Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Of Minnesota Oktoberfests

 At the beginning of this month, Minneapolis based writer Jerard Fagerberg started work at the same organisation as myself. The subject of beer pretty quickly came up and lo and behold we have another person on the team that writes about the world's favourite barley based beverage. Having suitably followed each other on Twitter, I got a message from Jerry offering to send some Minnesota festbiers and märzens to add to my ongoing mass Oktoberfest tasting. A few days later and my fridge had 7 beers from the far north chilling down. Come Sunday they were ready to drink...and so I did.

The beers were, as you can see in the picture:

I decided to subject them to the same approach as I have been doing with all the beers in this year's tasting, which is exactly the same as last year:
  • Sight - 3 points
  • Smell - 10 points
  • Taste - 15 points
  • Balance of sweet to bitter - 2 points
  • Personal opinion - 10 points
So without further ado, let's jump into my Cyclopsesque tasting notes, I didn't take pictures for each beer as I was too busy drinking the beer, you understand that right?

Summit Oktoberfest - 6.5%
  • Sight - recently polished copper, inch of ivory head, excellent clarity
  • Smell - fresh crusty bread, rich malt complexity, no hops
  • Taste - beautiful Munich malt sweetness, rich bready notes, herbal hop bite in the finish
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
What a lovely start to the tasting, a beautifully complex lager that has everything you need to make it dangerously drinkable. The hops were evident without intruding, and the clean lager fermentation gave it the right amount of snap to keep me coming back for more. There was also an intriguing slight coconut note in the mix.

Schell's Oktoberfest - 5.8%
  • Sight - orange, almost Irn-Bru orange in the light, persistent off white head, beautiful clarity
  • Smell - toasted crusty bread, a touch of toffee, no hops
  • Taste - toasted bread, and also classic pilsner malt cereal character noticeable, clean herbal hops
  • Sweet - 2.5/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
I have to admit that I was really please to see this one on the box. My last beer from Schell's was a decade ago when they brewed a tmavé that I very much enjoyed, and here was another that, were Schell's available in Virginia, I would be buying regularly. Medium bodied, with a fantastic balance, and eminently drinkable.

Bauhaus Schwandtoberfest - 5.7%
  • Sight - deep amber, quarter inch white foam, good clarity
  • Smell - fresh bread from the oven, little if any hop aroma, clean
  • Taste - bready malts again, toasty with a slight caramel note, clean hop bitterness
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
The head sank into a schmeer of bubbles pretty quickly. This was a decent, malt forward, clean lager, with just enough hop bite to stop that hefty body from being cloying.

Beaver Island Oktoberfest - 6%
  • Sight - deep copper, red highlights, thin white head, excellent clarity
  • Smell - Honey on toast, no hops
  • Taste - slightly doughy, underbaked bread, maybe a touch of burnt sugar
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
In lots of ways this had things right. It was medium bodied, quite complex, and the bitterness from the hops was enough to just stop it being too sickly, but there was something of an odd after taste which was a distraction trying to nail down.

Indeed Oktoberfest - 5.8%
  • Sight - amber, quarter inch of white head, good clarity
  • Smell - pilsner malt cereal, sweetness of Maillard reactions
  • Taste - toasted malt, rich malt sweetness, floral hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Oh I liked this one. Lots of malt complexity, toasted Vienna, toffee like Munich, yum, yum, yum, to top it all there was the crisp (still fuck off with your crispy shite people) lager characteristic that brings everything in to sharp relief for another mouthful.

Fair State Cooperative Festbier - 5.7%
  • Sight - golden, half inch of persistent white foam, good clarity
  • Smell - rich pilsner malt grain character (decoction mash?), nice bready character, subtle herbal hop note
  • Taste - solid cereal grain character, lots of Pilsner malt, traces of honey, spicy hops
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
This was bloody marvellous, absolutely bloody marvellous. Like a stronger Czech style lager, packing a wallop bit still with a firm bitterness and clean finish. Could happily drink this all day long.

Utepils Receptional Festbier - 5.9%
  • Sight - deep gold, quarter inch white head, superb clarity
  • Smell - dollops of lightly honeyed pilsner malt, light bready note, some subtle lemongrass
  • Taste - more honeyed pilsner malt, floral hops with a slight spicy edge
  • Sweet - 3/5
  • Bitter - 2/5
Another lovely festbier, perfectly balanced, refreshingly clean in the finish. Reminded me of the Primátor Exklusiv 16° strong pale lager from Czechia which was once declared the world's best lager. Again a beer I could imagine drinking maß after maß of in an autumnal biergarten.

So there we have it, 5 märzens and 2 festbiers that do Minnesota proud. In terms of a mini-league on my point system they ended up as:
  1. Utepils Receptional (32/40, wins on personal preference)
  2. Summit Oktoberfest (32/40)
  3. Fair State Festbier (31/40, third on personal preference)
  4. Indeed Oktoberfest (31/40)
  5. Schell's Oktoberfest (30/40)
  6. Beaver Island Oktoberfest (28/40)
  7. Bauhaus Schwandtoberfest (26/40)
Utepils for the win it is then, and clear evidence based on these numbers that the pale festbier style is still my preferred version of the annual autumnal lagerfest...

Thanks again to Jerry for sending the beers down, and I am in the process of curating a selection of fine Virginia beers to send back north for his drinking pleasure.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Old Friends: Port City Downright Pilsner

You'd think that a brewery that got 4 mentions in my annual top 10 Virginian beers wouldn't really be getting an "Old Friends" post. Even more so when you consider how often I have said brewery's products in my fridge, and the regularity with which I post pictures on Instagram of their beers, especially their lagers. However, it is the case that for all my enthusing about Port City Brewing up in Alexandria, and my extolling of the virtues of their simply wonderful Lager Series program, I have been criminally negligent of the beer that made me fall head over heels with them in the first place...Downright Pilsner.

If I have the story correct, Downright Pilsner was first brewed in 2012, purely as a seasonal. It sold so well, and in the Velkyal household that included at least 4 cases in a couple of months that year, that it became a part of their core lineup. A pair of those cases were bought for a couple of parties we had that autumn, firstly our house warming, having recently taken ownership of the keys to our house, and later for a Czech night to mark Czechoslovak Statehood Day on October 28th. Downright is billed as a Bohemian Pilsner, and was certainly a hit with plenty of the Czechs and Slovaks at our party, especially among those that emigrated in the wake of the 1969 crushing of the Prague Spring.

As I say, Downright is marketed as a Bohemian Pilsner, and in terms of the numbers it is pretty much spot on, brewed to 12°, if memory serves, 4.8% abv, and 37 IBU of Czech hops, though my memory seems to think that it used to be about 44 IBU, but one quibbles. Keeping slightly out of kilter with it's brethren in the homeland, Downright is dry hopped with Saaz. I spent a good year or so badgering my local Wegman's to start stocking it, they have the rest of the Port City range, so I knew they could. Eventually to my delight it showed up, and then the Lager Series started and I got all distracted.

Feeling guilty, I chucked a couple of bottles into my mixed 6 pack at the weekend, determined to stop ignoring my old faithful and to reacquaint myself with its delights. Thus, with the Sunday evening Oktoberfest clutch done with, and just wanting to enjoy a beer for its own sake more than anything, I poured them into my Chodovar mug...

Goodness me but isn't that a thing of beauty, both the glass and the beer to be frank. I got the glass on eBay as piece of nostalgia for the first Chodovar I ever had, in such a glass, at Pivovarský klub. Anyway, the beer, beautiful as I said, a lovely translucent gold, topped with a healthy white head that persists and left some lovely lacing on its way down the sides of the glass. I mentioned that the beer is jam packed full of Saaz hops, and sure enough everything you expect is there, lemongrass, orange blossom, that spicy note that is difficult to pin down sometimes. In amongst it all is a grainy note, lightly honeyed, classic Pilsner malt really.

Even after all these years there is something deeply comforting about Downright, it just tastes as a well made pilsner should do. Hops, and lots of them, a firm clean bitterness to cut through the soft billowing sweetness of the malt, like drinking a summer meadow in the Šumava region of Bohemia. The finish is clean, crisp (not crispy for fuck's sake, get a fucking dictionary), and satisfyingly refreshing, not in a bland watery way, but in the way that makes you want more, a whole lot more.

So yes the beer is still great, and I shall suitably adorn myself in sackcloth and ashes for having neglected it for so long...might also organise another Czechoslovak Statehood Day bash and buy several cases. The new label though is just fantastic, with the a skyline that looks for all the world like Prague, and folks drinking large mugs, it could almost be the beer garden at Letna, overlooking the Vltava toward Our Lady of Týn on Staroměstké náměstí to the left, and the south tower of St Vitus Cathedral in the castle to the right.

As I said in a previous post about this beer, Port City have this Bohemian style pilsner done right, damn right, and I need to drink more of it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

A Perfect 10

You would be forgiven, if all you drank was American made "Bohemian Pilsners", for believing that pale lagers from Czechia are almost uniformly 14° Plato or above, such is the frequency with which you come across beers with an abv north of 5.5%.

The truth though is that for all the Pilsner Urquell love you get in the craft beer world, and that love is thoroughly deserved for such an iconic, and truly great, beer, the most popular beer in Czechia is Gambrinus 10°. When talking about traditional Czech breweries, it is a pretty solid bet that their top selling beers are also 10° pale lagers, aka "desítka". If you go into practically any standard boozer in Czechia, the kinds that don't have side pour taps, don't fanny about with different types of pours, and where tourists would stand out a mile, if you ask for a "pivo" you will get a desítka.

Last week I got a message from Jace, the GM of the Charlottesville Starr Hill tasting room, telling me that he had a case of Elder Pine 10 Plato Pivo and was happy to share some with me. Having agreed a trade of a couple of cans of Olde Mecklenburg Mecktoberfest and Carolina Keller in return, I picked up the beers last Friday. I say beers, because Jace chucked in a New Zealand style Pilsner that was frankly superb, but I am not going to write about that one.

Obviously though I am writing about the desítka, but first a picture...

Look at the simple glory of that beer, also cool can design, but that beer just looks the part. As much as I love many US made pale lagers, there are times when I feel they are just a touch on the, erm, pale side. Don't get me wrong, they are still fantastic beers, but from the offset with the colour and the voluminous white head and hung around stubbornly, clinging to the glass as I drank, this one felt just plain right.

Now, zoom in on the picture above and read the abv. There is a school of thought that if you times a beer's abv by 2.5 it will give you the starting gravity. Four times two and a half is....that's right, 10, and exactly what you would expect from a desítka in Czechia. So far it looks the part, and the numbers work out right for the part too. Ok, ok, try not to get too carried away here, take a sniff...hay, lemongrass, some floral stuff, and a very subtle bready malt note. Oh god, please don't let this beer fuck it up when I actually drink it...

Hallelujah, no fucked up flavours here! The almost honeyed grain is there, the firm through unobtrusive bitterness is there, the delicate interplay of orange flower hops and the malt is there. Wait, where am I? Am I back in a Černý Most boozer, you know, the one at the bus/metro station, crowded with working men in their blue overalls? Back, nope I am at my kitchen table in Virginia. With duly expected fervour I insist Mrs V try it too...she sips, she nods, she looks at the can..."when are we going to Gaithersburg?". Approval.

It didn't take long for the other cans to make their way into a glass, and subsequently down my throat, and now I want more, a lot more. 

I guess I need to plan a trip to Gaithersburg next time they have this delight available.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Rheinisches Bitterbier

 It's becoming an obsession, really it is.

Ever since Andreas Krennmair suggested the name "Rheinisches Bitterbier" as a name/style for my most recent homebrew, I have been digging around trying to learn more about it. I actually managed to polish off the entire keg with a couple of friends over the weekend, and the final beer looked like this:

I have to admit that I was marginally surprised at just how dark it was, but it was certainly a lovely moreish beer. Towards the end of the keg, the sweetness of the Munich malt had mellowed out a bit, so when I inevitably rebrew it in the autumn, I will lager it as I had previously intended.

Back though to the term "Rheinisches Bitterbier". I mentioned in my previous post that in the early part of the 20th century, the style was listed with "Westfälisches altbier". My research so far has failed to shine much light on the Westphalian Altbier, though I have been able to find some further details about the Rheinisches Bitterbier in some of the German books in Google Books.

According to "Untersuchung von Nahrungs, Genussmitteln und Gebrauchsgegenständen":

Admittedly with the help of Google Translate, my German is o for a general gist, but I wanted to be a little more certain, Rheinisches Bitterbier and Westfälisches altbier are described as:

"These low gravity beers are made like bottom-fermented beers through a vat and barrel fermentation, with a strong addition of hops. They contain 3.64-5.5% extract, 3-4.8% alcohol by volume, and 0.165-0.515% lactic acid"

A confession, the text in red is taking straight from Google translate, and I am not entirely sure by what is meant, though I am assuming they just mean primary and secondary fermentation occurring in separate vessels? What I can say for sure is that we are talking about well hopped, top-fermented, low gravity beer.

Clearly the text above draws heavily on the work of Dr Josef König, who in the 1920 edition of his book "Chemie der menschlichen Nahrungs- und Genussmittel" wrote:

Here König gives another couple of interesting details, including a starting gravity of "9%" which I think would be the equivalent of 9° Plato, or 1.036 in specific gravity. There is also more about the hopping of Bitterbier, "unter starkem Hopfenzusatz bzw von gebrühtem Hopfen zum Lagerfass bei den bitterbieren" meaning that the beer is strong hopped in both the kettle and the lager tank...dry hopping basically.

When it comes to colour and taste perception we turn to volume 4 of "Encyklopädie der technischen Chemie" by Wilhelm Foerst, published in 1953:

My rough translation of this would be:

"Rhenish bitter beer is a top-fermented regular strength beer with a golden yellow color, which is fermented at a fairly low temperature, then lagered at around 6 degrees in the storage cellar and filtered. There is a lot of hops in the brewhouse and hops are also added to the storage barrel ("hop stopper"). This gives it a very aromatic taste."

So here we have a beer that looks very much like a modern Kölsch and is very hop forward, with strong kettle hopping and drying hopping to make a very flavourful beer.

I think then that the beer I brewed would not qualify as a Rheinisches Bitterbier as understood in most of the 20th century.

Interesting from my perspective is that Westfälisches altbier seems to have disappeared from from the books I was digging into, so more research required for sure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Westfälisches Altbier, oder?

 For the first time in a while I kegged a homebrew at the weekend.

I don't get to brew anywhere near as much as I would like, or as much as I used to, so the kegerator has been loaded with commercial beer for the last few months. Right now though, there is a 5 gallon keg of my own stuff happily conditioning, hopefully for imbibing this weekend.

My brewing these days is mostly in the old "extract and specialty grains" format, though I won plenty of medals with this method and so am not too worried about not doing all grain for the time being. This particular batch though is all extract, because the only malt I wanted was Munich, and Northern Brewer sell just the right size containers of liquid Munich malt extract to give me a starting gravity of 11° (1.044).

In the hopes of minimising potential staleness from the malt extract that had been in the house a couple of  months, I bought fresh Hallertauer Mittelfrüh to hop with, a fresh packet of Wyeast 1007 German Ale, and spent a few hours over a boiling brewpot.

I like Mittelfrüh for the soft sweet spiciness that you get, and all the other classic noble hop characteristics, things like fresh hay, wild flowers, and an earthiness that I am hoping will cut nicely through the Munich malt's toffee sweetness. I added enough to give me about 34 IBUs according to my brewing software, nearly half of which were in the bittering addition.

With the yeast, I always prefer an altbier yeast to a kölsch when doing something vaguely Germanic and top fermented. I don't have the kit to do lager fermentation in the summer, but find that 1007 reacts nicely to my 64°F basement, and finishes dry and clean, kind of like a lager, even without extended cold cellaring. Plus, Kölsch yeasts have a fruitiness that I find distracting.

The beer I kegged up looks like this...

I expect the final conditioned beer to be a bit paler, more in the deep golden/light orange world than the slightly turbid light brown of the sample.

On Twitter, Andreas Krennmair suggested the term "Rheinisches Bitterbier" based on his research which used it as an umbrella term for Düsseldorf Altbier and Kölsch. I did my own spot of digging around into the term and discovered that it was also put together with "Westfälisches altbier" according to Dr Joseph König. His descriptions of these beers are in his section on "German Top Fermented Beers", though he says the Rheinische Bitterbiers are made in the same manner as bottom fermenting beer, at least if my dodgy German isn't failing me horribly here.

König doesn't actually mention the styles that make up Rheinisches Bitterbier, but Andreas' research has them there, though in separating out "Westfälisches altbier" my interest was further piqued, for family reasons. My great-great-great grandfather was reputedly from Germany, at least according to UK census returns from 1871 - 1901, with further research from other parts of the family saying he was originally from Minden in Westphalia. Also in Westphalia is the city of Münster, home of the Pinkus brewery, who brew an altbier that is decidedly lighter in colour than those you find from Düsseldorf, so I wonder if that was the norm in Westphalia?

So from a quick and easy homebrew project, I have stumbled upon some beer history to try and dig in to, and perhaps we need more Westfälisches altbier in the world?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Top Ten Virginian Beers - 2021

The end is nigh.

The end of July that is, which means several things. Schools will soon be back in session, already there are sightings of pumpkin ales in the aisles of the supermarket, and it is time for the annual list of beers that constitutes my top 10 Virginian beers of the last 12 months.

Not wanted ado further, let's leap into the list.
  1. Devils Backbone - Czech Pale Lager (5.5%). The beer formerly known as Trukker Ur-Pils was relabeled as Czech Pale Lager. This batch also featured a couple of other changes from previous versions as the brewpub now has an open fermentor and horizontal lagering tanks. Jason also swapped out the usual Augustiner yeast for Weihenstephaner, and it made a difference, being softer, less crackery, but just as delightful a beer. Here was a beer that in my world would more than stand up to the very best pale lagers being brewed in Czechia, including Pivovar Hostomice and Únětický Pivovar, yes it really was that good.
  2. Port City - Franconion Kellerbier (5.0%). Last year's top beer has been just as good this year and would have retained top dog status had Devils Backbone not brough out Czech Pale Lager. This year's version is wonderfully balanced, drinkable, and the perfect accompliment to sitting at the kitchen table working through the garden harvest, shelling peas and drinking Kellerbier makes for a very zen hour or so.
  3. Port City - Helles (5.2%). Every summer I look forward to the release of Port City's superb Helles. This year I actually managed to find it on tap before seeing it on bottles in the shop. I sat at Kardinal Hall on a sunny afternoon and every mouthful was sheer bliss. As you would expect from a Port City beer, the Helles is excellently executed, the sweetness of the malt and the bitterness of the hops working in a delicate balance that makes it so damned drinkable. If I were to have a gripe it's that it doesn't comes in half litre cans and thus on a recent tubing trip we took a different brewery's helles...
  4. Devils Backbone - Alt Bier (5.8%). For a few glorious weeks in early spring, this was my go to beer during several trips down to the original Devils Backbone brewpub. Again this is a beer that has gone up a level since the introduction of open fermentation and horizontal lagering at Devils Backbone. There is a deeper richness to the malt, a fuller mouthfeel as a result of less stressed yeast in the open fermentor, and the clean snappy finish just makes it a beer that needs only 4 or 5 mouthfuls before another is in order. I realise my beer tastes are in the minority, but goodness me I wish this were either a regular part of the lineup, or at least a seasonal that could be reliably on every spring.
  5. Port City - German Pilsner (4.6%). Admit it, you're shocked it took this long to get a German style pilsner on the list. This is as close to a classic German style pilsner being brewed in Virginia as you can get, though only in August when it comes out as part of Port City's frankly superb Lager Series program. This particular pilsner is unfiltered and carbonately naturally so is a bit softer than some other versions, which I really enjoy, especially as the heat of Virginia's summer finally starts to break and the back deck becomes vaguely habitable again.
  6. New Realm - Bavarian Prince Oktoberfest (6.3%). A new brewery on the list. New Realm are the brain child of legendary master of all things IPA, Mitch Steele. In Bavarian Prince they also boast the winner of last year's Fuggled Oktoberfest Champions League, which will likely make a return in a few weeks as the shelves fill up with festbier and märzen for the season. Bavarian Prince, while stronger than most beers I drink, is made with all German ingredients (always a good sign as caramel malts in German beer styles just taste wrong) and insanely easy to pour litre after litre down my throat. I am sure it will take quite some beer to knock it off it's perch this year.
  7. Alewerks Brewing Company - Tavern Brown Ale (5.7%). There are a few weeks in this part of Virginia, usually around the September Equinox when it is overcast, the temperatures are dropping to a pleasant autumnal range, and it rains pretty often. Those few weeks, as reliably as Pavlov's dogs on hearing the ringing of a bell, are when I get the urge to drink brown ale, at cellar temperature, in my Sam Smith's pint glasses. When when urge comes, into the shopping trolley goes Alewerk's outstanding brown ale. If there is a break in the rain, I might even don the old tweed cap and sit outside and just watch the back yard get ever greener. Sweet toffee and subtle bitter chocolate notes, married to a distinct nuttiness, just seem to work perfectly on such days, this is brown ale as it should be in my world.
  8. Devils Backbone - Schwartz Bier (5.1%). I love a good schwarzbier, and there are few on the planet, never mind just in Virginia, that can top the glories of Devils Backbone Schwartz Bier. There are very very good reasons this has won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup, it is a spanking combination of fresh toast with nutella and beautifully floral noble hops, finishing clean, clean, clean. It is simply a delight.
  9. New Realm - Euphonia Pilsner (5.0%). Firstly, I have a confession to make. I was surprised to see this win the Virginia Beer Cup in 2019, and I wasn't wildly impressed when I first tried it, but I came back to it, and liked it more. So I came back to it and liked it even more. Now I like it quite a bit to be honest as it showcases the fact that you don't need to use the latest, greatest trendy New World hops to have a beer loaded with wonderful hop flavour and aroma.
  10. Port City - Rauch Märzen (5.5%). Ah rauchbier, a beer style I love, though preferably when we are talking walloping great doses of rauch rather than weedy "hints of bacon". When I first poured Port City's autumnal offering in my glass I was reminded of the gorgeous Märzen at Spezial in Bamberg, and what a lovely drop of beer it is too. The smoke is very much the heart and soul of the beer, but this is no fire pit. Clean, medium bodied, and with a lingering dryness in the finish that makes me want more, I am sure it will take up plenty of fridge space again this year.
For the first time this year I have decided to hand out a few honorable mentions too:
  • Basic City Brewing - Our Daily Pils (4.7%)
  • Alewerks Brewing Company - Protocol Porter (5.6%)
  • Champion Brewing - Gordonsville Lager (3.8%)
I say this every year, and there is no need to change, this is an entirely subjective list based on my own drinking since the beginning of August 2020, which explains why is it so bottom fermented heavy, I am a lager drinker more than anything else. If you have a Virginia brewed beer that you think is so existentially magnificent I should hunt it out, let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Going for An English - Lager Edition

Pale lager, it's just my thing people.

Whether it's a pilsner, of German or Czech extraction, a Helles, a Maibock, or a Kellerbier, if it's pale and lager I'll give it a bash. Some might draw the line at drinking mass produced pale lagers, but I have a soft spot for Tennent's (if anyone fancies sending me a slab of those beautiful yellow cans, feel free), and from time to time I quite like a Budweiser, not Bud Lite, proper Bud.

English lager is not really a common sight over here in Virginia. Once upon a time our local Wegmans stocked Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager, which was ok, but more recently they have started stocking Pure Brewed Lager from that bastion of ale brewing, Samuel Smiths. In one of those spur of the moment things, I picked up a four pack as I had no recollection of ever having tried it, though I did recall that the Tadcaster brewers used to brew under license for Ayinger, so I guess they know what they are doing.

The cans themselves don't really give much away in terms of style, but the beer has an abv of 5% and won a gold medal as an "International Style Pilsner" at the US Beer Open in 2018. In a rare moment of brand consistency, I poured the 16oz can into one of my several Samuel Smiths pint glasses...

Pretty looking beer there, I think you'll agree. However, I have a minor gripe, nucleated glassware often does my head in, you know the kind of thing, glasses with laser etchings on the base that ensure the head is constantly refreshed, I am just not a fan. Next time I try it, I will use one of my standard German beer glasses to get a better sense of actual, unaided, head retention.

So, yes, top marks for looking exactly as a pale lager should do, suitably golden, crystal clear, and all topped off with white foam. That anything in the aroma made it though that mass of foam is a wonder, but there was some lovely floral notes, some grassiness, and the very subtle toastiness of a Vienna malt. The breadiness was evident in the drinking as well, with a lovely lemoniness that firstly put Tettnang hops in mind, but then made me think of lemon curd on toast, minus most of the sweetness of the curd though.

Overall, a very respectable pale lager that put me more in mind of a Helles than that grab bag of naff that is the "International Style Pilsner". Assuming that the 4 pack I snagged at Wegmans on Saturday wasn't the last they will ever have, I still haven't forgiven them for no longer stocking Black Sheep Ale, then this might just become a frequent visitor to the Velký Al beer fridge.

Of Minnesota Oktoberfests

 At the beginning of this month, Minneapolis based writer Jerard Fagerberg started work at the same organisation as myself. The subject of ...