Schmaltz Brewing Co.
Saratoga Springs, NY
Coney Island Albino Python
Schmaltz makes great beer, and they’re not afraid to do something a little wild and out of the ordinary that may be looked at as off-putting or gimmicky (see Freaktoberfest).
At the pour, this beer is active with a sparkling pure white head that is fine and fizzing. A real white lager, this beer is bottle conditioned and a good deal of yeast is still in the bottle. Stir it up and pour it in – it gives the marigold beer a fine luster with tangerine highlights at its denser portions. The clarity is low, but there’s enough visibility to see the pinpoint pearl strands fly around the glass, knocking the leftover sediment around with it.
A fine coating of lace is already coating the side of the glass as the teeming head begins to deflate slowly. The nose is peppery and a bit sour – overripe clementine peels and a bit of wet dog.
The mouthfeel is a good and the extra fine carbonation doesn’t take away from it. Pepper, fennel seed, and coriander emerge subtly and without heat from behind a crisp crackery base. A touch of that clementine aroma accompanies the spices, rounding out the swallow with just a drop of vanilla creaminess.
It’s not as big and bold as a lot of Schmaltz’s brews, but it’s an unfairly drinkable 6% white lager offering some zigzagging complexities that are fun to try to pick out.
Wild Goose Brewery
I am saddened to learn that the Wild Goose Brewery was bought by Flying Dog and subsequently closed. Both the IPA and Oatmeal Stout were solid brews. Also, it means this batch of Brown Lager, and any IPA or Stout I might have, will be my last (and may be past its due date).
A fine tawny lace shows no signs of diminishing any time soon. Swarms of delicate pearl strands fly up the glass to make sure. The clarity is very good, though the beer is quite dark, like root beer with touches of vermillion and eggplant through the light.
The nose has hints of dry straw, coconut flesh, and a bit of molasses. The crackling straw aroma hints at hops, but there is more richness of malt than anything.
The mouthfeel is a bit thin, with the effervescence being the most prevalent thing. It feels a bit like mineral water at first. Gradually, some of that slatiness turns into a bit of lemon, but not really. A slightly roasted character feints at the middle of the tongue, but disappears just as quickly.
At 4.3%, this beer is an easy drinking session beer, and with the lack of any defined body, it’s just as well that it can be drunk quickly.
St. Petersburg, RUS
9 Extra Lager
More Baltika! Courtesy of Val, my token Russian friend, this pounder of 9 is some serious stuff. At 8%, this is fairly close to malt liquor. Regardless, I’ve only had this once, in St. Petersburg, and it was awesome.
The pour starts slowly but a dense, cloud-white head inflates quickly and rests at at least an inch. The color is straw gold with pristine clarity and steady carbonation featuring large bubbles.
The nose is very grassy, but sweeter than I expected. There is a sharp, lemon tang – almost like wood cleaner, but with no astringent qualities and a peppery snap.
The mouthfeel is massive. This brew is overwhelming at first – alcohol arrives like a mouthful of snap-bangs, throwing a combination of salty-sweet crispness and the puckering sourness of Nerds candy. I would not recommend letting this beer warm up at all – though as your tastebuds are assaulted by the bitter green apple attack of the hops and alcohol, they eventually capitulate and allow you drink without thinking you picked up the Mr. Clean bottle by mistake.
It’s not as bad as it sounds, but this beer tastes as rough as it will probably leave you feeling if you drink more than a couple of them. As a lager, it’s sort of like the idea of an Imperial Pilsner that has started to emerge, though it’s more similar to Dortmunder than a Pils. So, for a Russian-made Imperial Dortmunder, this is your go-to.
Matt Brewing Co.
Saranac Lake Effect Lager
I just got back from eight days in Miami. As such, landing in 30-degree New York was a rude awakening. The name of this beer is very apt considering the windy flurries outside.
Get your coats on
The color is surprisingly dark for a lager, but the label boasts that it’s a malty German-style lager. A very fine and frothy beige head sits at about a half- to a quarter-inch with slow medium-fine carbonation rising in a wide column form the bottom.
The color is garnet and plum with touches of cola brown. The clarity is excellent and there are rich amber hues shining through when the glass is held to the light. A lot of malt on the nose; chocolate milk powder blends with some richer notes of stone fruit and a bit of cinnamon.
The mouthfeel is very good – the sprightly effervescence adds some peppery life to what is otherwise a very smooth first sip. There is less sweet malt than originally advertised but roasty toffee emerges as the beer warms a bit. Hallertau hops jump in with touches of grainy pear or coconut that is very pleasant when mixed with the nutty background of the malt.
An excellent winter beer – very balanced – and a great choice if you want something darker without resorting to ale.
New tag/category, too! Cheers to that.
Boston Beer Co.
Samuel Adams Black Lager
Part of Sam’s Brewmaster’s Collection of specialty beers, specifically “classic” styles according to the site, the Black Lager is an example of a German-style lager that combines lager (bottom-fermenting) yeast and roasted malts. Usually these have a lighter body than your typical roasted malt beer like porter or stout, but have a nice addition of toasted flavors. Anyway, I think that Sam is a good brewery and I like what they’ve been doing with their BC.
Sam Adams Black Lager
The color is a surprisingly opaque espresso black with faint chestnut brown accents around the edges. A khaki head caps the brew nicely, settling down in this stout little glass with a frothy oculus around the inside of the rim.
Taking a deep breath, there is an instantly recognizable roasted char aroma. It is pleasant and not acrid, sitting beneath dank and resinous pine odors as well as a bit of damp tobacco leaves and a little bit of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.
The mouthfeel is wonderfully complex, combining some fine effervescence with a smooth and slightly creamy texture that coaxes out the soft milk chocolate character of the malt. A brief murmur of peppery hops comes around right at the very end of the swallow just to make sure you know you are drinking a lager.
This is an eminently drinkable brew and a fine addition to the landscape of American beer. This would be awesome with a really nice char-grilled burger and some sweet potato fries.
Riverwest Stein Beer
Lakefront markets this as an “All-Malt Amber Lager” and a German-influenced brew. I don’t know much about this particular brand but I like the sound of stein beer.
The color lives up to the label and is a lovely amber, with more cola brown than maple-syrup red. A thin, slightly off-white head sags quickly to a thin layer that is sustained by very slow, fine, and widely-spaced carbonation.
Anytime is a good time for a stein
The aroma is very sweet with notes of candy corn and a little bit of honey. There is a mossy background of bitter hops in the slender shape of straw.
With the first sip, the sweet malt imparts and immediate and surprising richness that borders on saccharine and cloying but is tempered into a milky Bavarian smoothness. The hops ride in not unnoticed, but quietly, and rear their heads with a faint squeaky wheel of dried apple and fig leaf.
This is a pleasantly complete beer which would do well served cold in a gradually perspiring tankard, or accompanying a heavy dish in cold weather when you want the smoothness of a lager but pilsner won’t cut it. I’ll look out for this one over the summer.
The pour is very pale yellow, with lively carbonation that helps support a quarter-inch of soft, pure white head. The retention seems decent.
The nose is as grassy and green as most of the Shiner brews, though this smells a bit thinner than some of the other similarly golden samples. The bottle claims that it contains both Euro and US hops, which is always a lovely-sounding idea. Some faint notes of grape and a touch of rain, but that’s about it.
The mouthfeel is thin and, while the carbonation is good, the anorexic body leaves you with nothing but the effervescence and makes you think you’re drinking seltzer. What flavor exists is not bad, by any means – some faint grassy hops, a little bit of pleasant wet loam – but there’s too little to make a strong assessment. Essentially, this tastes like a watered-down or even ‘light’ version of Shiner’s Kosmos.
At 4.4%, it’s a session beer, and you could easily put away many of these without any serious deleterious effects, but you might as well save room in your belly and wallet for something with some more substance.
The lacing isn’t all that bad either, leaving a pocked coral wall behind, but that’s about the best this brew has to offer save for maybe some thirst-quenching during a really serious softball game.