American lagers weren’t always the bland, flavorless brews offered today by the big breweries. For that matter, the big breweries weren’t always big. An influx of immigrants from Germany in the 1840s created a rise in the popularity of lager beers. The German brewers who were part of that wave were only too happy to oblige. Using the know-how and yeast that they had brought with them, they crafted a full range of German-style beers adapted to the ingredients available to them in their new home.
Yes, that meant using corn and rice. It’s not just the modern macros that turn to these adjuncts. They’ve been part of American brewing since the mid-19th-century. The 6-row barley commonly grown in North American was higher in protein than the 2-row varieties these brewers were accustomed to using in the old country. Corn and rice cut that protein, lessening haze and lightening body. It wasn’t until after the end of prohibition and World War II that the dumbing down of American lagers really began.
Coors Brewing Company is attempting to revive this beer-of-old with Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition Style Lager. The Coors PR propaganda for Batch 19 says that an old brewers log from 1919 was “discovered in the brewery archives.” “Discovered” may be an exaggeration. Surely they knew it was there. But the story is that they brewed this new beer according to the recipe for the last batch made before prohibition went into effect. Whether this is true or not, it’s a good story. The story is good, but what about the beer?
Here’s my notes:
Aroma: Fresh bread, lightly toasted. Hop aromas are very subtle, just the faintest hint of herbs and mint.
Appearance: Deep gold and brilliantly clear. Medium stand of creamy, white foam that is moderately persistent.
Flavor: Very balanced. Malt almost wins out with a bready/grainy sweetness. It’s lovely grainy, like chewing on barley malt but without the husks. Malty sweetness is balanced by medium-level bitterness that is enhanced by a crisp, dry, lager finish. Hop flavors are predominantly spicy licorice, but with a distinct blackberry note.
Mouthfeel: Medium body. Creamy and mouthfilling. Medium carbonation.
Overall Impression: Say what you want about the Coors brewery, this is a really tasty beer. If this is the type of everyday beer my grand-pappy was drinking, I’m jealous. Smooth. Full-flavored. Complex if you want it to be, but easy-drinking if you don’t. This really is my kind of beer.