiltered lager, using Tettnang-Tettnanger hops, cultivated in the foothills of the Alps. A golden hazy pour, with a meringue like head of foam, presenting a subtle hint of sweetness, combined with the citrus character of this German Noble variety. Time to drink? Oh yes indeed…along the pathway of pleasure. This recipe serves as gentle reminder that all the copious flavor notes mean nothing, if the beer doesn’t actually taste good.

The same can be said of the yearly return of Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale. The wonderful juicy profile of this malt showcase is something I will cherish forever. I look forward to it every year, sometime before Saint Patrick’s Day.

It’s Got Foam

One of the joys of my life has been having a friend who participated and survived the D-Day invasion. As a friend of his sons, I had the chance to talk to someone who lived through the turbulent events of the 20th century. A  wise man with a wonderful sense of humor, Glen liked to drink a beer now and then, with Miller High Life being his preferred choice.
This was quite awhile ago. I was just starting to build my Beer Doctor street credentials at the time, and he didn’t quite know what to make of it, as he watched me pour glasses of the darkest stouts, the hazy golden bubbly of hefe-weizen, and the exotic burgundy coloured brew called Rodenbach Grand Cru.  But I asked him once, why did he like Miller High Life? His answer: It’s Got Foam.

I bring this all up because recently I had a chance to sample Schlitz Beer in the “Tall Boy” 16 oz can, introduced in 1960, now revived, using the original formula that made the beer number one in America in the 1950’s. I don’t need to go into what happened, except to say that Jason Allstrom has an excellent article on the subject over at Beer Advocate, where now, the retro-revival attempts to “Go For The Gusto” it once was acknowledged for.

For those accustomed to hyper flavorful beer, any macro brewery beer is treated with disdain. I think that is a mistake. To understand beer, especially American beer, the historic context is necessary to appreciate why a particular beer became a beloved staple in millions of households. With Schlitz, I think part of the answer is in the mouth-feel. A refreshing carbonation combined with a not overly sweet malt palate, and with “just a kiss of  the hops”, a never bitter finish.
In polite craft beer circles. a drinkable beer is called “session beer”. In old fashioned American parlance, it can be called a slammer or pounder. Which I think going for the gusto is all about.