Friday, October 22, 2010

Category 4: Dark Lagers

Beer: Köstritzer Schwarzbier
Category: Dark Lagers
Subcategory: Schwarzbier

Ah, schwarzbier. This is a style of beer that we don't often get to see or taste here in the US. The name translates literally to "black beer" auf Deutsch. Sam Adams actually makes a fine version of this dark colored lager, but as I have already tried that one, I had to pick up this version, which is authentic German and has a good reputation! This lager tends to carry some chocolate and coffee/toffee/caramel notes like stout, but is much lighter bodied, less roasty/burnt flavored, often has more fruity tones, and of course has a different finish and flavor simply from the fact that is a lager instead of an ale.

Very very dark brown-velvety, dark chocolate color with a nice tan head that fades quickly but leaves beautiful sticky lacing

Aroma: figs, chocolate, toffee, and caramel; a clean little spritz of coffee as well...wonderful aroma

Flavor: similar to the aroma, the flavor has some dark fruit sweetness of figs at first taste, which melts away into some really nice toasty roasted grain flavor, with little chocolate and coffee notes, and just enough hop bitterness to balance out the whole thing (and actually emphasize the coffee flavor even more)

Mouthfeel: silky smooth and light bodied, with fine-bubbled carbonation...very NOT like stout

Overall: yet another style of lager that has pleasantly surprised me. This beer is incredibly drinkable without being boring. Much more interesting malt profile than a helles, and yet it's just as smooth, drinkable, and refreshing with its light body. Very, very nice.

Personal: Wow. I was really surprised by this. What an enjoyable, balanced lager. I would love to host a dinner and serve big steaks with fig and red wine reduction, a mug of this by each place setting. This is delicious and flavorful without being overbearing, drinkable and delicate without being a bore. This one is going in the "like" file...probably the best one I've tried yet in this tasting series!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Category 3: Amber Lagers

Beer: Harpoon Octoberfest Beer
Category: Amber Lagers
Subcategory: Oktoberfest/Märzen

Ah, the wonderful beer that is Oktoberfestbier. Often called Märzen because it was traditionally brewed in March at the end of lager brewing season and then tapped in the fall at Oktoberfest in Munich. I have tried the most definitive versions of this style, Paulaner and Spaten, and I love them both so I thought I'd try an American example from my homeland, Boston.

Appearance: Poured from bottle into Vandy stein. Dark amber/copper colored with a nice creamy, off-white head. Hard to tell from the picture, but this beer is crystal clear, no haze or anything. Phenomenal lacing.

Aroma: caramelly malts, some definite breadiness, a little spice hanging out in the background (slightly cinnamon-like) and beautiful tones of sweetness and German lager yeast

Taste: nutty sweetness right up front, a bit like brown sugar as the beer warms, hop bitterness and some definite alcohol warmth and flavor, which is perhaps a little uncharacteristic of the style

Mouthfeel: medium body, medium carbonation, definitely chewier than the Helles and Pilsener, but a really nice drinkable in-between feel

Not too shabby of a beer! As far as American Oktoberfest beers go, I would be more inclined to reach for the Sam Adams Oktoberfest in my local liquor store, but this one is certainly very good. For 5.5% ABV, I sure do taste the alcohol quite a bit on this one. The nose is really very nice though, and the taste still enjoyable. Not my favorite within this style category, but also not my least favorite.

Personal: I am usually an ale drinker, but when I'm in the mood for a lager, I definitely tend to reach for an Oktoberfest. When made well, it is a very balanced beer that is enjoyable to drink and pairs very well with food. Through the 23 categories, this tends to be one of my go-to styles when I'm looking for something good and relatively dependable.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Category 2: Pilsner

Beer: Victory Prima Pils
Category: Pilsner
Subcategory: German Pilsner (Pils)

No, not the gross "Pilsner" that Budweiser, Miller, Coors all pretend to be. Pilsner is a beer that finds its origins in the Czech Republic, Plzen to be specific. I have already tried and enjoyed some versions of this category (Pilsener Urquell, Sam Adams Noble Pils), so I decided to give a shot to one I had never had before.

Appearance: Poured from bottle into pilsner glass. Clear, very pale yellow/gold with a nice finger of bright foamy white head. Really really nice lacing!

bready malts, some biscuity cracker notes and bright, floral Saaz and German noble hops, a little yeast and some definite sweetness on the nose

definite hop bitterness here, lots of floral and even some citrusy notes (may have some American hops in there?) - hops definitely dominate but there is a nice mild pilsner malt sweetness that lingers in the background. Slightly on the dry side, with a very clean finish.

light-medium body with effervescent, fine-bubbled carbonation, very pleasant

Lots of good impressions on this beer! The German pils style is a bit hoppier than the Bohemian/Czech style which I also really enjoy, but it is still very balanced. In many ways, I feel like this beer had some of what I felt was almost "missing" from the helles...essentially, a nice hop profile to go with the classic German malt flavors.

It has been a little while since I have had a good pilsner, and this was a nice surprise to me. The Victory Pils was a nicely balanced beer with a good malt profile and great hop flavor. I'm not a really big lager drinker, but I really enjoyed this beer a lot with its interesting flavors and incredibly clean finish. As I look into the future of my homebrewing, I would love to explore the pilsner style (since I already have some lager experience...yes!) and brew at least one of these a year. Basically, I am quite impressed with the style and would love looking into it a little more.

Die Braumeister

Friday, October 1, 2010

Updates from home

Hey all,

In actual brewing news, I received word from Pops last night that he had finally kicked the keg of RyePA. I was very pleased to hear that it had been thoroughly enjoyed in my absence. Furthermore, the Hot Chocolate Stout has been moved into the garage for about two months of cellaring...very exciting. Every time I think about tasting that beer, it makes me very happy. As I have said previously, it will be a wonderful welcome home present to myself, and a great way to start celebrating the holidays. Good stuff happening with the stuff back home, now if I could only get some brewing going down here in Nashville. Soon, I say. Soon.

-Brewmaster Jeff