The Crafted Can – Sly Fox Dunkel Lager

Posted on March 29th, 2011

About the beer: This week’s Beer of the Week/Crafted Can comes out of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Though I’ve never spotted this in the Boston area, Sly Fox seemed to have a good place with the New Jersey market where I found this pack. This lager is an attempt at a popular style in the German/Bavarian market. Dunkel, which is German for “dark,” is a style that’s known for it’s smooth, malty flavor, along with notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and/or toasted malts. This lager specifically uses Munich, Pils, and German Roast malts along with several types of Bavarian hops.

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Past Pilsners: Other Lager Styles

Posted on August 13th, 2009

pilsners

Lagers don’t get much attention in the craft beer world, mostly because of the higher level of difficulty in making them compared to ales. As a result many beer drinkers, even craft beer drinkers, often associate lagers with the thin, watery beers made by the big macro breweries like Miller and Coors. In reality, there is a wide variety of different styles of lagers ranging from the hoppy, to the sweet and everything in between. (Not sure what makes a lager different from a ale? Take a look at our article on the subject) Today we’re going to take a look at some lager styles you may not know from Germany, the land of lagers:

Bock/Dopplebock – These nutty, sweet beers were originally brewed by German monks to be consumed as a source of sustenance during fasts.  Their malty flavors are balanced by the smoothness that is a hallmark of lagers. Sam Adams Winter Lager is a great example of the style by an American craft brewer.

As you might expect, dopplebocks (dopple meaning double) are a much stronger version of the style, sometimes ranging to the 7, 8, or 9% alcohol by volume range.  One of the first widely available dopplebocks was Paulaner’s Salavator and as a result many other brewers have taken to naming their dopplebocks with a name ending in “–ator.” Examples include Ayinger’s Celebrator and Spaten’s Optimator. Both bocks and dopplebocks also happen to be associated with goats, which appear frequently on their labels, owing to the fact ‘bock’ can refer to male goats in German.

Rauchbier This style’s name means “smoked beer” in German and I really could think of no better name. The taste is almost like barbecue. Although there are many different styles of smoked beer, this is the original, tracing its roots back to the 1500’s when smoked beer was pretty much all that was available as cleaner techniques for preparing grains had yet to be invented. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock is the undisputed signature version of this style.

Eisbock German for “ice beer,” this is lager which is frozen after brewing and some of the ice is removed,  leaving a more concentrated beer, both in terms of flavor and alcoholic strength, which can range from 9 to 15%. The end result is a rich, sweet and smooth beer akin to brandy, or cognac, great for warming you up on cold nights. Please don’t confuse this style with the ridiculous “Ice” brands of the major macro breweries, such as Bud Ice. While some of them are indeed frozen like an eisbock to increase strength, they don’t resemble the style in any other way. Kulmbacher Reichelbrau Eisbock is one of the better known versions of this style, but it’s still quite rare, as a result of the difficult in producing it.

Dunkel/Dark LagerThis is lager brewed with dark, sweet and rich grains, but balanced nicely by the smoothness of the lager process. It’s not nearly as nutty as a bock, but makes up for it with a creaminess unique to the style. Negra Modelo, while often mistaken for a Vienna lager, is actually an example of the style, and probably the most well known version of it. Try a Blackened  Voodoo Lager from Dixie brewing for an American craft take on the style.  Schwarzbier (black beer) is a very similar style, of which Sam Adams Black Lager is a great example.

Dortmunder ExportA style originally from the town of Dortmund, it’s a light, crisp beer similar to a pilsner but more intense, with a stronger maltiness and hints of honey in it. Like many “export” styles it was made more robust in order to better survive shipment to other countries and faraway lands, however the 5-6% alcohol range may seem light to modern drinkers. This style was once one of the most popular in Germany and much of Europe. The heavy damage Dortmund endured during World War II resulted in this style becoming fairly uncommon today. Try a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold for an American craft take on this style.

Have any other favorite craft lagers that look past pilsners? Let us know on Twitter! Next time you try one of these, or any other beer tweet what it is and add the #mybeer hashtag to it to let us know what you’re drinking and what you think about it.

Beyond the Seasonals: Alternative Summer Beers

Posted on August 5th, 2009

Summer is a great time for beer. When the temperature is hot, nothing’s better than a pint of your favorite beer to cool off. Although plenty of breweries do terrific summer seasonals that go great with the hottest months of the year, there are many traditional brews that also go great with summer, and today we’re going to take a look at them.

1. Hefeweizen – This is a wheat beer of German origin, whose name yeast (hefe) white (weiss, referring to the color of the wheat when brewed) is apt considering the strong presence of both elements in this classic beer. Unlike most bottle-conditioned beer, this is one you actually want to pour the yeast into the bottle as it’s a major part of the style’s flavor. It’s great for the summer months because of its light but full-bodied taste and fruity flavor. There are numerous versions of this style but a personal favorite is Paulaner.

2. Wit – This Belgian style is the other major wheat beer alongside Hefeweizen.  Wit beer tends to be lighter and more lemony than Hefeweizen, but it can still be quite refreshing. Coors’ Blue Moon beer has given this style a good bit of attention in the last few years, but try a Hoegaarden for a version more true to form.

3. Saison – A style which originates in southern Belgium, it was originally brewed in the winter months to be consumed in the summer after intense farm work, which is why it’s sometimes known as “farm house ale.” This beer is light but sweet and frequently spicy, thanks to the pepper which is frequently added to it. Saison Dupont is probably the signature brewery for this style, but Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY also makes a pretty mean version known as Hennepin.

4. Steam Beer/California Common – This is the only traditional beer style of American origin. It came to be when California immigrants from Germany and Czechoslovakia attempted to make the lager styles they knew from the old country. Unfortunately the warmer temperatures and lack of refrigeration options In 19th century California meant the beer turned into something new and exciting, a hybrid style that combined the lightness of a lager with the flavor of an ale,  a true American original. Anchor Steam, America’s first craft brewery, has since copyrighted the term “steam beer” so other brewers must refer to their versions as California Common.

5. Belgian Golden Ale – Sometimes referred to as Belgian pale ales because of their relatively hoppy flavor, at least when compared to the other beers on this list, this style is crisp and refreshing.  It’s strong carbonation will also leave a huge head of foam in your glass, regardless of how carefully you pour it.  Duvel is the most famous version of this style, but there are plenty of wonderful American versions, such as Brooklyn’s Local No.1 and North Coast’s Pranqster.

This is of course just the tip of the iceberg when comes to amazing brews for the summer time. There are countless other styles that go great with this time of year. Got any suggestions? Tweet what you’re drinking and add the #mybeer hashtag to it to let us know what your favorite summer brew is and what you think about it.

Budweiser: The Great Czech Lager?

Posted on July 17th, 2009

Budweiser The Great American Lager?

Budweiser is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and well known American beers around the world. Thanks to its countless commercials proclaiming it the “King of Beers” and “The Great American Lager” coupled with its near universal availability in the US, it’s hard to think of American beer without thinking of Budweiser. Unfortunately, Budweiser isn’t American at all, it’s Czech. That’s right, the beer that is most synonymous with America was actually stolen from a brewery in what today is the Czech Republic.

Pilsner, the style of beer Budweiser attempts to replicate, is originally a Czech style of beer. Originating in the Czech town of Pilsen, Pilsner is a German word which means “from Pilsen.” The first clue that the Great American Lager actually isn’t all that great or American comes from its name. ‘Budweiser’ is also a German word, meaning “from Budweis,” which is a town in the Czech Republic. When German-American immigrant Adolphus Busch started selling Budweiser in 1876, he decided to name it after the town he got the recipe from, Budweis. This wasn’t something the people of Budweis were too pleased about of course, considering they’d been brewing their own Budweiser beer since the 14th century.

As a result Anheuser-Busch and Budejovicky Budvar, the brewery in Budweis which sells the original Budweiser, have been locked in copyright disputes ever since. Currently they’ve reached an awkward truce which allows A-B to sell its beer in the US under the name ‘Budweiser’ while in most of Europe it must be sold as simply ‘Bud’ and in Germany it’s sold under the awkward name ‘Anheuser-Busch B.’ Budejovicky Budvar for it’s part is allowed to sell their beer under Budweiser in Europe while having to go by ‘Budweiser Budvar’ here in the States.

Budweiser "Bud" and Bud Budvar

To give A-B some credit, they didn’t simply ‘borrow’ the recipe and name from Budejovicky Budvar, they also dumbed down the recipe, replacing much of the barley and grains used in the Czech version with flavorless adjuncts like rice and corn. Nothing says American like stealing from other countries and making bland, watery beer. So I guess in a lot of ways Budweiser is the Great American Lager. God Bless America!

Use the right glass for your beer

Posted on July 15th, 2009

Beer gets served in a lot of different glasses which vary wildly in shape and appearance. Some are more fun than functional, such as the “half yard of beer” you sometimes see at sports bars. Those can be fine if all you’re interested in is the novelty of it, but if you really want to get the most out of your beer then you should think twice about what glass you choose for your beer.

beerglasses6Certain styles really do benefit from certain types of glassware. In fact back in the day many European breweries (and Belgian brewers in particular) would each create a uniquely shaped glass for their beer. These glasses would frequently be designed to highlight a particular quality of each beer. The end result left even the smallest European bartender stocking many, many different glasses.

If that seems like a tall order, don’t worry; you don’t need to have a unique glass for each beer you bring home to get the most from your glass ware. To cover most of your bases all your really need is a three different glasses you can pick up at a local store. Sure there are many more styles of beer glasses than this but these three will adequately provide for the vast majority of the beers you bring home from the store.

Before we get started I should say a word about why you should pour your drink into a glass at all. A glass offers many benefits over a can or bottle. For one it makes it much easier for the beer’s aroma to reach your nose. Smell plays an important part of the way humans experience our sense of taste; that’s why nothing tastes good when you’re all stuffed up with a cold- you can’t smell anything. Secondly, a clean glass provides a much better view of your beer, its color and appearance.

pint21. PINT GLASS, MUG, TUMBLER – This is your basic glass which comes in many different variations. They allow for a good amount of room for foam and an unobstructed view of the beer’s appearance. It’s good for everything from an IPA, to a black lager. When unsure of what glass to use, you can go with this one.

tulip2. CHALICE, SNIFTER, TULIP – These are bulbous glasses with stems at the bottom and curved lips. They are designed for stronger and sweeter beers such as barleywine, stouts, and Belgian ales. Their round shape allow for vigorous swirling of the beer in order to releases their strong aromas, the curved lips and relatively large surface area direct the aromas to your nose for your enjoyment. Double IPAs with their strong hop aromas and high alcohol content also do well in this style.

hefe23. WEIZEN – These are large, tall glasses with bulbous tops. They are chiefly designed to accommodate the strong carbonation of wheat beers such as hefeweizens, weizenbock, dunkelweiss and the like.  Their length provides plenty of space to contain the massive foam these beers produce. Trying to pour a Hefeweizen into a smaller glass will surely result in not much but foam and disappointment.

Now that you’ve got the right glass ware, let us show you how to pour the perfect pint