[Ed.: Adam was entrusted with blogging for us for National Lager Day. Luckily he wasn’t overcome with The Drink before he could send us this update.]
So it’s lager day! Huzzah! I had so much fun doing the American Beer week I jumped at the chance to do Lager day, even though my personal tastes tend to run to ales.
First I think it is important to discuss the difference between ale and lager. Lager uses a bottom fermenting yeast, and ale uses a top fermenting one. Also, lager tends to need to be fermented and matured or “laagered” at lower temperatures and for a longer time. Hence the name.
As far as brewing beer goes lager is a relative newcomer. While ale dates back to the times of the Pharaohs, lager developed in the middle ages in Germany when some enterprising brewers realized their beer tended to be more stable when laagered in cold alpine caves. Lagers really only came into their own, however, in the last couple of hundred years with the development of refrigeration. Since then, lager has largely taken over the beer market due to its greater stability and its tendency towards lighter, more accessible flavours.
I invited my friend Tim to join me via Skype to assist me in this tasting as he is a fellow beer nut. Choosing beers to taste proved to be a difficult task. The problem is this: Tim and I tend to enjoy locally produced micro-brewed beers, with a lot of flavour and character. Micro-breweries tend to stay away from lager styles as they require special equipment and take more time to produce than ales. Besides which, lagers have acquired a bit of a bad reputation due to the preponderance of horrible watered down “lager beer” produced by the large North American breweries. The availability-of-good-lager-problem was further complicated by Tim’s insistence that he wants to live in Siberia (or some such remote, inhospitable place) where good beer is difficult to find (Sibeeria?). Nevertheless, we pushed on (brave souls that we are) and produced a solid list of beers, including both local and European lagers.
The first up was Peroni, an Italian pale lager that I particularly like for the summer/patio season. The colour is a surprisingly light pale straw colour, but we found it to have a richer flavour profile than this would normally mean. It was lightly malted on the front end but finished with a nice full hoppy/bitter finish. The mouth feel was fairly light, but still present. All around this is a nice patio beer that we feel has a somewhat extended season as it is not overly carbonated.
The next up was Steam Whistle pilsner. It’s brewed out of Toronto so I had to set aside my natural West coast distrust of anything that comes from the Big Smoke. Steam Whistle was a slightly darker pale straw colour. The smell was citrus and malty. The taste had a bigger mouth feel than Peroni, but a lot smaller hop profile. Tim said the flavour was “malt forward”. Frankly this was a nice surprise, and one I’ll add to the summer repertoire.
Next up was a particular favourite of mine, Efes. Efes is a Turkish pilsner I discovered while in Istanbul. I was surprised to find such a nice pilsner in Turkey (one of many culinary surprises that trip) and equally surprised to find it available in good old BC at only $11.53 for a 6 pack. Efes is a straw coloured lager with a taste of orange, citrus apricot and honey in the mouth. Fruitier than Peroni it had a surprisingly creamy mouth feel, though very little hop character. Tim was so impressed with Efes he said it may be a replacement for Stella at his next barbeque.
Next up is Czeckvar/Budvar/Budweiser. No, not that Budweiser (shudder). This is the original, brewed in Budweis in the Czech Republic about 100 years before the North American Budweiser started brewing “beer”. Sadly, because Anheuser-Busch has had the trademark for the name Budweiser in North America since 1878, the original Budweiser is not able to use their name and has to sell under their Czeckvar or Budvar brands here. Silly trademark issues aside, Czeckvar is a fantastic beer. It has an initial hit of floral hoppiness and a nice weighty mouthfeel. All around this is a well balanced and tasty beverage.
The final taster I had was the Albino Python White Lager from Shmaltz Brewing. Unfortunately Tim could not join me in this drink due to the aforementioned living in Siberia problem. Incidentally I was heartened to see that the good folks at Shmaltz are bucking the microbrew trend by producing a whole line of craft brewed lagers. Good idea, guys; now we just need to get some more samples on this side of the continent. The Python is a cloudy gold colour with a strong smell of ginger and wheat to it. The taste is all ginger. In fact that is the one thing you carry away from this beer: ginger. I have to give it to the guys at Shmaltz for getting experimental with this one as it’s definitely not to you average lager drinker’s tastes, possibly not even to the average white-beer drinker’s taste. I found it very full bodied for a lager, which was pleasant, but have to admit that I’m not sure about the spicing. I really don’t know if it’s to my tastes, but I’m interested in drinking more to find out… That’s the dedication I have to this blog.
~Adam and Tim