The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Without Victory There Is No Survival

Pilsners, to me, are a distinctly summery beer, which is why I was happy to have a Victory Prima Pils on a recent September afternoon.

The Prima Pils from Downington, Pa.’s Victory Brewing Co. is brewed in the classic German style. Pilsners are a lager beer – historically stored in caves as a form of cold conditioning – that have a straw-like color and a nice but mild bite of hops with a refreshing finish.

Victory’s pilsner is all that and a little more. This pilsner has a 5.3 percent ABV and is double hopped to give it a sharper bite than most pilsners. The Prima Pils a strong-bodied pilsner that is full of flavor that fully embraces the pilsner style.

Pilsners often get a bad rap from craft-brew aficionados due, in part, to the proliferation of American-style pilsners such as Budweiser, Miller, and the like.

It was in the 1870s that pale lagers like Budweiser began to take hold in America, shifting tastes away from the heavy amber Bavarian beers. These new pilsners were made with corn or rice and were, at the time, more expensive to make than the all-malt beers – and these beers satisfied American beer drinkers more than any other beer. (The process for making them grew cheaper as time passed; at the time of their inception, though, it’s important to note that a Budweiser was actually an expensive beer to produce.)

These pilsners formed the backbone of the industrialization of the brewing industry. And as Maureen Ogle notes in her book Ambitious Brew, many local beers of the nineteenth century were made of poor quality and had an inconsistent, sour, or nonexistent flavor. It was Budweiser and its competitors who produced consistent-tasting beers at a high enough volume to break into markets throughout the U.S.

These sweeter-tasting beers came to dominate the market and thereby defined what a beer was to many beer drinkers.

But German pilsners always remained the same – Pilsner Urquell, Jever, and Spaten to name a few – retained that crisp bitter flavor without the sweetness. They’re mass produced in Germany and imported to U.S., sure, but the style is distinct from a Budweiser, which is a sweet, watery beer that doesn’t offend.

I always find it bold of craft brewers to take a shot at a pilsner. The style might not excite many hop enthusiasts. In my mind at least, the first thing I think of when I think about a craft beer is an amber-colored brew with a strong hoppy flavor and a rich, malty taste. While a golden pilsner seems like the antithesis of craft brewing. But it’s all about the ingredients and Victory doesn’t skimp on the Prima Pils.

And so with that said, when a craft pilsner works out – it’s a victory.

Filed under: beer history, beer reviews, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photodump Friday: This Is Not a Lawnmower Beer

Estrella Damm, Barcelona, Spain.

Pabst Blue Ribbon, Woodbridge, Ill.

Sierra Nevada, Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale, Chico, Calif.

Pretty Things, American Darling Good Time Lager, Cambridge, Mass.

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Cruzcampo Is Spanish for Cerveza

If you’re in Spain, munching your way through one tapas bar after another, and say to the bartender, “Una cerveza, por favor.” Chances are he’s going to pour you a Cruzcampo.

While not the greatest beer in the world, the taste of this golden pilsner is forever associated with Spain to me. It’s light and crisp and when served in a half-pint glass, goes down fast.

The Spanish love this beer. It is quite literally everywhere. To beer snobs, the taste can be a little bit of nothingness and some corn with an aftertaste of skunkiness, and I certainly had one or two glasses that made me change my drink order to a glass of txacolina.

But for the most part, feeling pleasantly fried by the sun and full of jamón, a cold Cruzcampo hit the spot in a most heavenly sort of way.

The Cruzcampo brewery was founded in 1904 in Sevilla, Spain (pictured at the tippy top of this post) by brothers Roberto Osborne and Agustin Osborne. Next to the brewery stands La Cruz del Campo (The Cross of the Field), which is a small temple that stands in view of the brewery. Cruzcampo was the first brewery in the province of Andalusia (more info here). The brewery is now owned by the Heineken Corp. Its previous owner was Guinness.

One last note, the Cruzcampo logo depicts King Gambrinus, the patron saint of beer. Hail to the king, baby.

Filed under: breweries, , , , , , , , ,

Beers of Montana: Pig’s Ass Porter Packs a Punch

Montana is known as big sky country for a reason – the sky as viewed out there just seems enormous. Photographs don’t do it justice. The summer horizon is lined with evergreen trees, receding into a blue expanse of mountain ranges, while an IMAX-wide sky is dotted with cumulus clouds. In towns such as Bozeman, the buildings are kept low and spaced out as to not block out the view.

Snow covers most of Montana during the year. If it’s a powder day, everything pretty much shuts down so the locals can hit the slopes. During the summer, Montanans remain just as active – biking, hiking, fly fishing, and in general getting in shape for the ski season. It’s not a place where one goes to watch the world pass by. There’s just too much to do.

And nothing, but nothing, quenches a thirst after a long, summer day in Montana than a cold beer.

During my most recent trip to Montana, I was fortunate enough to get a taste of the Harvest Moon Brewery‘s Pig’s Ass Porter and, boy, was I lucky.

Another Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph of some beer or something.Pig’s Ass Porter is a light-bodied beer with a tan head that fades into a film on the rim of the glass after a few sips. Harvest Moon’s marketing copy would have you know that it’s a classic-style porter that is brewed with black malts and chocolate to create a creamy ale that offers hints of roasted coffee beans and chocolate (a bottle is pictured to the right; we can credit my complete lack of photography training for its excellence). The beer is named Pig’s Ass because after each batch is brewed, the leftover mash (leftover grain that has been boiled) is given to a local farmer who feeds it to his pigs. Sustainability – who doesn’t dig it?

There’s a hint of hops in each taste of Pig’s Ass Porter as well.

It’s not hard to get a head out of each bottle pour, and I’d also recommend letting it grab some air before you dive in as there’s also a hint of vanilla in each sip along with the coffee and chocolate that dominates Pig’s Ass. It has a nice carbonation and isn’t as thick as a stout, though there’s a nice body to it (for more info on porters, I recommend reading Beer Advocate’s What the Hell Is a Porter?). I also picked up some kind of herbal flavoring going on that gives the beer a nice complexity and offsets its sweetness.

I am not a fan of sweet beers, and I tend to think that bringing out the chocolate in a dark ale is kind of a lazy move. I did not expect to enjoy Pig’s Ass Porter as much as I did.

There are a lot of dark beers out there that fuck up the savory notes and end up tasting like baker’s chocolate. A piece of chocolate (be it from a candy bar, slice of cake, or hunk of brownie) on its own compliments a stout or porter just fine. Let the grain and malt do the talking, y’know. So all that said, a beer that offers this taste combination, while also standing up on its own, is truly a beer worth savoring.

My natural inclination toward darker beers – stouts and porters, fer instance – is to save them the colder months of the year. They just taste better to me then. Summers in Brooklyn aren’t pretty. It’s hot and humid and sweaty and grumpy. Meanwhile, in Montana, the temp barely scrapes above seventy during the day and drops to the forties at night, which makes the livin’ so much easier. And a beer like Pig’s Ass Porter from Harvest Moon just nails what it means to be in Montana. Because –

Even when it’s summer, you’re thinking of everything winter offers.

Filed under: beer reviews, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ghost Beer Haunts Stink Cave

Over at the Cincinnati Business Courier, Jon Newberry noted today that the great stink in Latrobe could affect some local Cinci brands of beer, such as Hudy Premium Beer (see Cincinnati Business Courier).

I don’t know nothin’ about Hudy, but I do know that it’s not uncommon for brands of beer to share production centers. Though Hudy is a Cincinnati, Ohio-proud beer, it’s brewed over in Latrobe, Pa. Hudy is a German-style beer. If you’re trying to find a case, check out a Kroger’s grocery store and bend over to peruse the lawnmower brews.

Brooklyn Growler reader David N. Lewis, age 32, of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, wrote in to inform this here site that the previously noted City Brewing Co. of Latrobe, Pa. and Wherever, Wis. was also the maker of Wiedmann beer.

Wiedmann was a beer that was produced by the Geo. Wiedmann Brewing Company of Newport, Ky. The brewery has been closed since 1983. Newport, for all intents and purposes, is a part of the Cincinnati metro-area as it is just over the river and whatnot.

In its day, the Wiedmann brewery was not only synonymous with Newport, but it was also the Bluegrass State’s largest brewery. The brewery was founded sometime in the 1870s shortly after George Wiedmann moved to Kentucky from Germany.

Wiedmann described itself as a Bohemian-style beer. Bohemia is a region of Central Europe that is in the modern day’s Czech Republic.

A Bohemian beer is a lagered beer (cold stored; historically stored in caves) that is, essentially, a pilsner-style beer. If you’re trying to imagine what a Wiedmann tasted like, think about a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon on a hot day when you’ve just finished a physically exhausting task.

Let’s all raise a can of ghost beer and toast an unholy stink.

Photo of some Wiedmann beer cans via Kentucky Beer Cans, used without permission.

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July 2020