I've give some detail as I pop a few of these starting with the second from the right. [hmm...I only have one of the second from the left remaining...must be careful...must be careful.]
- Yuengling Traditional Lager: The flagship of the oldest brewery in the United States, located in Pottsville, PA, the Traditional Lager is a beer that sneaks in under my lager radar - I call it LAGAR 3000™...the radar unit not the ale.
Anyway, there is enough crystal malt and yeast balance to off set the metallic tang of lager hops. Most of you who do not think about your beer or think it tastes funny and ever so kinda sour, drink German based lager style beer. Sometimes, as with Heineken or Rolling Rock, other balancing grains are used to frame the hops in a lighter style and it works for me. Usually it does not. This, however, is a very good expression of that German tradition meeting the ale based micro style with more flavour and more body coming from the oldest German settled area of the USA and continuing a brewing tradition for 175 years where many others died through prohibition or the bland days of the '50s to '70s. Lew Bryson in his magnus opus, his 2000 second edition of Pennsylvanian Breweries states of the introduction of this beer at a time of fiscal challenge for Yuengling just twenty years ago
But it was the Lager - a little darker, a little more flavourful, a lot less national - that blew the doors off the brewery. Yuengling taps cropped up everywhere in southeastern Pennsylvania.If you see it on tap outside of Pennsylvania, be prepared to ask for "ling-ling" rather than "yung-gling".
- Lancaster Amish Four Grain Pale Ale: This beer by the Lancaster Brewing Company [of Lancaster, Lancaster CO. PA], the first at the left above, is just a little odd for a number of reasons. Being somewhat acquainted with the conservative and private buddy-folk of the Kitchener, Ontario area, I am surprised with the branding as it might go down as an insult hereabouts. But the Amish of Lancaster County appear to take a less private stance to their conservative communal approach to life.
In a sense the brew is a testament to that life as it celebrates the grains which form the base of the ale. To appreciate that you have to understand what you are tasting: barley malt tastes like barley candy close to butterscotch, oats are slick and round a beer, wheat is grassy like sauvignon blanc and rye is rough and husky with a small trace of anise. Each of these flavours are there and stand out like separate threads. The choice of and use of hops is thoughtful - the website lists Willamette, Fuggles and Saaz as being included from Oregon, Kent and Bohemia. The site says a small portion of crystal malt is used as well, a caramel sort of sweetness smoothing it all out. As a result, like the Yuengling, Pennsylvanians again want a sweeter more amber brew than would be normal elsewhere.
- Lancaster Gold Star Pilsner: This is the third from the right. I like the name. What is it about the pre-1980s beers that they were rewarded with non-descriptive names: Newfoundland's Jockey Club, Alberta's Old Style Pilsner? Gold Star? Sounds like a bad hotel in Eastern Europe. For a non-descript name, this is a fairly boss brass sort of lager. Hopped almost as much as a Shipyard Export, horn section in a glass, using all central euro-hops (Hallertau, Saaz and Tettnang). The Michael Jackson who is not in court says of the Bohemian Pilsner style:
Too many brewers take it lightly, in more senses than one. In their all-round interpretation, German brewers take the style most seriously inspired by the Urquell (original) brew from the town of Pilsen, in the Czech province of Bohemia.Maybe that works for Gold Star. Where Pils Urquell is all Saaz and a wonder, this rougher beer works that way too. It could stand up to saurkraut and sausage and now that sweater weather is coming that stuff counts big time.
- Ithaca Flower Power IPA: Second from the left, I had this the other day and kept notes. It was as complex a pale ale as I have had. By this I mean there are layers of hops, more layers due to the selection of hop varieties and the timing of when to throw them into the boiling wort. Early and you make bitterness, later you make flavour and at the end and after cooling you get aroma. What this beer reminded me of is taking the lawn mower into the verge of your lawn where sweet plants like dandelions mix with bitter ones. With the first vrrap of the blades out comes a bloom of green smells. So with this beer - green and early summer herby. The body is substantial, not unlike Old Speckled Hen and there is almost and orange peel thing in there not unlike a Belgian dubbel like Unibou's Maudit or Chemay Red. One of the most interesting beers I have had in ages - lots of taste to think about. Now, what with the Ithaca mixed 12 I picked up north of Syracuse on the 29th of August, I am hoping to learn more about this great small brewery.
- Tröegs Pale Ale: Third from the left, this is simply a loverly beer, rich and green hoppy with a grapefruit rind bitter tang, without a hint of tannic, through it all. I'd guess a little flaked barley and some centennial hops in the mix. It is a great balanced beer and, perhaps except for Shipyard Export, the finest US pale ale I have tried. Worthy of comparison with the English pale ales like perhaps St. Peter's Summer Ale yet with that rich almost glyceral, uncious body which is hcaracteristic of US pale ales. The lads at Beer Advocate rate it highly and Tröegs says:
Tröegs Pale Ale is an American style Pale Ale that is aggressively hopped with Northwest Cascades and balanced with crystal malts to create a hoppy, copper-colored crisp ale. An excellent example of a classic American Pale Ale.Quality grains used. Not crisp, not an edge on the tip of the tongue and maybe the slightest Islay smokiness. Lew Bryson as written that:
the pale ale is brighter, livelier and fruitier than the ESB.One northern French style of pale ale, biere de garde, also celebrates the fruitiness of grain as a key flavour. This beer may be considered be a melding of that style, English bitter and US pale style.
- Tröegs Bavarian Style Lager: Far right. I better get these reviews finished. This last of the set is a lager, obviously, but a heavier one than you might expect. It is medium amber or butterscotch in hue. The brewery's website does not give a blurb for it and 9% of the Beer Advocate guys actually give it a thumbs down...which is highly odd conduct for people who drink beer and write about it on the internet. A fridge temperature, there is not a whole lotta taste but what is there is fairly nice. Caramel malt, non-metallic hops (which is a nice change for a lager) and I will buy the guys description of a very light maple syrup taste as well. The hops are woodsy enough to bring that out with the caramel. But you kind of have to go with maple or nutty but not both. Thinking through flavour description is a big of a minefield as you are taking actual elements and shuffling them together to make an abstract analogy.
As a style, the Beer Advocate call it a märzen or oktoberfest. Here is a good summary of that double barrelled name:
The original Marzen beer was brewed in March, and because of the lack of refrigeration, was stored in caves at the foothills of the Alps through the summer months when brewing was suspended by law. Marzen beers were stronger to survive the many months to their completion, for which a celebration took place. In 1810 a famous wedding between Prince Ludwig and Princess Theresa held over the course of 16 days launched what is still today the world's largest and most famous beer events, the Oktoberfest.See - its easy to learn about beer as long as you are ready to take on a little Hapsburgian genetic history along the way. The real point is, however, that this style is the original lager. Left to ferment slowly in cold caves for months, flavours are muted and the effect is rich and quaffable. I have had a real one a few years ago, I think Hacker-Pschorr Marzen Amber [dig the tuba on the lable] and this is a lighter in malt and slightly more hoppy version. I can accept it as such. If I were having a BBQ and wanted to introduce lager drinkers to new micro- tastes, this beer would do.
In the 1840s, Vienna brewer Anton Dreher developed a lager beer that swept through Austria. An apprentice at Dreher's brewery was Gabriel Sedlmayr III, son of Josef Sedlmayr, owner of Franziskaner-Leistbrauerei which eventually became Spaten-Franziskaner Breweries. Brewing a batch of beer in the Vienna style 1871 and introducing it at the Oktoberfest in 1872 resulted in a complete sell-out of the beer at a price 3-crowns more than other beer available and sales of 2-1 over any other beer at the fest.
One other point as Lew Bryson makes is that micro-lager is a massive financial committment over ale due to the extra storage costs. Hats off to those who even trylet alone pull off this brew.