Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Impartial Pursuit: Part Deux

It seems like an age since I sat down on a Sunday afternoon in June and drank a 25oz can of Budweiser. Not Bud Light, not any of the rita sisters that are brand extensions of Bud Light, but good old classic Budweiser. I didn't love it, but neither did I loathe it. I was wet, it had alcohol, and I could imagine drinking it at a party rather than being a sneering craftophile who refuses to drink beers not made with navel lint and then aged in the barrel that took the body of Admiral Nelson home for burial.

That rather large can was never intended to be a singular event from which I would denounce all beer made by the multinational breweries. Nope, if you want to really know what something tastes like you have a buy a bottle or two and then drink the damned stuff. Anyone who says shite like 'I don't need to drink it to know it is bad' is a poseur of the highest magnitude and deserving of the showers of opprobrium coming his or her way, they are also complete twats, but that's a different story.

Anyway....my parents are visiting from Scotland for a few weeks and a couple of days ago we were in a local supermarket picking up bits and bobs while Mrs V was off doing her running in preparation for a 10 mile run in the new year. Looking at the collection of singles (a phrase which still puts me in mind of the latest 'Best of....' album by a favourite band) I noticed that the store in question actually sold singles of some of them there dreaded 'macro beers', in this case aluminium bottles of Coors Banquet.


Coors Banquet is the 'premium' pale lager offering from Coors Brewing in Colorado, premium here of course being shorthand for 'full strength', weighing in a 5% rather than the 4.2% of the various light American lagers produced by the behemoths, and this was the first time I had ever drunk it....so on with the modified Cyclops tasting notes:
  • Sight - pours a light gold, rich yellow colour, with a healthy half inch of pure white, tight bubbled foam that lingers basically for the duration of drinking while leaving a reasonable lacing down the sides of the glass, if you pay attention to such fripperies
  • Smell - the aroma is mainly grainy but with some herbal and spicy hop notes making their way through the head
  • Taste - again cereal is the dominant flavour, mostly smooth buttered corn, there isn't much int he way of identifiable hop flavour, but there is a bite in the finish that works well with the honeyed grain
  • Sweet - 2/5
  • Bitter - 1/5


In some ways this is very close to the Budweiser that I drank back in June. Fairly bland without being offensive in any way whatsoever, though I would say that Coors Banquet is several steps up in terms of taste and drinkability from classic Budweiser. I actually wouldn't complain if I had to spend a night on the lash just drinking Coors Banquet. The beer is pretty light bodied, but not thin and watery as some mass produced pale lagers have a tendency toward, actually to be bluntly honest, it reminded me of a lot of many 'craft' iterations on Kölsch I have had this side of the Pond. The beer leaves a slickness on the tongue as you drink, but the fizz of the high carbonation soon strips that away.


In common with classic Budweiser, this is definitely not a bad beer, even if it is something that would not be a regular in my fridge, but let's face it, even highly regarded beers like Rochefort are not regulars in my fridge.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Coming Full Circle?

As I took my dog for a walk this morning I was thinking about beer. Not about the beer I drank yesterday to mark my 40th birthday, the highlight being a couple of litres of Rothaus Pils at Kardinal Hall in Charlottesville, but rather how my tastes in beer seem to be ever increasingly skewed toward classic styles well made.


As I said, the highlight of my drinking yesterday was as simple a German style pilsner as is humanly possible. Other recent highlights have been a Helles lager from South Street, positively gallons of Sierra Nevada's collaborative Oktoberfest, and in the summer plenty of Three Notch'd Session 42 best bitter.


The thing that ties all these beers together is simplicity. There are no extraneous ingredients, no aging in barrels that once upon a time held a spirit of one kind or another, nothing experimental at all. I would say that my drinking life has never been richer.

Sure, it helps that each of the beers is very well made, but simple beers made poorly are often the worst beers a brewery puts out because the brewer can't hide behind the innovative band-aids that disguise their shortfall in brewing technique. I have said it many times, but show me a brewer that can put out a consistently high quality, and flavourful, classic beer style, such as pilsner, and you are showing me one worth his or her salt.

Thinking over my 22 years of legal beer drinking, from that first pint of Guinness to last night's Rothaus, put me in mind of Bunyan's pilgrim who sets out on a journey of discovery that takes him through many adventures but eventually comes full circle home. I feel as though I am coming full circle, where all I really want when I am having a beer is something that tastes great, is a well made iteration of a recognisable style, and is an aid to the occasion not the whole point of it.

I almost had a sense this morning that craft beer is starting to grow up and appreciate simplicity in all its glory, though in all likelihood reality is less prosaic and more a case of my having found my sweet spot in beer, and it is really isn't all that far from where I left from when I started this blog.