Taste the World – Part 4: Dark Lager

My journey through the beer styles of the world takes a small detour through the dark side this session as I sample a range of dark lagers. I have to confess, dark lager always starts off on something of a back foot in its efforts to impress me. We taste beer not only with our tongues, but with all our sensory organs, including our eyes. Hailing from a beer culture in which the colour black is more likely to indicate the presence of rich roasted barley or a sweet chocolate hum, I’m often unprepared for the delicacy that a black lager can bring, and am left feeling it owes me something. Put simply, I’m stood there expecting a punch in the face and all I get is a tickle under the chin.

That said, this line-up definitely had something to say for itself in terms of some bready malt, light caramel and spicy herbal hop character. My favourite was the schwarzbier, a regional speciality from Thuringia in Saxony, Germany – this version from Kostritzer Brewery has been brewed since 1543.

And just a short time after this tasting, I stumbled across another great example of a schwarzbier – Crown Black by Privatbrauerei D. Oechsner – this time being served on draught at Brighton Bierhaus . And that’s quite wonderful because, in these difficult times, we could all do with just a bit more tickling.

The full list of beers tasted is:

International Dark Lager: Baltika 4

Czech Dark Lager: Primator Premium Dark

Munich Dunkel: Paulaner Munchner Dunkel & Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Dunkel

Schwarzbier: Kostritzer Schwarzbier

 

Taste the World – Part 3: Amber Lager

My adventure through the beer styles of the world continues apace. The fact that I’m three sessions in and still drinking lager demonstrates to me just how much of the world’s beer is bottom-fermented. But the beers in this session distanced themselves from the ubiquitous package holiday yellows by bringing together some hefty malty flavours that worked the whole range from the sweet butter toffee of Vienna Lager to the smoked barbeque bacon of Rauchbier.

 

There’s plenty to learn from just this handful of lagers. The Anchor Steam Beer – a recreation of the California Common that powered the gold rush of the late-nineteenth century – seduces ale drinkers into familiar territory, and represents a triumph of ingenuity over the challenges of fermentation in warmer climes. The tasty haze of the unfiltered amber kellerbier (cellar beer) provides a clear illustration of just how much filtration removes from a beer – a fact I remain happily ambivalent about, depending on the style of beer. And the Vienna lager – long fallen out of favour in its country of origin, but now brewed and widely enjoyed in Latin America – foreshadows the tales of migration that have accompanied the spread of beer – and the human beings that brew it and drink it – right across the world.

The full list of beers of beers tasted is:

International Amber Lager – Brooklyn Lager

Czech Amber Lager – Primator Polotmavy 13

Marzen – Weltenburger Kloster Anno 1050

Rauchbier – Schlenkerla Rauchbier

Vienna Lager – Negra Modelo

Amber Kellerbier – Monschof Kellerbier

California Common – Anchor Steam Beer

Taste the World – Part Two: Pilsner

My exploration of the world’s beer styles continued last night with a batch of Czech, German and American pilsners. Yet again the German styles kicked the others out of the park for me with their lingering hop flavour and sand dry finish. The Czech pilsners in particular tasted almost buttery sweet in comparison.

But again, the stories behind these beers threaten to overshadow an assessment of their flavour. It’s hard to imagine the excitement of the people of Plzen in 1842 when they tasted Josef Groll’s Pilsner Urquell – made possible by new yeast and novel malting techniques – for the very first time. And it’s equally difficult to place oneself in post-WW1 America, when German immigrant brewers were forced to put aside their brewing for the duration of Prohibition – a situation that had such an impact that Pre-Prohibition Lager is now classified as an ‘historical style’ with very few commercial examples.

My stand-out beer of the night was the Konig Pilsener, brewed in Duisburg-Beeck in Germany in accordance, of course, with the Rheinheitsgebot (German purity law). It’s clean and crisp with a wonderfully lingering herbal hop bitterness, and a refreshingly dry finish. I was driven to finish the whole bottle…

The full list of beers tasted is:

Czech Premium Pale Lager – Pilsner Urquell & Budweiser Budvar

German Pils – Konig Pilsener & Jever Pilsener

Pre-Prohibition Lager – Anchor California Lager