Monday, December 20, 2010

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale Beer

As I said on Friday, for this year's review posts I am sticking to three very broad categories of beer - pale, amber and dark. What I didn't mention though was how I planned to draw up my shortlist of three beers for each category, from which the over all winner would be selected. I thought long and hard about this question. Well, ok then, I decided to do the first thing that popped into my mind. The three beers will be as follows:
  • best from Virginia
  • best from the rest of the US
  • best from the rest of the world
So, without further ado, the contenders for the Fuggled Pale Beer of the Year (a prize still unburdened by history or monetary value) are:
  • Devils' Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo 
  • Unibroue La Fin du Monde

If you know me, you know that Bohemian Pilsner is one of my favourite styles of beer. It is a style of beer that is very easy to get wrong, and exceedingly difficult to right, despite the simplicity of the ingredients. I will continue to maintain that only a triple decocted, 100% Saaz hopped brew can be called a Pilsner, anything else is just pale lager. It might be very drinkable, it might even garner rave reviews, but it is not a Pilsner. When I read on the Devils' Backbone blog, written by the brewer, Jason, that he was planning to make a Pilsner based on a recreation of the 1842 recipe devised by Josef Groll, I was immediately intrigued. That Jason then invited me to come out and help brew the beer made it all the more special for me - I say "help" in the broadest possible sense, that sense being the helping by not getting in the way, as much as possible. When the beer was lagered and available, avail myself of it I did, with gusto. It was simply an excellent version of one of my favourite styles. As I have said before, if I had been served that in one of Prague's many fine watering holes, I would have been delighted. There really is no higher praise.

This is quite possibly the grossest heresy you will ever hear from a beer lover living in the USA. I am not a hop head. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate hoppy beers, but I think that a lot of "craft" breweries focus too much on the little green cone to the detriment of the malt. For an IPA to get into my list of beers always in the cellar, it needs to have a good malty body to stand up to the hops. Enter, then, Sierra Nevada's quite simply gorgeous Torpedo. I think the thing I like most about Torpedo is that it isn't just another grapefruit bomb, the dry hopping with Citra lends it a more tropical fruit flavour which I find very appealing and a refreshing change from the Cascade/Amarillo dominated IPAs of this world. Balanced and yet nicely bitter, Torpedo achieves those three elements of good beer in my world, balanced, complex, drinkable.


For my best Rest of the World beer, I head over the border to Canada and Unibroue's wonderful La Fin du Monde. Admittedly there was a late charge in the form of Unibroue's Don de Dieu which I polished off last night, but I followed that up with another bottle of La Fin du Monde, and the winner was easy really. For a 9%abv beer, La Fin du Monde is very drinkable, smooth and laced with banana aromas - almost as though they had been soaked in spiced rum. I first had some Unibroue beers by chance a few years back in France, and still count it as one of my favourite beer discoveries.

Three excellent beers then, but in the immortal words of Connor MacLeod, there can be only one, and that one is:
  • Devils' Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils
Authentic ingredients, traditional methods and a spectacular result. This is what craft brewing is about in my opinion, and the Trukker Ur-Pils hit the mark in every conceivable way and is thus the Fuggled Pale Beer of 2010.

3 comments:

  1. La Fin Du Monde is certainly a fine beer. One of my early favorites that has remained high in my regard despite exposure to thousands of other beers. If you have not had the De Dolle Dulle Teve then I would suggest it as one that could give the La Fin a stiff competition.

    ReplyDelete
  2. La fin du Monde is not one I have had the pleasure of, though I had a number of their other beers.

    I love Torpedo.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Didn't realize you were here in the US.

    Torpedo is a wonderful beer, and surprisingly cheap to boot. I have also been enjoying Odell's IPA maybe even more than Torpedo. It's sort of in the same mode but perhaps slightly less bitter and a bit more subdued.

    ReplyDelete