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by Jeffery Gredlein

beer snob

Beer like it once was: Brooklyn’s pre-Prohibition lager

Lager. The revolutionary beer, the world’s best seller, the style that encompasses the most different brand names. What exactly is the big deal with lager, and why should you be weary of all the hype? First, the two basic categories of beer are ale and lager. I tend to review and stick to ales, because I like and prefer ales. These two categories are determined by the type of yeast used in brewing. Too often, the bastardized version of lager you get at your local restaurant or grocery store is a sad attempt at what could be an amazing beer. Ale, on one hand, is the old-world beer, and has been around for ages.

A top fermented beer, which means that the yeast rises to the top during brewing. Ale yeast works at warmer temperatures, leaving a thick layer on top of the beer. Lager, is a late-comer to the brewing game. A bottom fermented beer, the yeast takes longer to work its magic as it slowly makes its way to the bottom of the container. The yeast that helps to create lager beer is of a cold-temperature style, and the introduction of the style came along with the rudimentary cooling techniques that were discovered in the 15 th century. Before prohibition took hold of our country, brewers, especially immigrants, were making full-bodied and strong lagers, and all-malt brews were the standard. Due to a high demand for barley, a low output of the grain from bad weather and trouble with the high protein content of American barley, other cereal adjuncts were brought into the brewing process. Corn, grits, rice, sugars and other refined starches were thrown into the mix in the late 1800s, and the general public welcomed the new beer. Where Europeans preferred stronger, filling beers, a few in a sitting, Americans enjoyed consuming more drinks over a longer period of time. These lighter style lagers fit the bill; most breweries had to change, or at least offer a light lager, to satisfy the public. “The Pre-Prohibition Beer” states the label on Brooklyn Brewery’s Lager beer, “brewed only with malted barley, hops, water, and yeast.” Brooklyn’s lager pours up a bright amber bronze color, almost clear, with tiny lines of carbonation streaming from the bottom of the glass. A pinky finger-thick head of off-white, creamy foam sits atop the beer, but quickly drops to a thin layer. Thick lace is present all over the pint. One whiff of this beer and you know it’s a quality brew. This one smells great: Sweet malt is dominant, with a floral hop aroma in the mix as well. The first sip of this great lager will tell you it’s no typical macro-American swill. No rice or corn taste is present in this one. The malt flavor is smooth, surprisingly crisp, clean, and caramel. Hints of floral and somewhat spicy hops run under the malty goodness. The tangy, not overly bitter hops hit at the roof of the mouth, show up quickly in the aftertaste and are gone; more hops than you will find with any old yellow lager, but not dominating like a pale ale or IPA. The hop profile slowly creeps up and becomes more apparent as the beer warms. Medium bodied in the flavor department but light enough mouthfeel, this lager offers much and doesn’t leave you searching for taste or substance. Not overly carbonated, more similar to an ale than to a typical lager in a can. What a great finish this beer offers. A summer session beer, no doubt — completely refreshing, as easily at home on the boat in the sunshine as it would be at dinner with a grilled steak. Brooklyn Brewery offers another winner while the big American breweries continue to produce their tasteless, boring, fizzy yellow beers. Enjoy the brews. Cheers…

E-mail the Jeffrey Gredlein at beer_snob@hotmail.com

Beer: Brooklyn Lager

Style: Premium American Lager/American Amber Lager

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery

Origin: Brooklyn, NY.

ABV: 5.2 percent

Pairing: Brooklyn website says BBQ, burgers, fried fish, roasted chicken

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