Longboard Island Lager

kona-longboard-lagerThis Hawaiian offering is pretty simple, even for a lager.  Fitting into the “supposed-to-be-light-because-you’re-supposed-to-drink-it-at-the-beach” style, this lager is decent overall.  It’s smooth from start to finish and is never offensive, offering basic lager flavor that only appears in the middle of each sip and is relatively plain.  Despite the rudimentary flavor profile, what is nice is that Longboard has a little more body than other similar beers, such as Landshark.  Too many beers in this vein taste more like water than beer, which I suppose is the point, but while Longboard’s body reminds you that you’re actually drinking a beer, I’d still like a little more flavor.  Longboard is like Dos Equis with less flavor and just the slightest more body.  At no point did I ever not like Longboard, but I’d rather have something else.

Overall                 4/10
Color                    2
Thickness            4
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.6%

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Adirondack Lager

Adirondack Lager is one of Saranac’s core beers, and is a nice take on the lager.  Slightly heavier than the traditional lager, this beer is great if you’re looking for something relatively plain, though still very drinkable, with something a little extra.  This lager has more mouthfeel and weight than most lagers you’ll find, but to me that’s what makes it good.  Caramel malt is used is used to provide a subtle sweetness you don’t often find in lagers.  Malt outweighs the hops just enough to give Adirondack Lager a creamy and soothing texture.  The sweetness isn’t too much, doesn’t way you down and doesn’t leave an aftertaste.  Each sip is pretty smooth from start to finish, although at times the carbonation is a bit much, but this is a problem a lot of lagers have.  But I like this beer because, as lagers should be, it’s very simple.  The flavor won’t blow you away, but offers something to savor and is light enough to enjoy many of.  It’s not thick, but offers enough body if you’re looking for a lighter-tasting beer with a more satisfying body.  While not one of the best lagers I’ve ever had, it’s definitely worth a try to see how lagers, a traditionally simple beer style, can be enhanced and made unique.

Overall                 7/10
Color                    6
Thickness            6
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.5%

Supper Club

I was originally drawn to this beer, from Capital Brewery, because of the label.  A nostalgic image complements the brewer’s description of a simple, American lager from a time when it was all there was to drink (i.e. before craft beers existed).  Aside from reminding me of Mad Men, I was curious and decided to give it a go.  This beer does a good job of fitting in the classic American lager mold, but it could be better.  Supper Club reminds me a lot of Coors (The Banquet Beer, not light), but not as good.  It is light in flavor, mouthfeel and color, but doesn’t offer a whole lot.  A slight sweetness reminiscent of Coors is the main flavor, but it’s not as smooth as Coors and not as easy to drink.  The malt element is too pronounced and leaves a bitter flavor at the back end.  This is supposed to be an easy-to-drink comfort beer, and while it follows the traditional flavor for this style, it should be smoother.  Supper Club would be fine in the early morning hours, as the box description mentions, but not very pleasant earlier in the night.  If you want to drink what Supper Club should be, have a Coors to see how it’s done.

Overall                 4/10
Color                    3
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          6
ABV                       5.0%

Sierra Nevada Summerfest

I had a party at my house last weekend and because it was going to be 90 degrees and humid, I needed something light and refreshing to cool the masses.  After a long browse in my favorite local liquor store, I settled on Sierra Nevada Summerfest.  A crisp lager would work perfectly on a hot day outside, and since I’d never tried Sierra Nevada’s summer seasonal, it was time to give it a go.  Sierra Nevada is one of the most prominent craft brewing companies in the United States.  It’s now a well-known story that Sierra Nevada started after California ended it’s ban on home brewing in the 1970s, when small brewing clubs formed across the state during the home brewing “revolution.”  And now, years later, Sierra Nevada products can be found in almost every liquor store and their most common beer, their pale ale, is often found at bars alongside Sam Adams and Blue Moon as one of America’s most popular microbreweries.  Sierra Nevada was very influential and helped America fall in love with craft beers, and as a whole puts out very good products.  My hopes were high when I bought Sierra Nevada Summerfest, but unfortunately I was let down right away.

As a whole, Sierra Nevada Summerfest just doesn’t offer a lot.  It’s true that lagers are supposed to be basic and simple, but this beer left a void and me unsatisfied.  On the front end there is almost no taste.  I guess you could say it’s crisp and clean because of it, but there’s still no flavor.  The flavorless beginning progresses to a back end that leaves an unexpected, heavier aftertaste.  The aftertaste is hard to place, though, but I guess you’d say it’s malty.  It’s a strange contrast from a beer that was almost nonexistent in the beginning.  There’s no pronounced hop, malt, wheat or fruit flavor, which is fine, but a lack of flavor in general.  Summerfest does live up to traditional lager characteristics such as light mouthfeel and color, there’s just a lot to be desired when drinking it.  I wish I had more to say about Summerfest, but there’s not much else to say.  It’s not that good and doesn’t satisfy a craving for a clean, easy-to-drink beer.  I expected a lot more from this lager and Sierra Nevada, and I know I won’t be trying it again.

Overall                 5/10
Color                    3
Thickness            3
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       5.0%

Dortmunder Gold

The first time I tried this selection from the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio, I had a bad experience.  My friend was kind enough to buy it for me to try and review, but since it was warm upon purchase I had to wait for it to become cold.  I became impatient and tried it too soon, which yielded disappointment.  I needed to give it another chance to see if I was misled before, and I’m glad I did, because it was vastly better the second time.  It sounds dumb to say that this was better when it was colder, but the profile of this beer needs proper chilling.  If not cold enough it can sit wrongly in the mouth and the entire flavor profile is different.

So what does Dortmunder Gold taste like? It’s a very crisp beer with malty notes throughout.  It is slightly darker in color yet relatively transparent, with a typical above-average thickness.  The malt is soothing from the beginning of each sip and continues to the finish.  This lager sits heavier than most lagers, though, due to the high malt concentration.  Most lagers are very light and crisp, and although Dortmunder Gold is crisp, it is thicker that most lagers.  There is much more substance to this than the typical lager and is more filling.  While it is very good, don’t expect to drink this like you would a more conventional lager.  This is one to savor and enjoy a few of, not drink many.  My only caveat about Dortmunder Gold is that the malt can build up to be a little too much over time and eventually leave a little malt residue on the back of your mouth.  The thickness can also accumulate and fill you up.   If you’re looking for a crisp beer with more substance, you’ll enjoy this, but if you want a more traditional, lighter lager, avoid it.  This is a good lager to enjoy during a summer dinner or grill-out, but not to keep you refreshed all day long.  Depending on what mood you’re in, it could either be just the thing or a little much.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    6
Thickness            7
Hops/Malt          7
ABV                       5.8%

Saranac Lake Effect Lager

I was very surprised when this lager came in my winter mixer.  If not year-round, almost all lagers are summer beers because they are supposed to be crisp, clean, refreshing and easy to drink.  I checked the brewery’s Web site before I opened the bottle to see what they had to say about it, and they said it was going to be dark and very malty.  I was intrigued by this description, and when I tried Lake Effect Lager, it lived up to it.

Lake Effect Lager is only a lager by name, and is more like a brown ale in all other aspects.  None of the elements you’d want in a lager exist.  It’s not easy to drink, not refreshing, very filling, heavy in mouthfeel and weighty overall.  It is full of malt that would be on the heavy side for any beer, not just lagers, and yields an extremely dark color and strong malt taste.  A small amount of hops does a nice job in offsetting the malt just enough to make it somewhat drinkable.  Even though Lake Effect Lager has only 5.95% ABV, which isn’t that high, it tastes like it has more.  After a while a small amount of alcohol taste builds up on the back end.  Because the flavor is so strong the aftertaste lingers.  And even though the flavor is strong, it doesn’t offer much.  The strong malt flavor is just kind of there, with a large presence, and you wish it was less abundant.  This is not a typical lager, and if meant to be the winter equivalent of a summer standard, it doesn’t do the job.  As a winter beer or brown ale it is subpar, and there are many other beers in the same vein that are much better than this.

Overall                 3/10
Color                    8
Thickness            8
Hops/Malt          8
ABV                       5.95%

A taste of Wisconsin

I was in Wisconsin last weekend, which meant two things: I was going to eat great cheese and make sure I had some Spotted Cow.  Spotted Cow is made by the New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wis., and epitomizes a conundrum with the craft beer world.  On one hand, New Galrus can’t be found outside the state of Wisconsin, which is unfortunate because they make some great products.  On the other hand, its rareness adds to it’s mystique.  When going to Wisconsin you look forward to having it as one of the main perks of a trip.  It’s not uncommon to stock up before crossing back over the border.  Because it can’t be found everywhere, New Glarus beers (and Spotted Cow in particular), is put on a pedestal and idealized and made that much better in your mind.  Luckily for me, the wedding I was at had a keg of Spotted Cow at the reception and four New Glarus beers to select from at the rehearsal dinner.  Not only did the bride and groom have good taste, but they were smart to anticipate the craving people have for Spotted Cow.  Spotted Cow is one of my favorite beers, and last weekend I focused on it and New Glarus’ summer seasonal, Totally Naked.  Both were excellent and I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Wisconsin.

Spotted Cow

As I already said, Spotted Cow is one of my favorite beers.  Last weekend I was able to try it the best way possible, straight from a fresh tap, and it never tasted better.  In reality, Spotted Cow is a simple beer, yet offers so much to savor.  It is a cream ale that is mild on malt and hops, with no strong, predominant flavor.  It is sweet, but not wheaty or fruity, and gets it’s subtle sweetness from corn that is used in the brewing process.  At first it’s tough to put your finger on, but after thinking about it, corn is what comes to mind.  It seems an odd ingredient, but Spotted Cow utilizes it perfectly. The corn combines with what malt is present and yields a smooth, creamy and refreshing lighter ale.  It has a very light mouthfeel throughout the entire sip.  The flavor never changes and is consistently delicious the entire time.  At times it feels like you’re drinking water, not in a gross light beer way, but in a completely refreshing, light drink that doesn’t weigh you down and keeps you wanting more.  In this aspect, Spotted Cow is perfect.  It is light enough for any occasion yet full of flavor, always keeps you thirsting for another and is incredible easy to drink.

After much thought, I decided I have to give Spotted Cow a 9 out of 10.  I thought about giving it a perfect score, but I’ll have to try it again to be sure.  Obviously, though, I’m OK with that.  I do know, however, that I’ll never want to have it out of a bottle if I can avoid it.  It was better on tap, as all beers are, but after my recent fabulous experience, I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back.

Overall                 9/10
Color                    4
Thickness            4
Hops/Malt          6
ABV                       4.8%

Totally Naked

This summer seasonal is a simple, plain beer, but is very good at it.  It’s a lager that has every characteristic lagers should: clean, crisp, light mouthfeel, golden in color and refreshing. Totally Naked is very easy to drink and, most importantly, doesn’t become bland after a few like some plain beers can. In fact, I can’t describe any notable flavor, it just tastes like a beer.  This is perfect if you want to quench your thirst.  It’s light and will satisfy you with one or many more over the course of a night.  To me, Totally Naked is what American light beers should be.  It doesn’t fill you up, it doesn’t compromise taste and is completely refreshing.  Although Totally Naked doesn’t bring any complex flavors or try something interesting, I gave it a high rating because it’s a great lighter beer with great drinkability.  Sometimes that’s what you’re looking for, and Totally Naked does a great job with it.

Overall                 8/10
Color                    3
Thickness            2
Hops/Malt          5
ABV                       4.2%

"Good people drink good beer." - Hunter S. Thompson