If you think you love a beer and think it’s your favorite beer from the style then there is only one way to verify that, a blind tasting. Perception plays a huge role in our enjoyment of beer, and many other products, and we must remove that perception to get a closer view of our real enjoyment. Plus, blind tastings are a lot of fun!
This is the first in a series of blind tastings I’m doing and posting about. Up next will be a post about hosting your own blind tasting followed by barrel-aged coffee stouts, barrel aged adjunct stouts, barrel-aged stouts, and krieks (cherry sours) will all be coming in the next few months.
Paste keeps doing these and I’ve got a few gripes on how they do them, specifically their sour tasting had a huge variety of sour styles mixed together. I think it’s unfair to compare a gueuze, or blended sour, to a framboise, aka raspberry sour. So, I present, a blind tasting of 8 blended sours and 11 raspberry sours.
Both of those lists are now hilariously out of date. The best example of this is that Rhinegeist isn’t on either list as they weren’t open yet. I initially sat down to write an update for Ohio’s part in the Six-Pack Project but remembered the difficulty in narrowing an entire state down into six beers. So, I decided to settle down to just a Cincinnati Six-pack, plus a few from Dayton. I also reached out to Pat at Pat’s Pints in Columbus and Rick Armon at The Ohio Beer Blog in Akron/Cleveland. They’ll both be doing similar posts covering their parts of Ohio in the next few weeks.
A few months ago I made one of my regular trips to Rivertown and noticed something new in the tap room. It’s a lot cooler, to me than a bunch of arcade cabinets though those are extremely cool! A few days later I was at Mt. Carmel and noticed something new in the tap room there as well, the same thing I ‘ve seen at Rivertown. This was when I got very curious, which led to what you are about to reading.
The things which sparked my curiosity were Brewhaus Dog Bone stands like the one to the right. Then I noticed it said “Proudly made with quality grains from” above the Mt. Carmel logo. Dog treats made from spent grains from local breweries? Only one word for this, Awesome.
A few weeks back I read an article about Everything You Didn’t Know About Tipping. It didn’t have that much that I didn’t know about tipping but did bring a few insights. Then yesterday I was at a brewery getting a growler filled and found myself thinking, should you tip for growler fills?
First off if you’re asking what a growler is then check out BeerQuest ABV’s excellent post on the history of growlers. Now back to my situation at MadTree. In a hurry, I bypassed Googling the subject from my phone and figured $1 was good. After I had gotten to my friend’s house I put the question on Facebook and Twitter.
The following represents what my research was able to obtain from the internet on any medals or awards won by any brewery in Ohio. Please do not consider this list to be the end all be all of Ohio brewery awards as there are very likely mistakes or missing information. Please shoot me an email at Tom@QueenCityDrinks.com with any corrections and I’ll make it as soon as possible.
When it comes to craft beer enthusiasts, I know far too many who don’t love lagers, heck any people don’t even mildly appreciate them. I admit I had this problem for a while myself, but I’ve slowly come around. After discovering my love of lagers, I’ve tried to proselytize others to love lagers but have found surprising reluctance. This reluctance from folks who’ve I’ve converted to enjoying things as wild as sours got me pondering. The result of that pondering is three ideas to try to understand why the hate?
I couldn’t come across many hard numbers on this but did find the below chart from back in 2011. Beyond the hard numbers, the lack of popularity of craft lagers is evident with a trip to any better beer store. Just look around the shop and see all the IPAs, wheats, stouts, and sours vs. the small selection of lagers. Another way of looking at this is that out of all the breweries in Cincinnati only three regularly make lagers, and I include Sam Adams in that number.
Why the hate?
1) Clockwork Lager
I think the prime reason is that we’ve been conditioned to love lagers, then over conditioned to lust for them, resulting in our hate. Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and others have shoved flavorless light (or, worse yet, lite) lagers down our throats for decades. Trying to convince us that this is what “beer” is supposed to taste like. I think this long-term advertising, or more bluntly put brainwashing, has resulted in a Clockwork Orange effect among those who have broken from its grasp. Now many beer enthusiast harbor an intense dislike of anything that resembles a lager, mass-produced or not.
2) Unexciting compared to a tropical fruit Gose
My second conclusion is that no matter what I’d like to believe, or convince people of, lagers just aren’t that exciting. A malty, floral, maybe slightly spicy lager can’t compete on the level of tongue tingling excitement with something like a stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, cocoa nibs, and habaneros.
3) Harder & Less Profitable
Lastly, lagers are a less financially sound decision for breweries. They are harder to brew because a lager will show off any flaws in the brewing process. Lagers are more time-consuming than IPAs because they have to be lagered—fermented and stored at cold temperatures before packaging—for weeks to months where an IPA finishes out in a week or two. And, as I’ve said and has prompted this article, craft beer drinkers are less likely to drink them. So why should a craft brewery spend so much more time making a more delicate product that won’t excite customers?
If you have another reason I missed, join in on the conversation in the comments below. Now then let’s move on to the elevator pitch about…
4 Reasons to Love Lagers!
1) All around tasty beverage
Plain and simple lagers are delicious and refreshing drinks. The total market share they occupy is plenty enough proof of this. If they were bad or disgusting, no one would drink them, no matter the advertising powers at play. Budweiser and Miller Lite are not bad beers; they’re just not exciting. A real craft lager though can be an exciting and delicious adventure when all you want is a clean refreshing beer.
2) Palate Fatigue
“Variety’s the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.”
Your tongue can get tired of having the same thing time and time again; this is called palate fatigue. Palate fatigue is more relevant when you’re having a flight of five or six beers, but I think it still applies here. Drinking super hoped IPAs or bodacious oatmeal Russian imperial stouts day in and day out you can lose perception of how different they are from each other. A nice clean lager can refresh your palate and your mind.
3) The Original Session Beer
Session IPAs are all the rage these days and are becoming the top-selling beers at many breweries. But if you want to knock back a 12-pack whiling away a sunny afternoon there’s no need to succumb to the latest fad. Succumb to the 200-year-old staple and grab a crisp, refreshing lager. Lagers are highly quaffable, often under 6%, and go with just about any food at your family BBQ. The chart below shows the ABV distribution of 150 of the most popular lagers on BeerAdvocate.
4) Sheer Market Share
Those are all great reasons but here’s the real kicker that makes me think more craft breweries, and craft beer enthusiasts, need to love the lager. America is a country that loves its lagers and if we want to beat AB-InBev or SABMiller we need to beat them at their own game! It’s easier to sell a macro beer drinker on a “really high-quality Budweiser” then it is on a “bitter, citrus, pine flavored IPA.” Once that macro beer drinker has had a craft lager, they’ll be more interested to try other beers by that brewery and blossom into a craft beer enthusiast.
What to drink?
Don’t misunderstand me on any of this, this is no cry to go enjoy a Miller Lite. This is a rallying call to find the closest craft brewer to you and try their lager if they have one or ask them to make one if they don’t. I realize relatively few craft breweries are making lagers, compared to the total number of craft breweries, so some good examples with wide-ranging distribution are Victory Prima Pils, Brooklyn Lager, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, or Sam Adams Boston Lager.
My fellow Cincinnatians and I are extremely lucky in that we have not one, but two breweries making multiple lagers. Moerlein bottles Purity Pils, Barbarossa, and Helles lagers year-round while Rhinegeist cans Puma Pils over the summer. Many other locals also make periodic small batch releases of pilsners, dunkels, and marzens.
Anyone have other reasons that we should embrace lagers? Or a different craft lager folks should be embracing? If so, drop a comment below!
I stopped by Rivertown Brewery earlier this week to talk about their new foeder. I ended up having a wandering conversation with co-owner Jason Roeper covering many topics about all things new for Rivertown.
Read on after the jump to learn what the hell a foeder is, what small batch sours you can expect to regret getting so little of, the various ways Rivertown is growing, and how they’ve dealt with a legal entanglement from a similarly named brewery!
I stopped by The Party Source for a conversation with Quaff Bros co-founder Danny Gold and Quaff collaborators Scott LaFollette, head brewer at Blank Slate Brewing Company, and Jason Brewer, from Listermann’s/Triple Digit, about wandering breweries. That discussion evolved into a full history of Quaff Bros which you can learn about below.
I try to avoid playing favorites with the local breweries and their beers but I’m not going to lie that Rivertown Death has been my single favorite beer ever released by a local brewery. As soon as it hit my lips I was disheartened that it was a limited one-time only release.
For those who weren’t in Cincinnati or weren’t into Craft beer yet I’ll provide some background. Back in 2012 someone interpreted the Mayan calendar poorly and thought the world would end in 12/21/2012. To honor this “event” Rivertown released a series of beers for the four horseman of the apocalypse. Not all of these beers were loved by everyone but they all did live up to the idea of the four horseman.
Pestilence was a sour brown ale with 7 varieties of malted barley and wheat, organic whole Hibiscus flower pedals and spicy hops from the Hallertau growing region of Bavaria. That hibiscus and sour combo gave it a odd funk kind of like it was ridden with pestilence and disease.
War was a smoked Irish red ale that was a dark red like blood and was one of the smokiest things I’ve ever tasted. It did a good job of reminding me of the imagery of battle and war. You can hit this link to read my full review of it from when it was released.
Famine was a Bavarian wheat ale that barely topped 4% and, quite like a real famine would, gave you just enough to get by but left you wanting a lot more. Like War and Famine they weren’t really great tasting beers but man did it nail the concept of famine. Check the full review out here.
The final of the four horseman, and the final beer released, was Death. For Rivertown Death they made a 12% Russian Imperial Stout and threw some of the hottest peppers on earth in there. I’ve talked to many folks who did not like this beer. I, however, am a big fan of spicy food and that love extends to spicy beers. There are too few good spicy beers out there. So often it’s some insane pepper in a light lager that scorches your taste buds and makes you regret buying it.
Death was a great blend of stout flavors that let you know it was a bit hot with each sip then by the end of a pint you had a solid burn going on. A solid burn but nothing painful or damaging, at least in my opinion. I know many thought it was too hot. You can read my full review of it back here.
A few weeks ago I heard it a rumor that it was coming back and I’m happy to announce that the rumor has been confirmed! If you loved Death the first time around or missed out on it then just hang tight till June 1st and join me at Rivertown’s Tap Room to welcome the return of Rivertown Death! Sadly it will again be a limited run, so you better get there while you can.