05 November 2018

American macro

A postscript to my Canadian wanderings of the last fortnight: indulging my curiosity about mainstream US beer brands, and recording my impressions here, conclusively.

Miller Lite comes in a white can that bears a striking resemblance to the Miller Pilsner which was a mainstay of my early drinking years in the UK of the 1990s. I've often wondered if they're the same beer. Anyway, I made a point of trying it when I saw it. It's 4% ABV and the pale gold you'd expect from an American light lager. The texture is smooth and I detect a certain greasy esteriness. "Lite" it ain't. A fruity sweet flavour follows, showing surprising levels of red apple and apricot. In another sort of beer that might be a pleasant complexity; here it's just a flaw. The lack of crispness is what bothers me most about this: it's not properly clean and harder work to drink than it should be.

To follow, The Champagne of Beers, no less: Miller High Life. It proved blander than the foregoing, smooth and flavourless, with vague hints of vanilla and tin. This is one designed to be pounded without thought: it slips back easily and merrily like... well... like champagne. There's a certain thickness to the texture but I'll bet that vanishes when it's served properly ice cold. This isn't unpleasant the way macro lagers often are but it's still not... a beer anyone should... buy.

I expected a veritable feast for the senses from Coors Banquet. I got something half way between the previous two. And you didn't think a crappier version of Miller Lite was possible. There's a certain amount of crispness here, but it's part of an overall green apple kick, with the same greasy thickness as found in the others. Spongecake and golden syrup say proper lager; a nail varnish buzz gives it all away immediately after. When it warms up at all it starts tasting of headaches. This wasn't too bad to drink but I suspect it's the one I'd most likely regret if I'd bought another.

AB InBev's answer to Blue Moon, Shock Top Belgian White, is one of those beers I've long harboured a curiosity about. So when I saw tall cans in the beer fridge of a Montréal supermarket I snapped one up immediately. Then I sneaked it onto a train. Don't tell the guard.

It's 5.2% ABV and a pale hazy yellow colour. A very fine white mousse forms cheerily on top. It smells broadly like a witbier, with maybe less citrus and more esters than one might expect. A jolt of coriander opens the flavour, and by and large closes it too. This makes the beer taste unpleasantly soapy, and there's nothing to counter it: no cleansing lemon zest or hop bitterness. Shock Top is very nearly acceptably bland but doesn't even manage that, leaning far too much on that coriander. I guess you're meant to put an orange in it, but I won't be making a return visit to try that.

Diageo's grand project to install a new brewery on the site of the old Seagram's plant in Baltimore is one that makes regular appearances in my Twitter timeline, via the likes of Oliver Gray and Jon Urch. When fully commissioned, the flagship here will be Guinness Blonde Lager, currently brewed by AB InBev elsewhere in the South, and not available in Europe. When I spotted it on sale in Quebec's fabulously named government off licence, SAQ, I picked up a can to give it a try.

"Made with American hops" it proudly declares on the can, and while I didn't get a rush of pine or grapefruit there is a subtle and pleasant lemon tang. This is set on a lightly tannic base, creating a super-quenching lemon tea effect, one accentuated by the deep golden colour. The aroma is a little estery, in a way that lager shouldn't be, while the finish brings a sweet raw grain note which is a little