I often feel lucky when I’ve sampled great beer. But tonight I feel particularly fortunate.
And an extra vote of thanks goes to the weather, which graced us with the kind of sunshine it usually reserves for Brighton Pride or the last night of the Festival.
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
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
Admittedly, within the Venn diagram of identity, the ellipse in which I stand – a butch lesbian mother with a penchant for fine beer – isn’t all that crowded.
So, my exploration of the beer styles of the world began last night with pale lager. It didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts – after all, how many wonderful evenings begin with a bottle of Coors Light (well – given it’s one of the most popular beers in the world – hopefully quite a few!), but things picked up as we shot through the American styles and got stuck into the German.
Like all other interactions with beer, it can be seen through powerful lenses of gender and class. From the snobbishness around the use of rice and corn as adjuncts in some parts of the world, to the ‘lawnmower beer’ tag applied to some of biggest-selling beers on the planet; from the mineral-laden Helles Exportbier, now somewhat neglected like much of western European industry that attended its birth, to the American light lagers, originally marketed at women as ‘diet’ beers and now pushed to every red-blooded sports fan to quaff on match day. However bland some of the beer may seem to our lupulin-shifted tastes, there is always a tasty tale behind it.
The full list of beers tasted is:
American Light Lager – Coors Light
American Lager – Pabst Blue Ribbon & Budweiser
International Pale Lager – Red Stripe & Asahi Super Dry
Munich Helles – Augustinerbrau Munchen Lagerbier Hell & Hacker Pschorr Munich Gold
Festbier – Eku Festbier & Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier
German Leichtbier – Tergernseer Leicht
Helles Exportbier/Dortmunder – Flensburger Gold & 5,0 Original
Pale Kellerbier – Hohenthanner Schlossbrauerie Kellerbier Hell & Hacker Pschorr Kellerbier
In a world in of craft beer in which the new brewers stand squarely on the shoulders of those giants who brewed before them, these kinds of brews inform the present, and write the recipe we’ll be drinking tomorrow.