Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
Ya'll know the drill. Let's get our knowledge on at TN then get our drink on for the game.
Baseball season is upon us and the Noles start the season against the Rhode Island Rams. As always, the Tomahawk Nation staff, with baseball analysis headed up by RaysnNoles, brings us insightful, in-depth analysis of the team and games... making us all smarter than the average fan. As with the football season, I'll be profiling some choice brews along the way. A few housekeeping items before we get into the brew:
A) An informal poll of friends suggests that Light American Lagers are the beer that most people think of when they think of baseball. Coors, Miller, and a host of others are what fans affiliate with a day at the park, even among craft beer drinkers. This is probably because just about every ballpark in America serves a mass market or regional light lager or three as their exclusive ball park fare. Here in Chicago, Old Style seems to be the brew of choice. Some ballparks are starting to buck the light lager-only trend and serve craft brews, like the Brewtown section of the stadium in Philly. Petition for Dick Howser, anyone? Let's face it, taste doesn't really seem to matter that much when you're washing down a salty stadium dog and some oily popcorn. For the season opener, I'm going back to the standard, but let's raise the bar on Lagers, from Bud... to something better. Baseball games are all about good times, friends, and cheering on the home team. Let's lead off with a sixer of high quality brew.
2) An informal Google image search of ‘Rhode Island Mascot' suggests you should not Google image search ‘Rhode Island Mascot'. We're playing Rhody, not the other one that rhymes with it, in case there's any confusion.
D) Brooklyn. Ask anyone about America's iconic boys of summer, and the old Brooklyn teams will come up. To kick off the season, I think a brew from Brooklyn is as appropriate as any. Brooklyn Brewery has been around since 1998 and their brewmaster is one of the smarter and more respected craft brewers out there. This brewery has won a lot of awards over the years, as they craft serious, delicious beers.
Green) Don't forget about the (un?)official Mike Martin Drinking Game, just be careful with the craft beers, they might go quick.
Notes on the Style:
Lager is sold in the highest quantity by far in the U.S. than any other style of beer. Within the style, there are a number of different varieties, which are generally defined by the malts and strain of yeast used in the brewing process. If you've forgotten how malts and yeast are used in brewing (I know, post-fall semester brain dump), go here and here. On the maltier end of the lager spectrum are dopplebocks, defined by darker, roasted malts with big flavor, and on the lighter end are pilsners, defined by pilsen malt, which is the lightest of malts and imparts very mellow, clean malt flavor.
The things most lagers have in common are lager yeast strains and low hop levels. These strains require lower fermenting temperatures than ale yeasts. Low temperature, which causes slow fermentation and results in a cleaner tasting beer, is the most important variable in lager production. Before the invention of refrigeration equipment, lagers were brewed exclusively in the winter when temperatures were cold enough to facilitate production and prevent off-flavors in the beer. Did you know that the earliest commercial refrigerators were produced for and purchased by breweries? This technological leap forward at brewhouses was initially embarked upon for lager production, though it allowed above-ground fermentation of practically any beer at any time of year, and helped give brewers better control over the fermentation process. The hops used in lagers are typically noble hops, old-world varieties that are mellow and impart floral, grassy, or earthy notes. This is an nice complement to the clean, crisp flavors produced by lager yeast. While this has classically been the case, a few craft brewers have recently been over-hopping lagers, sort of combining traditional lagers with the big fruitier hop flavors of IPA.
The game day brew:
Brooklyn Lager is a nice example of a craft American Lager (possibly considered an Amber Lager considering its color and slight roasty taste). It is not a Light Lager, but a clean and very slightly malty and hoppy lager. This is how lager should taste, and is a world above the mass produced standard Light Lager beers most ballpark drinkers are used to, though not so far away that you won't recognize it is the same style. In general, those light beers have adjuncts like corn and rice that make them less expensive to produce and simultaneously weaken the malt character as they impart little flavor in the beer. A nice craft lager like this one will not skimp on the barley.
The Brooklyn Lager pours a very clear golden/red color, with a tight head that recedes slowly. It smells faintly of all three beer ingredients - malt, hops, and lager yeast - they are all there, which you may not be used to if you are into Coors or Natural Light or whatever. The aromas are of bready roasted malt, citrus, flowers, and the unmistakable sharp scent of lager yeast. The taste is about the same, and it is very well balanced between all three ingredients, with each one just peeking through. No ingredient dominates, and they are featured in harmony; it is a thirst quenching, delicious brew. This balance is a sharp contrast to the dopplebock and marzen lagers profiled this fall, which were decidedly malt forward. Seriously, if you've been drinking the cheap stuff, give this one a try on the weekend, at least for the first two rounds. I don't consider myself a big lager drinker, but I could sip this brew all day.
Brooklyn Brewery has a lot of good stuff. If you want to go for an ale by them, reach for the standard Brown Ale or their East India Pale Ale. Or you could see if you can find their seasonal Chocolate Stout. It is February after all. If you like the big bottles, give the Local No.1 or Local No.2 a try. This brewery makes all around solid beers, and isn't likely to disappoint.
What about you? What are your thoughts on Lagers, on baseball brews, and what are your favorites? What will you drink this weekend when you tune into the series?