Friday, April 27, 2018

Loudness and LagerQuestTM.

The bar is loud. There are gigantic TVs everywhere, the beer is tongue-numblingly cold with no foam of which to speak, and everyone is so gregariously friendly that it creeps me out at first, but it's OK because I can't hear them anyway. The bar is loud.

Must be back in America. I try to savor the surrealism of it while I can, before the reverse culture shock wears off, my accent returns, and it starts to feel normal again. Y'all.

Amid the overwhelming variety, or at least the illusion of it, it helps me to have a mission. Narrow things down, stay on the path, and out of trouble. So, I am on American LagerQuestTM. Now that I am completely spoiled by German and Czech lager, it's time to start tasting this American "craft lager" trend that y'all (gasp) keep talking and writing about.

Here is where I remind you that although I have been writing for American beer mags for more than 10 years, I have not lived in the U.S. for 12. In some ways my American beer-drinking brain remains stuck in the year 2006, and I like it that way. Perspective! So I get to marvel at all the marvelousness -- Voodoo Ranger IPA on an American Airlines flight! -- and also feel all smug and superior about things like the great travesty that is approximately 92.4% of American-brewed saison.

First go at LagerQuestTM last night, with the beer to help jet-lagged guy get a proper night's sleep, was underwhelming. Hotel bar has one called Tennessee Lager, so I had to, didn't I? From a brewery called Hap & Harry's, with a label/tap handle meant to evoke Jack Daniels and some measure of state pride. It tasted more bitter than its teeny IBUs thanks to ice-coldness and CO2 (read: fizzy). As such, it went down rather easily -- so, did its job. The malt sweetness was plain and understated. A bland beer but not badly done. But why pay extra when you could have a longneck domestic?

I promise not to judge America or even Tennessee by this one beer, painting with a broad and hugely unfair brush. I'll need to drink at least two more beers before I start doing that.


  1. What's wrong with American saison? (Real question. I've had very little of it.)

    1. Outside of a few shining examples (like Hill Farmstead and the like), there are a lot of lazily brewed ones -- underattenuated and used as excuses to empty the spice cabinet. However these days I'm seeing more of them as playthings for various types of mixed fermentation, which fits the saison story well enough and at least is more interesting. Problem: Instead of overspiced, now they're overpriced. My €0.02.

  2. I have got to the point with most American 'craft' lager that I would sooner drink a couple of litres of Konig Pilsener than take the risk. Particularly disturbing is the frequency with which I see variations on the theme of "has just the right amount of skunk" when it comes to iterations of pilsner.

  3. And here I am, having drunk beer in Cologne, Bamberg, Prague, and now Berlin, and realizing that the Oregon lagers I love, dubbed Czech or German though they be, hold just a birthday candle to these beauties.