I was driving on I-70 with a friend of mine last week when I saw it – the New Belgium beer truck. And that was when it dawned on me that if I was going to hijack any beer truck, this should be the one. Right here, right now… Read our Review of New Belgium’s 2 Below
Our second installment in our “Winter Brews” beer review is the Samuel Adams Winter Lager.
If you happen to live in a part of the country that doesn’t usually have a very good beer selection, then the Sam Adams offering is usually a good bet, and this one is no exception.
The beer is a wheat lager, and it really delivers on taste, body and texture. This is a great beer! Read our review of Samuel Adams Winter Lager.
Or, better yet, buy a six pack and try it yourself!
We have decided to start our “Reviews” section here at Drunk Man’s Guide. That means that each week we will feature a new beer, liquor or wine and give you our honest opinion.
The rating scale will be in beers, and the scale goes like this:
|5/5 is a “Must Try” beverage. This is a rare rating that we will only bestow on the most deserving beverages. You should definitely try these.|
|4/5 is a “Damn Good” beverage. If you see these in the store, then you can’t go wrong with a 4/4 beverage.|
|3/5 is a “Good” beverage. This is worth buying – especially if it is on sale.|
|2/5 is an “OK” beverage. Keep it is someone gives it to you, but don’t buy it. It’s ok to regift a 2/5 beverage, but only to someone you don’t care about, and who doesn’t know much about alcohol.|
|1/5 is a “Only Drink it On A Dare” beverage. Don’t drink this beverage even if it’s free. Use it to marinate meat, or distill it for fuel; but only drink it if you are getting PAID to drink it.|
Our first review is of a really good beer that we knew we wanted to include in a review as soon as we tasted it. The beer is called “Snow Plow” by Widmer Brothers, and it receives a 5/5 rating. Definitely seek out this beer and try it. Especially if you like stouts.
I have to admit that I’m a big Samuel Smith fan. In fact, I’m such a big fan that I have the following rule of thumb when judging beer: if you need to know what a particular style of beer is supposed to taste like, just taste the Samuel Smith version and you’ll know.
So, when I decided to do a review of their Lager, I was already a little prejudiced, and my standards were probably set artificially high.
A little history on the brew.
The Samuel Smith Brewery was founded in 1852 in Tadcaster England, and it utilizes a rare fermentation technique that is almost completely extinct called the Yorkshire Square system. Essentially, the system uses square (usually limestone) fermentors that have a deck on top that captures the yeast in the head of the foamy krausen.
These yeast cells are extremely active and would be the best if you were trying to isolate the strongest cells for future batches. The yeasty foam is then kept on the deck until the next batch of beer is pumped onto the deck. The beer then drains back into the fermentor through the deck.
This system both aerates and inoculates the new batch with the yeast cells from the previous batch. The cycle repeats itself over and over, and in this way Samuel Smith has been working with the same strains of yeast since the early 20th century.
The Yorkshire Square System is expensive, difficult to do consistently, and impossible to scale up to megabrew levels. It also produces some fantastic beer. Which brings us to the Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Lager.
This beer is one of the “pure” beers that Sam Smith makes. Although it is English, it is made in the German tradition of Rheinheitsgebot whereby the only ingredients allowed into the brew are barley, hops, yeast and water.
But this is definitely an English Lager. When you pour a Sam Smith Lager, you will notice that it isn’t the same as a Czech or German style Pilsner. This is a little heavier on the malt, a little toastier, and a little lighter on the hops – as if you took a normal Lager, and gave it more body, and malt character.
If you are an Ale-lover, then this is a great Lager. If you don’t like Ale, then this English style of Lager will probably taste too thick. I won’t geek out on you and start talking about the beer’s “nose” or anything like that. I will say that it is damn good, and exactly what I have come to expect from this incredible brewery.
It is so good, in fact, that I would encourage you to be careful not to drink this Lager next to a MegaBrewed beer. Your Sam Smith’s superiority will just make the other beer jealous.
P.S. Also try their Oatmeal Stout – it’s the best I’ve ever had.
If you’ve ever consumed the tripe that is passed off as Lambic here in the States, then you might want to consider having the real thing. I always thought I hated Lambic until I went to Brussels – to an ancient bar at the end of a tight little alley barely wide enough to walk through.
The bar was called La Bécasse, and it has changed my perspective on this wonderful style of beer.
As with many things of value in this world, the atmosphere is one of the most incredible parts of the story. While most of the cafes and bars in Brussels are located in these cool little houses that are just a few feet wide and several stories tall lining the cobblestone streets for miles around the Grand Place; La Bécasse is almost impossible to find unless you already know where it is.
A tight little curved alley takes you a hundred feet or so away from the crowded street. At places the alley is so narrow you can reach your arms out and easily touch both sides. The alley ends in a door set into a façade that is clearly very old. In fact, there are two façade that are visible from the alley; the current one, and a much older one behind it.
Stepping inside, my Belgian friend who was with me at the time informed me that this bar is the oldest in Brussels. Judging by the centuries-old architecture everywhere in Brussels, that is not an insignificant fact.
In fact, the bar was established in 1793, making it well over 200 years old. From the perspective of this American, that is just really incredible.
The mood in the place is distinctly Belgian. There is no loud music blasting into the bar – it is subdued, the ceilings are low, the people avoid eye contact, and everyone talks in a low voice. The interior is wood and brick and copper. The tables are long, wooden and have high-backed wooden chairs. It is a truly gorgeous bar.
The picture here shows my Belgian friend Luc pouring me a glass of the Lambic from one of the cool little ceramic jugs (we also had a couple glasses of Kwok for dessert as you can see). I feel fairly confident that I was the only person in the entire city who was wearing a red striped shirt that day.
So, let’s get down to the beer.
Usually if you can find good Belgian Lambic in the States, it comes in a tiny little bottle roughly equivalent to 7 ounces, and it costs about $8. Not so at La Bécasse. You get a little jug all to yourself, and there is plenty in there to have a nice drink.
If you are not familiar with Lambic, it is a style of beer that is brewed using wild yeasts and bacteria. In stark contrast to the method of producing most commercial beers, many Lambics are fermented in open fermentors that purposely allow certain types of bacterial infections to occur in the beer. Traditionally, a brew house in Belgium will brew their beer in the upper floors of the house, and serve it on the ground floor. The wild yeasts live in the ceiling and rafters of the roof. As a result, the beer can only be made in that place, and no two batches are ever exactly the same.
Lambic is served “live”. The product is not filtered or pasteurized, and the character changes over time. The brewmaster monitors the Lambic and when the time is right, it is served. This is the reason it is almost impossible to find good bottled Lambic. The taste simply does not survive the bottling process.
La Bécasse Lambics are smooth, not harsh like the junk you get in the States. The fruity versions have a lot of character, but the fruit doesn’t blow the drink away. It is balanced, just as it should be. I sampled their Faro (a Lambic that is sweetened with brown sugar), and the Framboise (a raspberry version); both were absolutely delicious, and had me contemplating – if only for a moment – how much a flat in Brussels might cost, and would it maybe make sense to … oh, that wouldn’t make sense.
Here’s the bad news. If you want to try La Bécasse then you are going to have to travel to Brussels. They simply do not bottle it. You can only get it by going to the source, walking down that long narrow alley, and ordering up a jug for yourself at the bar.
If you do, you will not be disappointed. Stepping into La Bécasse means stepping back in time over 200 years into a bar that was established 11 years before Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.