Beer Reviews: A Lineup of Lagers

For our second round of National Beer Panel reviews, we asked panelists to taste and rate lagers. These reviews include brief tasting notes, ratings and information about ABV and IBUs. All beers should be widely available (for sale in at least three major metro markets).

If you’re a retail or on-premise beer professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, please contact associate editor Kyle Swartz at 203-855-8499 ext. 225 or kswartz@specialtyim.com

FIVE STARS

Nooner_Bottle_2015_12oz copy(98) Nooner Pilsner (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA) 5.2% ABV, 38 IBUs. A snow-white head from the bottle that has staying power, and a lovely golden straw color that is clear as can be. It has a clean, light, malty nose with a pronounced noble-hop aroma. A perfect balance of malt and corn-like sweetness, with a strong noble-hop flavor and bitterness that lasts and lasts. This beer is a wonderful take on an old-country classic.

(95) Hotter Than Helles Lager (Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL) 5% ABV, 20 IBUs. This beer pours from the can with a short-lived creamy white head with a crystal clear pale golden color that has a strong clean grainy aroma with very little hop in the nose. Has a wonderful carbonic bite that plays well with clean and crisp malty sweetness kissed slightly with noble hops. A quintessential lawnmower beer made for Florida’s long hot summer on the boat, beach or lounging by the pool.

(94) Zywiec Porter (Zywiec Brewery, Zywiec, Poland) 9.3% ABV. Opaque black, with tall-and-creamy tan head. Toffee and dark chocolate fill the nose. The sweet malt is complemented by toffee, chocolate and cappuccino flavors. Medium-bodied, viscous and creamy. Long, luxurious finish. Throat warming is pleasant, and the alcohol is well concealed. Unlike American or British porters, which are typically ales, this porter is done in the Baltic style, which means it was cold fermented like a lager.

(94) Brooklyn Lager (Brooklyn Brewery, NY, NY) 5.2% ABV, 33 IBUs. Amber-gold in color and displays a firm malt center supported by a refreshing bitterness and hoppy aroma. Dry-hopping with Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, Vanguard and Cascade hops. This is the pretty lager for any food pairing — or just by itself.

FOUR STARS

(92) Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Smoked Beer) (Schlenkerla Brewery, Bavaria, Germany) 5.2% ABV. Burnished, bronze beer. Short, bone-colored head is a bit soapy looking (large bubbles). Pleasant campfire-like smokiness. The base beer (marzen) is evident before the smoke flavor makes an appearance. The smoky character is subtle and well-integrated, and doesn’t seem to be as intense as in previous years. This beer goes great with smoked sausage, or ham and sharp cheddar cheese.

(92) Yokel Kellerbier (New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus, WI) 4.2% ABV, 18 IBUs. A Kellerbier is a style of unfiltered lager dating back to the Middle Ages in Bavaria. This modern interpretation is slightly cloudy with aromas of poached pear and subtle spice. The mouthfeel is round and creamy with some malt sweetness, herbal hop character and a refreshing finish.

(92) Craft American Lager (Due South Brewing, Boynton Beach, FL) 4.6% ABV, 20 IBUs. Pouring from the can, a clean white head that lingers, and a light golden color with the slightest of haze. Very little in the way of grain or hops in the nose of this beer. What it lacks in aroma it makes up for with a wonderfully hop-forward flavor, and bitterness that stays with you. Pairs well with understated malt flavors that finish clean and crisp.

(92) Eliot Ness Lager (Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH) 6.2% ABV. This Vienna-style lager is one that IPA fans would enjoy. Poured from a 12-ounce bottle, the deep, rich, reddish-copper color had a ¼-inch head that was maintained throughout consumption. A strong hop taste with berry and pepper overtones, and a sneaky 6.2% ABV.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.48.00 AM(91) Brawler Lager (Yards Brewing CO., Philadelphia, PA.) 4.2%, 12 IBUs. Malt-forward and hopped, for a well-balanced flavor. Hints of caramel and toast. Ruby-colored beer, a true session-able beer.

(91) Optimator Doppelbock (Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu Brewery, Munich, Germany) 7.6% ABV, 25 IBUs. A traditional German doppelbock that pours a dark, burnt-amber color. Medium-bodied with flavors of lightly roasted coffee, dates and smoky malts. With just a flash of hops on the finish, Optimator is a very balanced and enjoyable German doppelbock.

(90) Prima Pils (Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA) 5.3% ABV, 44 IBUs. Pours a clear, golden color, leaving a slight head. Prima Pils is Victory’s wonderful example of a German pilsner with an American twist. This hop-forward Pilsner is crisp, clean and refreshing, with a slightly bitter finish. Perfect for the warm summer months.

(90) Craft Lager (Upslope Brewing Co.,
Boulder, CO.) 4.8% ABV, 15 IBUs. Appearance was to be expected from a lager: a light yellow tint and consistent head. Very light aroma. The taste is quite smooth, without that bite on the end. The malt and Czech Saaz hops work quite well together. There is no struggle on the tongue that I’ve experienced with other lagers. A great beer to have when you are thirsting for easy drinking. I can see why this is one of our customers’ favorites in this category.

(89) Helles Lager (Copper Kettle Brewing Co., Denver, CO) 4.8% ABV, 16 IBUs. A noticeable burnt orange hue as I poured this into the glass. When I had this from the can a few weeks ago, I had no idea it was this dark. This brew has a crisp taste, with a definite German-style yeast overtone. The aroma reminded me of an overripe banana or pineapple. Great label.

(89) Beer Camp Hoppy Lager (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA) 7% ABV, 55 IBUs. This imperial lager is a rework of last year’s Electric Ray, a collaboration with Ballast Point Brewing. Pours a light-golden color with a thin, white head. Hop-driven, finishes with a crisp bite.

(89) Buffalo Lager (Flying Bison Brewing Co., Buffalo, NY) 5.2% ABV. A crisp, easy-drinking lager that will appeal to a wide variety of beer fans. The 12-ounce bottle poured a golden color with a ¼-inch head, and features a sparkling wine-like carbonation effect. With hints of honey and caramel, and a moderate ABV, this lager pairs very well with chicken wings.

(88) 1554 Black Lager (New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO.) 5.6% ABV. This dark mahogany brew exhibits ruby highlights, and a medium, frothy head. Mildly sweet malt aroma with background nougat and chocolate notes. Straightforward malt flavor with understated dark grain presence. Dark chocolate and a hint of smokiness late. Dryish finish with good length. Excellent balance. Medium-bodied. Very clean and un-complex beer — quite drinkable. This is a dark beer for people who don’t like dark beers.

(88) Firebrick Lager (Schell’s Brewery, New Ulm, MN) 5% ABV. A Vienna-style lager with a rich amber color and a thick, white head. Flavors of roasted caramel malt, toffee and nuttiness with very subtle hop tones. Very smooth and enjoyable ‘all-occasions” brew.

(88) Aying Jahrhundert Dortmunder Export Lager (Brauerei Brewery, Bavaria, Germany) 5.5% ABV. First brewed for the brewery’s 100th anniversary. It pours a golden-yellow with a moderate white head. Nice balance of malt and hop bitterness, leading to a crisp finish.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 8.49.22 AM(87) Leisure Time Wheat Lager (Jack’s Abby Brewing, Framingham, MA) 4.8% ABV, 15 IBUs. Pours slightly cloudy with some sediment. Fruity, spicy and slightly sweet. Leisure Time reminds one of a Belgian witbier. This beer is anything but the simple, fizzy, yellow beer your grandpa used to drink.

(87) Hell Helles Lager (Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis, MN) 4.5% ABV, 20 IBUs. Hell is German for “light,” and this beer certainly fits that translation. Clocking in at 4.5% ABV and 20 IBUs, this Helles lager is crisp and refreshing, with just the right amount of hop bite and bready pilsner malt. A well-balanced beer that is perfect for warm weather and spicy foods.

(87) Brooklyn Lager (Brooklyn Brewery, NY, NY) 5.2% ABV, 33 IBUs. Pours amber, with a quick-forming, persistent head. Nice sweet-barley malts on the nose, as well as some subtle citrus hop notes. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with sweet malt taste up front, followed by notes of toasted barley, and citrus hops. Well-balanced, and simple.

THREE STARS

(86) Old Scratch Amber Lager (Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD) ABV 5.5% 19.5 IBUs. Pours clear and amber, with a nice head. Toasted malt, and bread on the nose. On the palate, light and refreshing toasted malt followed by a light sweetness. Very smooth, no bite at all. A very simple amber lager

(86) Kostritzer Schwarzbier (Kostritzer Brewery, Germany) 4.8% ABV. Pours black with a thin, brown head. Malty aromas give way to a clean, balanced, malt-driven body. Low ABV makes this a great alternative when you want a darker beer but are not in the mood for a porter or stout. BD

(84) Longboard Lager (Kona Brewing Co., Kailua-Kona, HI) 4.6% ABV. Golden straw color with light, bready aromas. The clean, crisp malt flavors and effervescent mouthfeel make this a refreshing beer. Longboard is perfect for a hot day on the beach or backyard BBQ.

(81) Longboard Lager (Kona Brewing Co., Kailua-Kona, HI) 4.6%, 18 IBUs. Smooth and refreshing lager. A delicate, slightly spicy hop aroma that complements this beer’s malty body. Very easygoing and welcoming, for any drinker.

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