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Lager Beer  


Don’t be fooled by the mass produced pale yellow brew commonly thought of as “Lager Beer.” The world of lagers is a rich, varied, and flavorful one. While the so-called American Lagers are part of the family, beyond these lie beers for people who want something more. The light colored lager styles include the boldly bitter Bohemian and German Pilsners, the maltier Munich Helles, and the balanced Dortmunder Export. There are the amber colored Vienna and Märzen styles and the smooth, black, and malty Schwarzbier. Then there are the Bocks. From the summery Maibock to the sumptuous Doppelbock, these beers display intensely rich toasted malt that fills the mouth without being cloying.

Lagers get their name from the German word lagern, which means “to store”. Fermented colder than ales and then stored, sometimes for months, at temperatures near freezing, these beers have a crisp mouthfeel and clean flavor that makes even the hi-test styles refreshing.

Enough talk. Let’s taste some beer.

  Black Star Beer  
Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche
Brauerei Heller-Trum
Bamberg, Germany
Style: Oak-Smoked Doppelbock

Aroma: Smoke dominates, but like wood embers, not the meaty smoke of Beechwood. Light caramel malt underneath.
Appearance: Very low head, off-white to ivory. Medium-amber color and clear.
Flavor: Charred-wood flavor carries over from the aroma mixed with notes of actual oak. Luxurious caramel malt with hints of chocolate and raisin. Malt nicely balances the smoke. Medium-low bitterness with refreshing herbaceous hop flavors. Alcohol is noticeable, a bit too noticeable. Finishes clean, lingering on smoke and herbs.
Mouthfeel: Creamy. Low carbonation. High levels of alcohol warmth, verging on hot.
Overall Impression: Contrasted to the intense, meaty character of the traditional beechwood-smoked Schlenkerla Rauchbiers, the oak-smoked version has a softer, more subdued and woody smokiness. Smoke still dominates but is very well balanced by the hefty malt. The flavors work well together. The main flaw in this beer is the high level of alcohol apparent in both the flavor and mouthfeel. The booziness distracts from an otherwise soothing drinking experience. Try this with barbeque or smoked meats. It would also work well with smoked cheeses or triple-cream brie.

  Black Star Beer  
Black Star Beer
Great Northern Brewing Company
Whitefish, Montana
Style: Classic American Pilsner

Aroma: Simple, sweet, grainy malt. Somewhat bready. Fruit and spice from the hops; blackberries, currents, and licorice.
Appearance: Dark gold and clear. Moderate white head that fairly quickly fell to just a film of foam on top.
Flavor: Sweet, grainy malt dominates. Malty sweetness is balanced by moderate bitterness with a rough edge. Hop flavors are complex ranging from berries and citrus to woody, spicy, and catty. Distracting pear and green apple fruitiness that lingers into the finish.
Mouthfeel: Medium body and slightly astringent. Crisp. A bit of creaminess. Medium high carbonation.
Overall Impression: A decent pre-prohibition style American lager. Acetaldehyde apple notes were a distraction from an otherwise solid beer. This would go with a wide variety of foods from burgers to pizza to grilled veggie-kebabs.

  Flat Earth Element 115  
Element 115
Flat Earth Brewing Co.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: California Common

Aroma: Moderate caramel malt is the dominant aroma with light toast and hints of fruit. Balanced citrus and minty hop aromas.
Appearance: Amber and crystal clear. Large, meringue-like, fluffy off-white head that will not go away.
Flavor: Huge caramel malt character with light toast and a late hit of roast. Malt dominates, but is balanced by an assertive bitterness and bold minty hop flavor that leaves a cooling sensation all the way down and finishes with a peppery spice. Finish has a dry, crisp, lager character but there is a beautiful lingering dark caramel that hangs around long after the swallow.
Mouthfeel: Medium body with a somewhat creamy texture. Dry and crisp. Medium-high carbonation.
Overall Impression: Fresh from the brewery and very tasty. I love the big caramel malt, but the roast that I’m getting seems high and distracting. Good balance with the hop flavor and bitterness. More hop aroma would make this an impressive all around sensory experience. I had it with a vegetarian meal of green salad, asparagus, and chive mashed potatoes, which it complemented well. Would also be great with saucy BBQ, sharp cheddar cheese or a creamy, young gouda.

  Goose Island Smoked Bock  
Smoked Bock
Goose Island Beer Co.
Chicago, Illinois
Style: Cherry Wood Smoked Doppelbock

Aroma: All hickory BBQ smoke. The smoke has a woody character instead of the meaty character of most traditional Beechwood smoked beers. Faint hints of caramel malt and dried dark fruits lurk way in the background.
Appearance: Dark mahogany with ruby highlights. Beautiful, thick off-white head that lasted a long time and left lace on the glass. Clear.
Flavor: That wonderful cherry wood smoke is the dominant flavor. Like the aroma, it’s a woody smoke instead of a meaty smoke. It has a charred BBQ pit quality that is very nice. Sweet caramelized raisin maltiness and dried cherry notes provide a solid counterpoint to the smoke. There is a faint spicy heat in the finish that reminds me of chipotles.
Mouthfeel: Crisp and well attenuated. Medium body but rich and creamy. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: A wonderful blend of dried dark fruits and woody BBQ smoke. Although I was assured that there were no chili peppers used, this has all the goodness of a dark sweet chipotle ale without the undrinkable heat that most often comes with those beers. This would go great with any BBQ.

  Shiner 100 Commemorator  
Shiner 100 Commemorator
Spoetzl Brewery
Shiner, Texas
Style: Doppelbock

Aroma: Toasted raisin bread with light caramel. There is a hint of alcohol and a trace of spicy hops.  Overall the aroma lacks complexity.
Appearance: Pours with a low, creamy, off-white head that dissipates quickly to a thin film on surface. It is easily roused but doesn’t last. Reddish mahogany color and clear.
Flavor: Raisins and brown sugar are the dominant flavors. While doppelbocks are sweet, this one seems overly so. It lacks the dry finish that I expect. Bitterness is also higher than expected, perhaps to counter the sweetness, with some black pepper hop flavors. Alcohols are slightly hot. Finishes quickly with some lingering sweetness and a slight metallic character.
Mouthfeel: Medium body. It seems a bit thin and watery. Alcohol warmth is noticeable and verging on hot. Medium-high carbonation.
Overall Impression: A fairly one dimensional doppelbock. Not unpleasant, but also not very complex. Could use more depth in the malt profile. The 6.7% alcohol is on the low end for the style making the hot alcohol a disappointing surprise.

  Town Hall Brewery  
Town Hall Brewery
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Style: Dortmunder

Aroma: Bread and bread crust malt dominates with subtle spicy hop highlights. Light corny character.
Appearance: Golden and very clear. Fine white head that dissipated quickly.
Flavor: Grainy and bready malt with some light corn character is balanced by an assertive hop bitterness and spicy licorice hop flavor. Clean. Crisp. Finish lingers on grainy malt with some of those licorice notes hanging on. Well balanced between malt and hop bitterness.
Mouthfeel: Medium bodied and crisp. Medium-high carbonation.
Overall Impression: Flavorful and refreshing with a crisp lager character. Nicely balanced. The malt wasn’t as deep and rich as I have experienced in some authentic examples from Germany, but this is a reasonably good example of a Dortmunder. Yellow lagers don’t have to be flavorless. I would love to drink this with smoked sausage and sauerkraut. It would also go well with pizza.

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