Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Couple of Big Lagers to Enjoy This Weekend in Oshkosh

Lager beer gets a bad rap. Even among those who know a thing or two about good beer, I still encounter people who remain wedded to the idea that lagers are low impact and bland. I suppose we have a few decades of tepid macro-beer to thank for that. Well, here’s a couple of beers that put the lie to such rank bullshit. These two big lagers from the Milwaukee Brewing Company explore the dark and spirited side of that good, old lager beer. Let’s start with the dark...

Dark Matter Imperial Schwarzbier
Schwarzbier is a German-style of dark lager. Usually, it’s a medium-bodied brew that accentuates malt over hops and is of moderate strength. Kind of like a German pilsner, but black. This beer ramps all of that way the hell up. It’s definitely a black (schwarz) beer. In the glass it’s opaque under a thin lid of sandy foam. It gives off a rich aroma that brings to mind malted milk and chocolate cream. Drawing it in, the malt flavor is uppermost. It’s creamy/sweet and at the same time cookie like. The beer is a mouthful, but balanced by enough roast and hop bitterness to keep it from being too sticky. The warming finish of alcohol is especially nice. You wouldn’t guess that it’s 9.5% ABV until you’ve finished it. I love this beer.

Doppelvision Barrel Aged Doppelbock
I was thinking the other day about how tired I am of barrel-aged beers. Barrel aging has gone the way of hopping rates. Most of the barrel-aged beers you get now are so ridiculously overwrought with spirit flavors that the character of the beer is lost; usually to an unpleasant bite of highly compromised, often musty, bourbon flavor. So I picked this one up with some trepidation. My faith has been restored. This is what barrel aging is all about! Doppelvision is aged in bourbon barrels and you get that. But those flavors are a part of the beer, not the essence of it. The beer pours deep brown with a sticky rim of tan foam. The scent is rich with caramel malt aromas threaded by bourbon and vanilla. It has a full mouthfeel. Caramel and toffee flavors arrive first and are backed by bourbon and vanilla notes, giving the beer a delicious, candy liqueur aspect. The beer is 8% ABV and there’s a slight heat from that alcohol that seems to tie the flavors together. The balance of this is just incredible. That’s about the last thing I expect from a bourbon-barrel aged beer. You want bourbon, go drink bourbon. You want a real beer with a spectrum of flavor that includes bourbon, then get this.

At this point it ought to be pretty obvious: Gardina’s. You think Festy has the foresight to carry something like this? No fucking way. Anyway, Gardina’s is selling 750-milliliter bombers of both of these beers for $8.99. That’s a good price for these small-batch brews. And the quantity at Gardina’s is limited. You want some? You’ll have to get there before I get there again. Prost!

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