10 March 2009

Loved lager: The Session round-up

Session logoThanks to everyone who got down and clean-tasting for my lager-themed Session last weekend. 49 participants is a very respectable showing and I think between us we really covered the topic -- one which I hoped was usefully broad, even if some of you disagreed.

I've spent the last two evenings going through the posts and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I couldn't help but start categorising them into those who gave me the mass-market beers I wanted, and those who just couldn't bring themselves to do it. So, without it being any measure of the quality of the posts themselves, I give you the Fails and Wins of Session 25:

The Fails
First fail, of course, was me. Some microbrewed lager and then a rare specialty? I really didn't represent my home country's crap lager very well, though neither did any of my fellow countrymen and countrywoman for that matter, as we'll see below.

Thom at Black Cat, for instance, tries to hide his fail behind science, picking an African import, and rather liking it. Hop Talk's Al also went for an import because he happened to be mostly drinking Samuel Smith's last week and far be it from me to change that.

Ray of The Barley Blog reckons he's found the "the perfect beer for this month's Session, both in terms of style and relevance." It's an ale. That word again: Ale. Maybe I didn't make the theme clear enough in the title. At Musings Over A Pint, David tells us there's enough good lager out there for us not to be concerned at the reputation of the mass market stuff, but gives us nothing on whether that reputation is deserved or not.

Paul of A Flowery Song is among the conscientious failers: denying that his beery exploits began with pale lager, and refusing to go mass-market just this once. His Frugal Joe's Ordinary Beer is just a bit too knowingly cheap to count, I think: classless beers are only fun when they're trying to be something they plainly aren't.

Mario would like us to believe that he had to make do with a Lagunitas Pils, because every other beer he saw for sale was a powerful and/or hoppy ale. Maybe that is what "Sonoma Joe Six-Pack" goes for when he wants a lager, but by the sounds of it he doesn't have much time for the style at all. Up in Portland, Bill has similar trouble and opts for a retro-styled local craft lager. A World of Brews also goes craft on me -- Coney Island Lager -- but does put in a good word for Pabst Blue Ribbon when out with the Hash House Harriers. Rob of Pfiff! is another claiming the California Defence -- no crap beer to be found -- and refuses to go out and play with the other kids. Top marks for title punnage though.

Edmond of MMMM....Beer gives us Legends, a Virginian micro-lager up with the best Germany has to offer and therefore a total fail. At I'll Have a Beer, Couchand tells us that Millstream's Iowan pilsner is leaning more towards Bavarian than Czech influences this year. Well fancy! Fail. At least Tom has an excuse for his microbrewed Stoudts Pils: he works for the distributor. Cha-ching!

I sympathise with, and apologise for, the crisis I induced in Damien when he just couldn't bring himself to buy a full six-pack of crap as his beer shop didn't do singles, and opted for something more interesting instead. Similarly, my attempt to lay the smack down on Ted of Barley Vine failed as he avoided the beer equivalent of Kraft Singles and steered a middle course for something decent, local, but generally avoided by serious beer-drinkers for no good reason he can see.

Beer-O-Vision's Dan manages to avoid telling us much about drinking beer, with no mention of any actual brand of lager, but then he was judging a homebrew competition.

I missed talking to Thirsty Pilgrim Joe at the Cantillon open brew day on Saturday, and I also totally forgot to pick up a bottle of the Slaapmutske Dry-Hopped lager while I was in Belgium, even though I meant to. But Joe skips past Jupiler to get to this, so it's a fail, I'm afraid.

The Wins
Velky Al and Adeptus, living in the Czech Republic and Germany respectively had fishes in barrels for this one. Al gives us a run down of the Czech Republic's legendary lagers, and why they should be stripped of their status (corn syrup!), then shows us where to look for the good stuff. Adeptus really went above and beyond with the theme this time round, staging a blind tasting of five common German lagers for his pilsener-loving workmates. It looks like Jever isn't the German classic it's often made out to be.

From the Acceptable Uses For Bland Lager file, we have Steph's game of frisbeer and Jimmy's moving-day philanthropy. Leigh goes for the sun holiday -- several, in fact -- but comes back home to big up Yorkshire's Moravka lager as still enjoyable even in the heart of Real Ale country. Brad, meanwhile, goes far beyond the lawnmower to list a variety of mileux where crap lager is acceptable, nay, desireable. The Cellarman gives us some alternative uses for mass-market lager other than drinking the wretched stuff, and his suggestion of slug-bait gives me an excuse to post this wonderful practical experiment.

Boak and Bailey creep in under the wire with a review of Skinner's Cornish Lager. Yes it's an independent English brewery trying to ape a Mexican giant, but it seems to be getting ubiquitous enough, they say, to count for the Session. It's certainly bland enough.

We welcome Beer Sagas from Norway to the Session and he can find no greater pleasure after a long flight than a plastic cup of Heineken. Too right. Extra points for being the only participant to mention the world's favourite lager.

On Beertaster.ca, Devoid gives us two down-home world-famous Canadian beers, and notes the universal truth of industrial lager: they all taste the same. Alan also stays local with some Keith's and associated memories in the hope that it'll make me happy. It did, Alan. It did.

Beer Sage keeps it short and sweet on My Beer Pix, summing it all up with a picture of some recently-pounded cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a sunny back yard. That'll do. The multimedia PBR carnival continues at Geek Beer's podcast about it and a couple of other American macros -- the first Session podcast there's been, I think.

Wilson of Brewvana has never had Schlitz before, and believes he may have found himself a new lawnmower beer. So we achieved something on Friday.

Mark at Pencil & Spoon gives us the full lager-based biography from helping Dad with the lawn, through teenage rebellion, to the background noise of any beer drinker's life. Conversely, Todd at Krausen Rising was denied the proper lager education most of us receive in our youth but does manage to recall a brief encounter, later in life, with some Hamm's. He gives us at least 60 degrees of the macrolager flavourwheel: "swamp water, despair, trailers, warehouse shows, barbecues where things go horribly wrong and end up with helicopters circling the house". Beautiful.

At Red, White and Brew, Brian says he hasn't touched the bad stuff since his student days, but avoids failing by whipping out Colin, the trusty lagerhead he keeps on his spare bed. Every home should have one.

Buttle struggles a bit with the notion that "fancy-pants imported beer" is a relative term depending on where you happen to be. He opts for Genesee Bock anyway and as it's a local mass-market affair I'm happy to let it pass.

Even though I'm sending Jon of The Brew Site back over old ground, and even though he lives in Oregon, he still takes the time to tell us about Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Original and defend their existence. Wonderful dedication to the daft topic. D M goes one further and heads undercover to a dive bar to seek a kind of full immersion in macrolager culture. Captain Hops has his own personal macrolager culture, an active outdoorsy one he expresses, of course, as Beer Haiku.

Jay Brooks straddles the Win/Fail border with Reading Premium. Certainly there's no arguing with his account of it as the cheap and available beer of his youth, but when he veers into the recently re-introduced micro-version "updated to modern sensibilities" there's a danger we may be talking about something special, and therefore verboten for this Session. I'll let it pass, however. Similarly, Laura tells us about an ordinary everyday lager on Aran Brew. It just happens that it's the ordinary everyday lager in Jamaica rather than Ireland -- a win on a technicality, that one. Stan does the same for Germany. Mmmph.

The Reluctant Scooper succumbs to the inevitable Underworld reference, begins with a run-down of own-brand UK supermarket lager (including the joy of polyvinylpolypyrrolidone) but gradually becomes a soapbox piece on the importance of crap lager in the life of the conscientious beer drinker. I think I struck a chord with this one.

It's certainly a factor for the distracted Lew of Seen Through A Glass: Narragansett offers something to drink when you just don't want to have to pay attention, whereas Tomme Arthur prefers a Mickey's Malt Liquor in similar circumstances -- something that started as an April Fool's joke but stayed with him. Generik, meanwhile, finds macrolager just the ticket once palate-fatigue creeps in after a night on the tasty stuff.

From Peter at BetterBeerBlog we get a deeply personal story of love, loss and light lager. Ally also reminisces, over on Impy Malting, and continues her education in British culture by learning a new (lager-related) word: ladette.

In California, Craig of the Beers, Beers, Beers team reports on the erratic Truman pils, brewed in Berkeley by an Austrian brewery. Quite poorly, as it happens. Chris at Pint Log, finally, gives us some superb thoroughness, right down to the essential brown paper bags -- a great first Session post.

And that's your lot. Thanks everyone for participating. If your link got lost in the flabby folds of my inbox, or I've linked you up wrongly, or misspelled your chosen ersatz pilsner, drop me a line. On April 3rd we're doing something called rauchbier (?), courtesy of some yank called Bryson (?)

But before I go, another lager and some good news. Local readers may remember the late great Dublin Brewing Company of Smithfield which went out of business back in 2004, just as the progressive beer duty law kicked in. Well, it looks like they're getting back in the game: same logo, same font, but Big Hand Brewery is the new name. No beers of their own yet, but they've started by importing three from Van Steenberge in Belgium. One, of course, is a lager -- an unpasteurised pils called Sparta. I sampled it in Sin É on Ormond Quay last week. It's rather different from the beers I covered in my own Session post, being much sharper with an uncompromising but tasty bitter bite. The first own-brand product out of Big Hand will be a revival of DBC's Wicked Cider. Can we expect it to be followed by D'Arcy's, Beckett's, Maeve's and Revolution? Here's hoping.

Between these new imports, my recent weekend in Brussels, and current shape of my stash, I've a feeling things are going to be fairly Belgian around here for the next while. Oh well...


  1. Great stuff TBN. I'm enjoying your markings almost as much as the posts :D