Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homebrew Lager Rant

Beer as a natural product is a wonderful, delicious thing, a beverage as old as time itself. It is perfectly normal for a bloke to desire to drink beer, whether it is for the flavor or just to physically quench thirst. I personally have been known to sit at a table for half an hour enjoying a barleywine and maduro combination yet later in the week I find myself shoving a light lager down my throat as fast as I can as I am covered with lawn-mower sweat and grass. There are so many different ways a man can describe his fascination, nay, his love affair with beer that such a confession would take volumes and a lifetime of writing to achieve, suffice to say that to me the only thing more wonderful than beer is my woman and sometimes, frankly, beer wins out.

I have consumed many varieties of beer in my lifetime so far, and I can confess that my favorite list tends to swing back and forth from time to time. Mind you, I am not the sort of “seasonal” drinker that major breweries pursue, coming out with Winter Warmers in the Winter and Weizens in the summer. No, I would just as likely be the jerk who wants a Czech Pilsner on my patio in December or a Russian Imperial Stout in the dead of summer on my backyard swing with no breeze whatsoever. It really can and will really depend on my mood.

I have gravitated towards stronger beers in recent years, only because I don’t like to drink so much that I have to urinate every five seconds. There is nothing worse than to be in great conversation about something totally trivial and have to interrupt it because the only thing on the menu is piss-water, they don’t call it that for nothing, you know. Repeat trips to the bathroom are not enjoyable for one physically, not to mention offsetting to your friends/guests.

A great session beer for me these days can be as low as 4%ABV or as high as 10%ABV, depending upon the style. Barleywines or Triple IPAS are great when they are high in alcohol as they are heavily hopped to balance the warmth of the alcohol. Weizenbocks and Hellesbocks are wonderful, too, in that the malt sweetness can come into play, thus deterring the necessity of heavy hop counter-balance. Sometimes a great deviation from the normal can be a strong, Russian Imperial Stout, heavily roasted grains and chocolates tend not to mask the alcohol, but blend it in a different way on the tongue. You can feel the warmth going down the gullet but you don’t mind because your tongue is still toast-struck with roasted barley and chocolate malt.

Having been an active commercial and homebrewer for many years now, I must confess that I prefer homebrew to any commercial beer, bottle or keg, domestic or import. The incredible head retention on a homemade, all-grain brew is nothing short of monumental. Sometimes I think I can bounce a quarter off the head of my homemade Irish Stout. Even my lightest home beers carry Belgian Lace to the very bottom of the glass, every single batch every time. You just cannot get that from a bottle that has travelled halfway around the country and was produced on a large scale with economy in mind.

The only way to enjoy a great beer is to consume it right where it was produced, thus I am a true believer in brewpubs. The only problem with most American brewpubs is that they are limited in scope regarding their beer recipe library, most often times limiting their beer agenda to strictly ales as they ferment quickly, require less refrigeration and wait time. Most importantly speaking to this fact is that ales require a lot less fermentation and conditioning capacity than lagers, thus greatly reducing startup costs for new businesses.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I think some of the World’s best brews are ales, including the diverse Belgians and British South Coast Beers. Ah, the London Bitter is a friend of mine! It is just that I have come to love and adore the clean, refreshing, crispy finish of a fine lager, especially one that is fresh and consumed on site on a small scale.

Lately I have been making beer-whoopee with the Brooklyn Lager, an excellent microbrew bottle from you guessed it, New York. It is outstanding as far as lagers are concerned and rivals even the very best pilseners and lagers from Czechoslovakia and Germany. I consider the Brooklyn Lager to be full flavored and surprisingly well balanced, finishing even on the tongue with minimal aftertaste and great tongue play of both the hops and malt alike. The Brooklyn Lager is a true pre-prohibition lager recipe, hearkening back to the days when real men drank real beer in real pubs.

Yes, I’m talking about a bunch of blue collar guys taking some time off after their hard, sweaty day of work to meander into their local pub, quaff down a lager or two and have a po-boy to see them through until they get home. No televisions with ESPN, no music on the radio, just a wooden bar top with a stein, and friends around you, cigarette/cigar in mouth and joke on the lip. These guys didn’t wish to hang around drinking gallons of Bud Lite, they wanted a couple of full-flavored beers, enough to give them a “how doyado?” before they got home and put up with the screaming wife and chitlins.

Back then there wasn’t time to worry about fat grams and carbs. They burned that shit off in the first hour of work. No, they wanted flavor, they wanted fulfillment. There was nothing between a man and his beer except a smiling barkeep. Life was too short to worry about their waistline like a little bitch. These men, whether from the city or country alike, had strong arms and heavy hands. They fought wars, they planted crops, they riveted steel on skyscrapers. The sewer water contained in a bottle of light lager today would have insulted them and they would probably have performed a classic spit take and thrown the bartender out to the street.

Yeah, I must say that Garrett Oliver has made an impression on me. His craftsmanship shines through the bottle and rivals or exceeds beers that have been brewed in Europe for centuries. But isn’t that the way it is with America in general? It seems that we are always underestimated, until the time comes for ass-saving, that is. I can’t tell you how many Brooklyn Lagers I have enjoyed in my backyard, admiring the foliage that my screaming wife plants in the ground. Sometimes I wonder if she plots my own plot, but I’m afraid to tell her I have no life insurance to speak of. There is some kind of truth in beer I get from drinking his Lager, almost like he doesn’t need a paid political advertisement or government codification in order to authenticate the awesomeness of the brew, it is just as it is, elegant and wonderful, especially tonight. Thanks, Garrett!