Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Taste of Pre-Prohibition Lager

A couple days ago, I posted THIS about the hop-forward beer the Oshkosh Brewing Company was making in the early 1900s. After I’d posted that, it dawned on me that there are a couple of beers floating around town at the moment that resemble the pre-Prohibition lagers OBC was brewing.

Of the two, the example I like best is Champagne Velvet. It’s currently on tap at Gardina’s and will be hitting the Oblio’s draught line-up in the near future. It’s brewed by Upland Brewing Company of Bloomington, Indiana. According to Upland, the recipe is based upon handwritten notes found in the basement of the old Terre Haute Brewing Company. The notes were dated 1901 and were supposedly made by an assistant brewmaster at Terre Haute. That brewery dates to the 1830s and was the maker of Champagne Velvet until the brewery closed in 1959. Got that?

Anyway, the Champagne Velvet Upland is now making seems damned close to the sort of beer the Oshkosh Brewing Company was producing in the early 1900s. It’s a pale-gold beer with a grainy nose complimented by an herbal hop aroma. There’s a slight corn sweetness to it pinned under a firm bitterness that threads through the beer from beginning to end. This is precisely the sort of stuff the father of your father’s father was drinking.

Another beer in the same vein is Batch 19. This is a MillerCoors product first released in 2010. Here’s another one where the recipe was supposedly found in the basement of a brewery, this time at Coors in Colorado. Batch 19 is similar to Champagne Velvet, though more restrained. It goes easier on the hops, but there’s still enough bite there to separate it from today’s macro product. Where they go wrong with this beer is in the carbonation. It’s so over the top that it gives the beer a harshness it wouldn’t have had they deviated from their standard practice of overcompensating for the lack of flavor their beer’s typically have by blasting them with carbonation. Still, it’s a decent lager and window to what beer used to be prior to Prohibition. You can pick up Batch 19 all over town. But if you can, go for the Champagne Velvet. It’s the better of the two.

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