After a brief break — there was just too much other stuff going on that I had to do — Sunday Sips returns, slightly behind schedule but still focused on good brews you should try. This week, it’s lagers, an underrated style in the craft world. Specifically, lagers from the sort of okay state of Pennsylvania. Cheers!
Neshaminy Creek Churchville Lager
In a craft beer world obsessed with barrel aging and being hoppier than thou, the lowly lager doesn’t get much love. That’s too bad, because few classes of beer are as well suited to anytime, anywhere drinking. Other styles can be mood-dependant, but a lager always hits the spot. Thankfully, those who appreciate this more subtle style have some great options that are brewed locally. For instance, Neshaminy Creek Churchville Lager. Its toasty malt body has mild hints of caramel, and the softly bitter snap in the finish makes this a model of easy drinking. The beer flirts with being more modern in its hopping; herbal notes and even a touch of grapefruit make an appearance, albeit not at IPA levels. It finishes clean, too, exactly like a good lager should.
One of the great things about a traditional German-style lager is that there is no meal or food you can’t pair it with. Stouts, IPAs, sours, those are fantastic styles of beer, but you have to be selective when it comes with pairing them with a meal. Some combinations are like oil and water. Not so with lagers. The German pioneers of the style knew what they were doing; they go with anything. One of the best local examples comes from Stoudts, genuine pioneers of the America craft beer movement. Their Gold Lager is one of the finest American examples of the style. Malty sweetness, a touch of yeast in the aroma, noble hops with a touch of spice – it’s a delicate beer that demands a discerning palate to undercover its subtle complexities.
These days, lagers have a reputation for being a little boring. It’s an unfair rep – anyone who appreciates the craft of brewing should be able to appreciate the subtle art of making a great lager – but it’s one that persists. Part of the reason is that the current American beer palate demands a lot of hops, and traditionally speaking, lagers don’t swing that way. That doesn’t mean they can’t, though. Cultivator by Troegs is proof of that. This is a golden bock beer made with fresh hops. Bocks are a type of lager that were once hugely popular but that have since faded from the spotlight. The toasted biscuits, kisses of honey, and fruity hop bitterness of Cultivator may just help bring them back in style, though, because this beer screams to be enjoyed on gorgeous spring days.
Manayunk Bohemian Blonde
The so-called “lawnmower beer” refers to the kind of light, easy to quaff brew you’d be most likely to drink while doing yard work. They tend to be pilsener-style lagers, and by and large they’re brewed by big international brewers who spill more beer each day than most craft brewers make in a year. That doesn’t mean they all are, though. There are even some fine “lawnmower beers” brewed locally. Manayunk Bohemian Blonde, for instance. This is one of those golden light beers usually featured in commercials filled with dudes and girls in bikinis, only it’s crafted here in PA by a small brewery. Light straw and grains are mildly sweet, while the dry finish is crisp and refreshing. In other words, it’s exactly what you want from a simple light beer.
Saucony Creek Kutztown Lagerbier
When people talk about lagers, you’ll often see words like “traditional” thrown around. That’s no surprise, since people who seek out the style tend to want it to adhere to tradition. German-style lagers just haven’t been the subject of the more offbeat and innovative stuff being done in the American craft beer scene these days. But that’s not to say there isn’t room for trying new things. The folks at Saucony Creek would certainly disagree with that. This beer begins life as an ordinary lager, but they throw a weird (and local) twist by smoking some of the malts over Kutztown Ring Bologna. Yes, you read that right. The result is a malt-forward lager with just a hint of smokiness to it. It’s not strong or off-putting, it’s just enough to make this an especially good pair with a meaty lunch.