Category Archives: american lager

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,
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.