Imprted Lagers- it’s a premium bland!
By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish
It’s actually pretty frustrating for beer lovers. Go into a fine restaurant and look at what beverages are available to complement your $40 entrée. There’s a wine list the size of the US Tax Code, but as far a beer is concerned, there’s the same old four brews the caterer supplied at your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah.
Some of us LIKE beer with our dinner, and while it may never be as hoity-toity as wine, it would be nice to see some of the wonderfully complex and worldly beers on the freakin’ menu from time to time!
Anyway, if you’re sitting down with your date, and you have to choose among the staple imports, allow us to break them down for you. If you’re picking up some euro lager for around the house, we’ve offered some suggestions you may not have considered.
Beck’s Lager, from the German town of Bremen, is the German analog of Budweiser and the most widely available German beer in the USA. It’s conspicuously clean-tasting and well balanced. You can taste both the malt foundation and a pleasant bitterness imparted by the hops.
These characteristics make Beck’s a good choice if you’re mowing the lawn, or if you’re flying to Germany in Lufthansa’s less-than commodious economy cabin (where it’s free). But if more character and flavor is desired, find some Spaten Lager or Jever Pils.
It doesn’t seem necessary to prove that Americans will buy anything, but Corona affirms the theory nonetheless. You have a Corona there? Oh goody. Let’s try a little experiment. Open the bottle…
Now take a sip without the lime.
See? Nasty, isn’t it? The fact that Corona is borderline undrinkable without the addition of Citrus fruit, coupled with its premium price, makes this Mexican import as favorite whipping boy for beer enthusiasts, many of whom have their own theories about how the brewery workers ‘produce’ this thin yellow lager.
Granted, with the lime, a Corona can go down nicely on a hot day, and you sure can drink ‘em fast, which explains their population among the frat boy ‘first real job’ professional set. But for a step up, try Pacifico or Sol. They’re also imported from Mexico but offer a bit more flavor and pleasant character.
The Netherlands, of course, weighs in with Heineken, another beer whose export success can be chalked up to marketing dollars. The chief gripe about Heiney is the skunky flavor. It’s caused by the green bottle, which unlike brown bottles don’t stop ultraviolet light. The UV breaks down the alpha acids in the hops, causing a chemical reaction which releases that skunk flavor.
The Heineken keg-cans, however, avoid the skunk problem; from a can, you can taste Heineken as it actually is: bland. No character, No real presence, a lackluster body, yet waaay over hyped, it is the Paris Hilton of beers. Still, it’s drinkable when you’re at that wedding to which you’ve been dragged. And you don’t know 80% of the people there, and the only person you want to talk to is the bartender who’s just popped you another Heineken , and, oh crap, they’re about to start ‘The Chicken Dance…’
Sorry, little flashback there. Anyway, for a better, more interesting Dutch beer, get some Grolsch. It’s more robust, with a pleasant sweetness, and it comes in a cool chunky bottle with a mechanical stopper- you can unseal and reseal the bottle as much as you want. Great fun!
We’re not saying these beers are the bottom of the barrel, but they’re engineered and marketed to stay firmly in the middle. We drink them, and enjoy them, but it behooves any beer enthusiast to look beyond the obvious and find the true great flavors and combinations.
Just like any good chef or sommelier should. Hint, hint!
Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.