The Session #25: Love Lager

The SessionFirst Friday! That means it’s Beer Blogging Friday, or as we more commonly call it, The Session! Beer bloggers across the web all come together to write about a common topic and enjoy a beer or two.

March also marks the second anniversary of The Session. A bit over two years ago, Stan Hieronymus came up with the idea for the monthly beer blogging meme. That very first Session two years ago had us all examining Stouts and we haven’t looked back. Cheers, Stan! If you ever make it to Central Oregon, I’ll buy you a beer or two.

This month’s Session theme comes to us from The Beer Nut: "Love Lager".

For millions of people the word "beer" denotes a cold, fizzy, yellow drink — one which is rarely spoken of among those for whom beer is a hobby or, indeed, a way of life.

So for this Session, let’s get back to basics. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose early drinking career featured pale lager in abundance, so consider this a return to our roots as beer drinkers. Don’t even think about cheating the system: leave your doppelbocks and schwarzbiers out of this one: I want pilsners, light lagers, helleses and those ones that just say "beer" because, well, what else would it be?

I want to know what’s so great about them, and what’s awful. Are we talking just lawnmowers, barbecues and sun holidays here, or is there a time for some thoughtful considered sipping of a cold fizzy lager?

I love this topic both because it’s so counter-intuitive and because I’ve already devoted two entire weeks to exploring the American Macro Lager (the last round as recently as a month and a half ago). So this seems like a natural fit.

Pabst Blue RibbonIn America—and even in Oregon, one of the craft-beeriest places around—"light lager" means the American Macro style. Sure, you could point to Victory Prima Pils or Full Sail Session and make a case otherwise, but when you get down to it, when you say "lager" in the United States—hell, for quite a few people, even just saying "beer"—it’s understood that you mean the industrial, adjunct-brewed, light yellow stuff.

And you know what? This is going to be controversial among beer bloggers and aficionados, but—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The American Macro is a legitimate beer style that grew and evolved (for better or for worse) from the styles and techniques that the German immigrant brewers of the nineteenth century brought with them, tailored to the American palate. Budweiser was well-established as a light American "Pilsner" brewed with rice well before Prohibition killed the American brewing industry, and it didn’t become one of the most popular beers in America for nothing.

I may dump on them from time to time, but I have a ton of respect for the beers of the style and the brewers who are able to produce such an exacting product each and every time. A good Macro is good for its own sake—it doesn’t have to be complex. or full of hops, or cranked up to 11 on flavor/alcohol/color/ingredients. It’s reliable, thirst-quenching, goes down easy, and sometimes that the best kind of beer of all.

That covers "what’s go great about them", but what about "what’s awful"? Personally, what I find awful about the style is the "Lite" versions of those beers. For some reason they feel the need to dilute the beer—its flavor, alcohol, body—which is as mystifying to me as pouring half a porter and then filling the rest of the glass with water. There’s no point to it—I guarantee the people settling for a "Lite" beer sure aren’t worried about "Lite" anything else. I just don’t get it.

Coors OriginalSo. Let’s get down to the beer itself. Of all the beers I drank and reviewed from both American Macro Weeks, my two favorites were (and still are) Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Original (not Lite!). (I know, I’m recycling reviews here instead of offering up new ones—but I actually drank a Pabst tonight at my parents’ house, so I’m up to date, if that helps.)

Of the Pabst, I wrote:

Taste: Crisp, clean, smooth… the grain note here is (again) rice, which is interesting since it’s the first of these that has that characteristic (as opposed to corn, for instance). Cereal. Kind of a mild "wet grass" hop thing going on.

Mouthfeel: Light, smooth, and thin… a kind of mineral character in the residue/aftertaste.

The verdict: Still my general favorite… doesn’t have the "iconic" beer thing going on like the Coors Original, but for what it is, this is among the best. It’s clean, refreshing, crisp, and quenching with no off-flavors or funkiness. An American classic.

It’s still my go-to beer when I reach for an American Macro.

Of the Coors, I wrote:

Taste: Cold, malty, a tad more hop character here than in many (most?) of the others. Still very light and has almost no aftertaste, but you can tell this is beer.

Mouthfeel: Light-bodied, but substantial—I don’t get "watery" or "thin." There’s some body here.

The verdict: I’m actually quite surprised as this is far better than I’ve been coming to expect! Looks, smells, and tastes the role of "beer"… no off-flavors or alternative grains/adjuncts (corn) that I can detect. For what it is, it’s top of the class so far. Very drinkable.

A Session wherein I write about PBR and Coors. Who’d’a thunk it.