Archive for the ‘lager’ Category

Local Lager, Lager, Lager
August 8, 2010

Bud Girl from 1904

A brief googling of “beer and women” turns up a dark parade of lager and misogyny.  It’s hard to separate the two.  Even with the new shiny-retro Stella ads aimed at women, it’s enough to turn a girl off the style.

I don’t expect much from a good lager and to be honest, they don’t expect much of me, either.  They’re like that friend you have that doesn’t mind a bit of dumb fun while crawling around the mall or dancing to 80s music. But the trick is to find someone who’ll do those things but not annoy you. They’re rare.

Munich is the place to find such companionship in a beer garden, in a brewery canteen. But what if you’re not in Munich?  What if you’re in London?

The Bunker brewpub in Covent Garden used to brew a perfectly fun lager but then they changed the recipe, labeling it as Freedom lager and it just wasn’t that good anymore, and now they are no longer.  Though you can still get Freedom lager around, it’s a bit like seeing that friend that used to be fun but then adopted some seriously green middle class lifestyle and lost their sense of humor in the process.

And then there’s shiny Meantime Helles and Pils– both totally drinkable yet I don’t choose to drink them very often because usually wherever you find these beers there’s a wider selection of something that’s just more enticing.

Brodies, an East London brewery that’s brewing some really compelling beers, does a London Lager but I’ve never had it.  They have a brewery tap, King William the IV in Leyton, which seems worth a field trip!

Last night we met some friends at the Regent in Islington, which has the best pizzas in London but the beer selection is a bit lackluster.  Chalkboards around the shabby-chic interior proclaimed a new Cotswold Lager on tap.  I was a bit wary but by the time I had my second half I was won over completely.  This beer was easy to drink and went down well with the pizzas.  The sweet malt character gave it just enough backbone to not be boring, but it was dry enough not be annoying.

That is, I wasn’t annoyed until I read the Cotswold Brewery website’s description of the beer, a complete throwback cliche describing the beer as if it were a woman being offered up for sexual consumption: “If you think lager doesn’t taste of much then it’s time you pressed your lips up against a pint of Premium. She’s a full flavoured seductress who will soon have you head-over-heals with her crisp, dry taste and flirtatious bitter kick. It’s love at first sip.”

Read on with mild horror the description of their Dark Lager: “This one is a dark little number who can really pack a punch. She’s bursting with flavour and lashings of taste, yet retains a smooth finish that will warm even the most frozen of your cockles. She is normally only available during the winter but has proved to be a popular little number so we have kept her on for the summer.”

The wording of the description is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.  Their lager really deserves a better public face.  It’s another example of a good British brewery in dire need of a marketing makeover.

Going Retro
May 16, 2009

Have you noticed the 80’s are back?  This isn’t really news–neon tube dresses and big bangs are never really news.  Some even report the 90’s are back also, in a kind of apocalyptic pile-up of decades.   The contemporary teen version of the 80’s is something much shinier than what the teens of the 80’s actually lived with, as if they are willfully embodying nostalgia for a time they never knew.  If the 90’s come back, what will the zeitgeist polish up for us?

If I was going to bring back the 90’s beer wise, it would be dishonest not to include Oranjeboom, a beer I drank a lot of–in cans–in Southern California.  I don’t know if it was because it was, to us, exotic, Euro-trashy, and had this name we liked to say.  Before I knew anything about beer, it was cheap and easy.

Yesterday I met up with a lovely Scouser friend, G, for beer and shoe shopping.  He was gracious enough to ask me to suggest a beer to him.  We were in a Shepherd’s Neame pub Mabel’s Tavern, and I haven’t had many of their beers because I’ve been put off by the ad campaigns.  I ordered a Bishop’s Finger for G and a Kent’s Best for me– this beer was a winner, with a dominant, piny hop character and an enveloping malt, and he preferred his beer to mine.  So then, on our second round, why do I decide to throw out all my beer know-how and order us two halves of crap lager?

I’d never seen Oranjeboom outside of Trader Joe’s in SoCal.  The little red tree–the happy name–I gave in to nostalgia.  So much for being a beer expert! The beer was a forgettable, too-sweet lager.  Apparently it is now brewed by Shepherd Neame, and is one of those rare beers that was probably better in the can!

According to my friend, Oranjeboom’s big British moment was in the 80’s– maybe it’s right at home with the gladiator sandals and splatter prints on the high street.  G regaled me with stories about the British marketing campaign in the 80’s  which included Oranjeboom’s own version of the Bud Girl and he even sang me the jingle.  And he drank it without complaint.  What are friends for, after all?

What are your ‘retro beers’? What beer, when confronted with a tap of it, would have an irresistably surreal nostalgia for you?

Another way to get your five a day
April 20, 2009

Crap beer: it’s a blank canvas!  Here is a terribly blurry picture of me drinking “Garlic Beer”–one of my guilty pleasures at Garlic and Shots.  It’s basically generic lager with crushed garlic floating in the head.  I consider it a health drink.

Lime in a Corona.  A wedge of lemon in a hefeweizen. If you’re a girl, these are probably the first beers someone sets in front of you.  Maybe a shandy, if you started early.  And this is one of the benefits of being a lady— you can put stuff in your beer and no one will look down on you for it.  I mean, any more than they already are.

When I used to teach on a Marine base sometimes we’d celebrate after finals with boilermakers at the local watering hole (off the base– for some reason the Marines insisted I never set foot in the bar on the base.  To this day I regret not checking it out.)

I would consider plopping a shot of soju into a glass of Hite–a Korean “beer bomb”.  I could also see myself adding some Jagermeister to a pint of Guinness.  I might add some whisky to my Sassquash mild to give it some lifeblood.  Do you ever put anything in beer either to get you happy faster, or to improve a mediocre pint?  Do tell.

Dancing Sparkle in Each Glassful
March 6, 2009

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The Beer Nut has decided on a most compelling theme for this month’s session– lager.

There are lovely lagers out there– Brew Dog’s Zeitgeist being the first that comes to mind.  But I’m more interested in talking about the unlovelies. Homer with his can of Duff.  Billy Beer. Hamm’s Beer Bear– one of the first commercials I remember, and I can still sing the jingle. Marketing beer to children works! But I digress.

In the US I knew lager as simply beer, and I thought there was no other kind.   My mother loved Michelob and would drink it very cold, just one bottle, after her game of tennis. For most of my childhood I thought this was a very sophisticated drink, as my mother was a very polished sort of lady.

The first beer I ever tasted was a Michelob– I was very small and we were on a trip in Florida, lost in the swamps there.  I had to take my tablets and there was no water, only beer, and not cold.  Poison! Suddenly this sophisticated drink didn’t seem so elegant after all.

In college I tried to drink Miller.  I think I liked the sound of the initials, MGD.  But once in a seedy bar in San Francisco my friend handed me a cold bottle of Rolling Rock.  Beer in a green bottle was a revelation!  It seemed colder, happier from the neck of green glass, which is of course how we drank it.  I can still feel the braille of the white and blue printed label and I confess it makes me thirsty just thinking about it.  It wasn’t good beer of course but if I was drinking it, it meant I was with friends, people I loved, and we were having a good time. I’m glad at the time the brand had not yet attempted their hoax marketing gimmick of “moonvertising”, where they claimed to use lazers to project an ad onto the surface of the full moon.  I contemplated a tasting of this beer, knowing it would bring on a bargain-basement of Proustian revelries, but lucky reader, I could not find a bottle of the stuff.

When I moved from San Francisco I just couldn’t drink Rolling Rock anymore.  I flirted briefly with Mickey’s Big Mouth (technically a malt liquor?).  The bottle was green and round, it fit nicely in the hand and the caps featured a picture puzzle on the inside which served as a handy drunkenness test.  But the love didn’t last– I switched to martinis and stuck with those for many years, swearing off all beer.

During my martini phase I was teaching and one of my students worked as a Bud Girl.  One of the writing assignments was to render a formative moment in a few pages.  She wrote about her experience peddling lager to lunkheads and titled her narcissistic ramble, “Beauty and the Beast”, concluding that by the time she was done with the job, Bud would have basically paid for her plastic surgery and she could go on to “real” modeling. The Beast in her story was not the mega brewery and its sexist approach to marketing, but the louts she enticed.

It’s hard for me to see a can of Bud without thinking of her, even now, and how the lager stigma goes beyond just bad beer– it represents advertising’s cartoonish gender divide and the bonehead banalities of our culture.  A Bud Girl doesn’t drink the stuff, she just wears the branded bikini, and the lager lout “beast” has the power to turn your beloved Burberry plaid into trash and your local A&E into a WWF smackdown.

Last night I was with a dear friend and drinking buddy who loves lagers and is not interested in drinking anything else.  I’m not a very good beervangelist– I’ve tried to tempt her to try other styles but she’s having none of it.  Yesterday, as we were putting a few pints away in the Cockpit,  I’d commented that most ladies in the UK seem to drink chardonnay, so what did that make us, drinking pints in a manly place like this?

“Oh, there’s a word– Ladettes,” she joked.  I’d never heard it before, though apparently there have been reality teevee shows based on sending these individuals to finishing school, etc.   I mentioned I would be brewing some beer, you know, probably whilst skipping out on my deportment class.  She said if I could figure out how to brew a lager we would be BFF.  I’ll be calling it Ladette Lager.