Posts Tagged ‘Lager’

Wild Patagonian Lager Yeast Ancestor Found!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

courtesy Diego Libkind, Institute for Biodiversity and Environment Research, Bariloche, Argentina

In the gall sacks of Argentinian beech trees scientists have found a strain of wild yeast believed to have provided the “missing half” of the lager yeast genome. The international group of geneticists has been on a mission to identify the wild yeast that centuries ago combined with common ale yeast to form the clean-tasting cold-fermenting superhefe we know as Saccharomyces bayanus. To celebrate I am drinking a Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest, their märzen offering.

I have two thoughts on this discovery. First, of course the press release would come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Second, I hope Budweiser puts this in a commercial and somehow relates it to their beechwood aging process.

Two More Sixpoints

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Yet another post of beers made here in Brooklyn, though a purist would point out that these cans were not. Kelso, the smallest of the three Brooklyn breweries (and necessarily the subject of my next post), is the only one making all their beer within the borough limits. The selections I’m trying tonight were made by Sixpoint, the bigger of those “other” two Brooklyn breweries, but brewed in a facility in Pennsylvania. I’m not opposed to contract brewing, but as adamant as Sixpoint is on the superiority of Brooklyn it sure seems out of character to brew out of state. Anyway, on to the beers.

Sixpoint The CrispThe Crisp is Sixpoint’s lager, a brilliantly clear straw colored beer. The off-white head is ample, largely because it is supported by a serious effervescence. The hop nose is significant. A loud wet-hop character is joined by the herbal aroma of noble hops. Though not entirely unpleasant, it leaves no room for the malt to come through, a major detriment to any lager.

For a beer whose name is “The Crisp” the flavor is anything but. A lingering sweetness makes the body too full, even from the first sip. But that’s the only real influence of the malt. The promise of the nose is wantonly fulfilled — the strong herbal and wet-hop flavors are almost overpowering. There is virtually no hop bitterness to balance, nor malt flavor to justify, the thick body, though warming it becomes somehow a bit more balanced.

Sixpoint Bengali TigerNext up, Bengali Tiger. Though Sixpoint makes no effort to pigeonhole their beers into standard styles, by the name and numbers this is clearly an India pale ale (with a Blake reference on the side). The Bengali Tiger is a beautiful persimmon color and barely translucent. The off-white head is so creamy it’s left a lacing on my glass before I’ve even taken a sip. The nose is richly hoppy, but never sharp. It forms a gentle tapestry of a multitude of hop flavors from several varieties as well as significant malt character. The hops are mostly that Pacific northwest citric, with mango and orange and lime. But a significant earthy and pine character is present, too. The malt adds biscuit and caramel to the picture, and there may also be a yeast fruitiness.

The taste follows rightly from the nose. Rich malt flavor and a hearty hop character appear at first, blending in to the serious bitterness. But the full body and malt keep it from ever seeming sharp. Herbal and floral hops as well as pine back up the bitterness, supported by the faintest citrus flavor. Caramel and toast malt and earthy hop flavors linger, so the lasting bitterness and sweetness are not without company.

It is hard to imagine a greater polarity among beers made by the same brewer.

+Sixpoint Bengali Tiger

4.2 (4-8-8-4-18)

+/-Sixpoint The Crisp

3.0 (3-7-6-2-12)

Minhas Craft Brewery

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin has claim to the title of second-oldest operating brewery in the United States, founded in 1845 as the Blumer Brewery. From 1947 to 2006 the company took the name Joseph Huber Brewing Company, and since the most recent acquisition, Minhas.Joseph Huber Premium Beer They continue to produce the popular Berghoff, Rhinelander, and Huber lines of beer, in addition to a few interesting new brews. Tonight I will be tasting two classics that date to the Joseph Huber days, a premium lager and their bock.

First up, the Joseph Huber Premium Beer, an all-malt lager. This beer pours a pale golden yellow color, with just a bit of a haze and a swiss-cheesy head. The nose is both grainy and sulfuric. The malt gives a rich bready aroma with some hints of barley husk. This is somewhat disturbed by a level of sulfur several ticks more than is appropriate: the smell of corn makes picking out the malt and especially the hops difficult.

This beer has the body that comes from an all-malt beer without being too thick or sweet. The bread and grain flavors from the malt provide a rich foundation. However, as with the aroma, the taste of this beer is overpowered by a cooked corn flavor.Huber Bock A bit of a fruity sweetness, reminiscent of pears, follows along at the end. Overall not a bad beer, save my one complaint.

On to the Huber Bock, which pours a very deep, dark mahogany color with a fair bit of creamy, sandy brown head. The nose is relatively mild, displaying a moderate sweetness with some caramel malt, bread, and toast characteristics. As this beer warms the aromas come out more, yet they remain elusive.

The flavor is malty and noticably sweet, though not too much so. Despite the rich toffee and caramel flavors, this beer is quite balanced. The playful sweetness teases your tongue as it dances towards the back, accompanied by hazelnuts and roasted chestnuts. A noble hop bitterness balances this with subdued herbal and earthy flavors. The full body supports this beer without getting in the way.

+Joseph Huber Bock

3.6 (3-7-7-4-15)

-Joseph Huber Premium Beer

2.5 (2-5-5-3-10)

(p.s. Enough of these non-local beers. Look forward to my next post about an exciting freshman Iowa brewery.)

A Few Madison Brews

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Tonight I’m trying a couple beers I picked up last time I was in Madison. The first two are from Capital Brewery out in Middleton, and the third was brewed by Ale Asylum on the northeast side. Capital is renowned for their lagers, so I’m trying their märzen as well as a new beer that just might wholly embody badger nation. Ale Asylum, on the other hand, is known for beers overflowing with hops, so I’ve got a double India pale ale to round out the night.

The golden age of the supper club may have come and gone in most places, even in Wisconsin. But these eateries still grace the occasional roadside of the cheese state and remain on the mind of badgers young and old. There is no better testament to that than the newly released Supper Club, a “true American Lager.”

The Supper Club looks about what you would expect, crystal clear, a golden straw color, with some bone white head. More head retention than your average American-style lager. The nose is very subtle. Some bready malt and the faintest herbal hops are balanced by the right amount of sulfur. Right for the style, that is, but still too much for my taste.

The flavor, too, is remarkably average. A decent malt character, but nothing to write home about. Again, the noble hops work themselves in, but almost imperceptibly. The taste of sulfur adds some background noise that could come from the yeast, but perhaps it’s a veritable corn adjunct. The body is on the weaker end, even for this type of beer.

Overall, this beer would fit in nicely with many made in this country in times past, but I’m not sure it’s enough to warrant production by an otherwise respected brewery. Since it’s not as hoppy as PBR nor as malty as Bud, I just don’t see myself ordering it. I suppose it fits the bill, though.

Next up I will be trying Capital’s Oktoberfest lager. This märzen has a thick and pillowy off-white head above a mildly hazy, gamboge-colored beer (hardly the “fiery amber” they claim). The nose has that restrained maltiness that many Oktoberfest beers do, the sensation of bread and barley just under the surface, trying vainly to break free. The hops add a hint of herbal character to the aroma. As it opens up, the toast becomes more noticeable, but it is still much too restrained.

The flavor is richly malty. Bread, biscuits, and toast combine with the taste of my sister’s homemade pizza crust. This strong and supple malt flavor is backed with a reasonable herbal hop flavor, though for a style originally intended to exhaust all the hops for the season, it could use more. A light residual sweetness and mild bitterness tease the palate. Both disappear relatively quickly, leaving a sessionable beer, as any Oktoberfest should be.

Tonight I will be rounding out these relatively mild lagers with an aggressively hoppy double IPA from Ale Asylum. The Satisfaction Jacksin pours a very hazy mahogany. The pale golden ochre head is full and creamy. The nose is hoppy. Quite pleasantly hoppy. This beer exudes the citrusy character for which Pacific Northwest-grown so-called C-hops earned their place in the hop pantheon. No wonder it is so hoppy, as it has “over 3 pounds of Centennial per barrel.” I could sit here just smelling this all day.

But I have to try it. The taste is hoppy. Quite pleasantly hoppy. Rich floral and citrus flavors burst forth, backed up by a solid malt foundation. The caramel and toast flavors of the malt meld harmoniously with the grapefruit character of the hops. Amazingly, there is almost no perceptible bitterness, despite the significant hopping rate. A full and creamy palate certainly works to that end, balancing what bitterness was to be had, while remaining fresh and lively. This beer is like Cookie Monster: big, fuzzy, and sweet.

And one more note: if you search for this beer, do not click on the link for “Satisfaction Jackson,” that’s not what your looking for.

++Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin

4.3 (4-9-8-4-18)

+Capital Oktoberfest

3.8 (3-7-8-4-16)

+/-Capital Supper Club

3.0 (3-6-6-3-12)


Monday, January 10th, 2011

While I was in New York I also got up to the Bohemian Hall, a century-old beer garden in Astoria. There, I tried the lager from the second largest brewery in the Czech Republic, Pivovary Staropramen.

The Staropramen is a clear, golden straw beer with a coppery haze breaking through. The thick and creamy head is bone white and leaves a significant lacing on the glass. Sure the nose has a rich maltiness, but it is sullied by a fairly prominent sulfury corn character.

In the flavor as well the corn overpowers the malt, disturbing the caramel and toast notes. Even more difficult to detect was the herbal and earthy character of the noble Czech hops. While the body was full and creamy, it was just a bit cloying.

This lager shows promise, but it doesn’t measure up.


3.1 (4-6-6-3-12)

Spotlight Week: Moosbacher

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

2010-01-12-moosbacherThe tiny Bavarian village of Moosbach is located on the Czech border, just a stone’s throw from Pilsen. In the center of town, Brauerei Scheuerer was founded in 1887 by twenty-eight year-old Lorenz Scheuerer. Today the family brewery is run by fourth-generation Erhard, though they are proud that third-gen Johann II shows up every day, at least to drink “his 4 daily bottles!!!!”.

They package their beer in swingtops, which I like for three reasons. 2010-01-12-lagerFirst, you can drink half and leave the rest for later without losing too much carbonation. Second, as a homebrewer I’m always looking for ways to avoid capping bottles, so reusing swingtops is ideal. Third, I have a neat trick I can do with a swingtop bottle. Ask me sometime, I’ll show you.

Brauerei Scheuerer produces the Moosbacher beers, a pretty standard Bavarian lineup. Besides what I’ll be tasting they offer two export lagers (Export and Zoigl), a pilsner, and a shankbier for children and ladies, their Leichte Weisse. I have two lagers and two wheat beers to try tonight. I’ll start with the helles, called just Lager, move on to the Kellerbier, and then the Weissbier. Finally, I will be interested to see if the Schwarze Weisse is in fact black or just a normal dunkelweizen.

The Lager is a lightly hazy pale yellow. The head is bone white and creamy, leaves a lacing on the glass, but falls quickly. The aroma has good base malt character with just a bit of breadiness. Some noble hops and a level of Bavarian sulfur. A little sweet on the nose but still playful.

2010-01-12-kellerbierThe rich malt flavor practically sets you down in a Moravian barley field. Faint malty sweetness and strong hop bitterness (for the style). A healthy herbal hop flavor indicates the influence of the Czech way of brewing. Some contribution from sulfur compounds. Hints of many things, but none for very long: apricots, chocolate, peanuts, fresh cut grass. Full bodied but thoroughly refreshing. In my opinion this is among the top Bavarian lagers. The German Beer Institute calls helles lager a style of “infinite subtlety” and the Scheuerer family has certainly hit the mark there.

The Kellerbier pours a barely hazy caramel color. The off-white head is creamy, but again, could last longer. The aroma is practically non-existent, so drink this one relatively warm. Hints of caramel and toast and just a bit of sulfur. The flavor is also much lighter than the Lager. A smooth and creamy malt flavor is accompanied by the finest noble hop character, but it is all much too timid. 2010-01-12-weissbierAs it warms it picks up more caramel and toffee and gets a little sweet. Again the body is essentially perfect: a full mouthfeel but refreshing and quaffable. I was not expecting the kellerbier to take the subtlety so much further than the helles lager, but here we are.

As if to pay penance for the first two, the Weissbier is effervescent to a fault. I had to pour out a whole glass of foam at first! The carbonation supports a strong and thick pure white head atop this pale golden yellow beer. The nose is full of banana. Also, wheat character, banana, some nuttiness, banana, clove, and banana. Very appealing, but actually not as rich as it might seem (for all the banana).

And the taste is a total surprise. Clove city! I wish I knew what exactly creates a disconnect in flavor and aroma like this, because beers with this variety in their sensory experiences are such a treat. Strong piquant clove flavor with black pepper and oregano are accented by just a hint of alcohol spiciness. There is, of course, a banana character, and some wheat as well. The body is full yet smooth but borders on cloying, despite the extreme activity.

2010-01-12-schwarze-weisseLast but not least, the Schwarze Weisse, which turns out to be a disappointing pedestrian amber color. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful beer, it was just framed for me in a particular way that didn’t come to pass. Oh well. Fairly hazy, the Schwarze Weisse is a copper-colored amber with a decent amount of thick tan head. Nowhere near as excitable as its cousin the Weissbier. Subtle yet assertive, the nose is perfectly balanced. Cloves, bananas, and caramel malt come out in equal proportion. Really a textbook dunkleweisse aroma.

The flavor is much less impressive: too clean. The cloves are there, but get outshined by black pepper. The banana is almost gone. A reasonable toasty flavor and some sweetness are the bulk of the taste. A bit of bitterness and hop flavor disrupt the impression of a wheat beer without being serious enough to count, so the beer ends up tasting flat. The palate is full but there is a lingering sweetness that gets to be unpleasant. After the stellar aroma I am pretty disappointed by the taste.

++Moosbacher Lager

4.0 (3-7-8-5-17)

+Moosbacher Weissbier

3.7 (3-7-7-4-16)

+/-Moosbacher Schwarze Weisse

3.7 (4-9-6-3-15)

+/-Moosbacher Kellerbier

3.6 (3-6-7-5-15)

Millstream Beer and Chocolate Tasting

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Millstream Beer and Chocolate PairingYesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Beer and Chocolate Tasting put on by Millstream Brewing Company. This event paired chocolates from the Chocolate Haus in Amana with eight radical one-off beers. Six of them were brewed by Millstream brewer Bill Heinrich, with one offering from Millstream’s sales guy Dan Carpenter as well as a coffee porter brewed by head brewer Chris Priebe. The event was coordinated by Nick Snavely. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of time and the place was packed the whole time. The impression I got from people is that everyone was very impressed with the beers, and the chocolate pairings were quite fun. I took tasting notes but forgot to write down process information so let’s see what I can remember.

The first beer I had was the Czech Pilsner. Made with loads of Czech Saaz hops, this one is a well executed Bohemian style pilsner. It’s a crystal clear straw with some white head. The hop aroma is very grassy and earthy, and behind it I notice just a bit of a corniness. The flavor is massively grassy, with a lingering bitterness on the middle of my tongue. It is deep, earthy, and herbal. There is a hint of sweetness, perhaps some dimethyl sulfide.

The pils was the only beer that seriously follows any style conventions. Most of them have a Belgian character; Belgian styles are pretty loosely defined as it is. Bill was not afraid to take liberties to ensure the brews were interesting, further complicating things. Many of the beers were made with a strain of Brettanomyces wild yeast, which develops different characteristics depending on how it is used. Most of these were fermented with usual brewing yeast Saccaromyces and then aged on the Brett, giving a berry-like fruity flavor and aroma as well as a noticeable funk.

Next up the Saisonnier Gran Cru. This was actually fermented with Brett only, except for a shot of ale yeast to help it along when it was being sluggish. When Brettanomyces is used for primary fermentation, it tends to behave alot more like the normal Saccaromyces. It does dry the beer out a little more, leaving a dry, dusty flavor accented by the funkiness.

The Saisonnier pours a milky straw color, with some creamy off-white head. The aroma is delicate and elusive, featuring light fruit (raspberries) as well as some funk (wet pavement?). The taste is dry, with a somewhat zoological funkiness. A bit of malt flavor breaks through. Despite being so dry there is a bit of a cloying sensation, as well as a lingering bitterness. The nose is fantastic but the flavor doesn’t quite match up.

The sign describing the beer officially named Dan’s Barleywine had a telltale note on the back. The reminder to the server read “Dan’s Awesomeness”, and that’s not too far off. Blended from two-year and three-year batches, the barleywine poured a deep dark sienna, lightly hazy, with persistent creamy head. It also leaves a little reminder on the inside of the glass. The rich, round aroma is a treat: chocolate caramels (so good), coffee, and hazelnuts. Despite the intensity of the aroma and alcohol, the flavor is light and balanced. Major coffee flavor dominates, with a roast and caramel malt character that reminds me of burnt cookies. Both malty and pleasantly bitter, “Awesomeness” is thick and coats your mouth. Do yourself a favor and ask Dan for a bottle.

Moving on to the Belgian-Style Tripel. This golden ale was made with the strain of yeast normally reserved for Bavarian hefes: generator of strong banana esters and clove phenols. This gives the Tripel a serious banana aroma, somewhat sweet, with hints of clove and black pepper. There is barely a tinge informing you of the level of alcohol. The flavor is very malty, with a big bready, biscuity taste. It is somewhat sweet with a rich, round alcohol warming sensation. Noticeable as well are banana and clove flavors. The thick coating feeling probably derives from the fact that this tripel is not as carbonated as many. Despite the use of wheat and Bavarian weizen yeast, this beer is most definitely a tripel, and a well executed one at that.

The Belgian Quad is a good example of the use of Brett to age. It is a cloudy deep dark brown with some tan head. The aroma is lightly sweet and strongly fruity of raspberries and mango, with just a bit of banana. The flavor is strongly alcoholic: somewhat sharp, almost medicinal berries. There is a bit of lingering bitterness and a thick, cloying sensation. A somewhat similar beer, the Wheat Wine is a cloudy unearthly red with almost no head. The aroma is lightly fruity, with a bit of wood and funk; the flavor roughly alcoholic, with some berries. A strong bitterness is simple and harsh.

Head brewer Chris Priebe brewed up a batch of Sumatra English Porter with real Sumatra coffee. It pours somewhat clear, a dark russet wtih some cheesy off-white head. The aroma is very light, with only a bit of roast malt and some caramel. The flavor is dry and roasty, with a strong rich roast coffee presence that lasts. Hint of an earthy hop flavor balance, and a coffee astringency lingers a bit.

By far the most impressive beer available was the so-called Wheat Stout. I can’t say enough good things about this beer. Made with Templeton Rye whiskey and plenty of roast and wheat malts and fermented with weizen yeast, this beer is simply impressive.

First off it is utterly black. There is just a hint of a creamy copper head. The nose is rich and playful, with a roast aroma that tickles the nose. The whiskey comes through quite well: malt, rye, and some notes of alcohols. There is also a serious banana and clove character. A taste is heaven. It is all too easy to overdo it on a whiskey addition, ruining the beer. Here the Templeton is perfectly balanced with the other flavors. The roast comes through first, followed quickly by the rye. There is a bit of astringent bitterness. This beer is thick and chewy. It is delicious. A tour de force.

++Millstream Wheat Stout

4.4 (5-9-8-4-18)

+Millstream Czech Pilsner

3.3 (3-6-7-4-13)

+Millstream Saisonnier Gran Cru

3.5 (4-8-6-3-14)

+Millstream Dan’s Barleywine

4.0 (4-9-7-4-16)

+Millstream Belgian-Style Tripel

3.5 (4-7-7-3-14)

+/-Millstream Belgian Quadrupel

3.1 (3-8-5-3-12)

+/-Millstream Wheat Wine

2.5 (2-6-4-3-10)

+/-Millstream Sumatra English Porter

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)