Posts Tagged ‘america’

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Boston Lager

12 November, 2009

AMERICANS are brilliant. They leave some of the best comments on this blog. And they keep mentioning a beer that they like called ‘Samuel Adams’. At long last, that beer has started turning up in British shops. It’s great that they finally sorted out distribution in this country. But it leaves me with a problem. If I ‘review’ it and like it, my Sam Adams loving friends will be delighted. If I try it and hate it, then my polite and informative American readers will be somewhat irked. Still, it’ll be fun to see what happens. So, for an expensive £1.19 pence, on a very fine line, here is a bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager bottle

As bottle’s go, it’s brown and fairly plain. For some reason, the stuff you normally read on the back-label is up on the neck label where you wouldn’t normally think to look for it.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front of neck label

For added quirkiness, they split paragraph with the first half on the left and second half on the right of the “Samuel Adams” logo. But quirkiness is good. I like that.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager left of neck label

It’s good to read the sort of description that you normally find on an ale. About the care, attention to detail and recipe that goes back generations.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager right of neck label

Rotating it around to read the rest, and it keeps getting better. We get the names of hops. And interesting, those aren’t names I remember reading on anything I’ve tried so far. So extra marks for distinctive ingredients.

Then they take the risk. “No other American lager matches this rich robust and complex taste”, finishing with a pretend signature from Jim Koch. The cynic in me says that that means it’s only average because of the dire state of American brewing. The optimist says that there’s plenty I’ve not tried yet, and that Samuel Adams Boston Lager must be something special. Either way. It’s a brave statement.

Down on the front-label, and there’s a big, traditional looking roundel.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager front label

…a label that gives me déjà vu. I’ve seen it before somewhere…

Family Guy Pawucket Patriot Ale

I think it looks good. And so does the Samuel Adams one.

“The Boston Beer Company”, “Product of USA” and “America’s World-Class Beer” all add to the sense that this should be good, and not mass-produced fizz.

Oddly, the small print is tucked into two flappy bits either ride of the roundel. One the left is the address of The Boston Beer Company in Boston, Massachusetts. On the other side is some recycling information for other countries and the all important vital statistics. This is an unusual 355ml bottle. Until you realise that it was designed with fluid ounces in mind, which case one of the numerous online converters brings it to 12 oz. Does that sound normal to you? The alcoholic volume is 4.8% which is unremarkable for a lager. Neither strong nor weak.

Is there a back label? Yes there is. Is it worth reading? Not really.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager back label

It is literally a list of importers. Here in Britain, the rather excellent Shepherd Neame of Kent arranged this bottle’s arrival on the shop shelves.

So, what does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? Will I like it as much as our friends over the pond do? For the sake of the comments at the end of this post, I sure hope so.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager poured into a glass

The fun and quirky touches keep coming. On the underside of the bottle-top, yes, the side that’s inside the bottle, is a proudly displayed “#25 Brussels Gold 2000 International Award Winner”. Well done chaps.

In the glass, it froths up, but the head collapses fairly sharpish into a lumpy layer. Must say, I was surprised at how dark it is. It’s a kind of copper-y amber colour with an almost cream head. It looks well carbonated, but not too fizzy.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager smell of? First reaction was “it smells good for a lager”. Almost every pilsner style lager beer I’ve sniffed has some variation on the malted barley formula. Very few stretch that into something distinctive, but Samuel Adams Boston Lager seems to have managed it. Unbelievable, I think it smells of hoppy spiciness and biscuit malt. Normally, you’d only read those words in a review of English ale.

What does Samuel Adams Boston Lager taste like? The first sip is a good one. A very good one in fact. Much like the smell, it’s almost like drinking ale. Some people won’t like that, but I do.

To elaborate a bit, because it is an ale, it still can’t manage much in the flavour department. All I can pick up there is a hint of savoury malty. It’s the aftertaste where Samuel Adams Boston Lager comes to life and where it makes a bold stride away from the crowd. The finish is tingly, tangy, salty, hoppy and spicy and a little bit malty. All this makes it bitter overall, but balanced and with a long and quite smooth finish.

With most of the bottle now gone, what am I enjoying about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Thankfully, quite a lot. I love how different it is to almost every lager I’ve tried. That scores it serious points for distinctiveness. I love how it’s a lager trying to be an ale. I like the hoppy taste that you normally have to buy an expensive bottle of ale for. I like how it looks and smells different. I like how not many people this side of the pond know about it yet. And I like what a funny size it is, sitting uncomfortably between smaller and bigger Euro bottles on the shop shelf.

What aren’t I like about Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Fortunately for the comments section of the post, not that much. First, I’m burping more than usual, so it’s a gassy drink. It is quite bitter and strong tasting, so I won’t be getting any girls to try it any time soon. Incidentally, if you are a girl who likes Samuel Adams Boston Lager, leave your thoughts in the comments. It’s also unlikely to appeal to the committed lager drinker, unless you’re using this as a stepping stone to real ale. That puts it in an awkward spot between what you think of as lagers and ales. It’s not as crisp and refreshing as other good lagers and not as complex and flavourful as ale. It’s also rather expensive.

How can I sum up Samuel Adams Boston Lager? It is that rare thing. A lager that truly is different. One of those few that thinks it’s an ale. It is better than any of the mass-produced American lagers I’ve tried by miles. I’m going to buy it again.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Samuel Adams Boston Lager what did you think of it? Can you correct any of the mistakes that you’ve spotted in my ‘review’? Do please leave your opinions, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments section.

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Beer Review: Michelob Lager

25 June, 2008

A few days ago, I wrote about the seismic shifts in the brewing industry when European mega-brewer InBev made an offer for American brewing giant, and home of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch. I wanted to mark the occasion by trying an American beer from the Anheuser-Busch stables, but was deterred by Budweiser being a cheap lager. So I cheated and had an unrelated and equally cheap Miller Beer instead.

Since then, London taxis have continued advertising a new, and different looking beer from Anheuser-Busch. So, after much procrastination, I relented and picked up a bottle of Michelob Lager.

Michaelob Lager bottle

And it’s not a bad looking bottle. All the black and gold offers a premium look. And a nice change compared to the shouty look of other American beers. The dark coloured bottle even has a Coca-Cola-esque middle. And the name “Michelob” is subtly embossed upon the surface. All unusually classy.

The bottle top isn’t something I normally dwell on. But this one deserves mention because it’s a screw top. The quality of the bottle just went down a notch for me. But what do you think? Leave your opinion at the end of the post.

With no front or back labels cluttering up this stylish bottle, what we do have is a very large neck label. Something I think makes the bottle look like it’s wearing a spangly dinner-jacket.

Michelob Lager front label

I like the font of this neck label. And that’s because it has all the words the convinced me that it would be worth trying. Even though it’s a lager that comes from somewhere with a poor reputation for mass-produced beer. Starting with the gold coloured top, it describes itself as “a classic all-malt lager brewed with noble European aroma hop varieties”. I’m salivating already. Malt is good. European hops can be good. As for this being a lager, well, I’m staying open minded about this one.

The “Michelob” brand is new here in Britain. And I’d be interested in learning what reputation is has across the pond. To me, the discreet little flag, and typeface sum up elegance. They also remind me of after dinner mints.

Even after vowing not to bother with lager again, there are some things that get me interested. And the word “Imported” does just that in this instance. The Miller Beer turned out to have been brewed “under license” over here. That’s no good. I want to review real American beer. And beers genuinely from other countries for that matter. So this one fits the bill nicely.

Just like the cap, the best before dates aren’t something I normally mention. But this time I will.

Michelob Lager left of neck label

Some countries require food and drink to have a best before date. Others require the date that the food or drink was produced on. Because this is the export version, it sensibly has both. It has a “Born On Date” and a “Best Before Date”. Adding a belt to those braces are the words “Freshest Taste within 110 Days”. This isn’t something I’ve seen on many other beers. Not those from Europe, Africa or Asia at least.

Over on the other side of the neck label is all of the small-print.

Michelob Lager right of neck label

After seeing so many faux foreign beer that turn out to be brewed in the UK, the St. Louis address for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., is a welcome sight. This really is from the USA and imported to me, via Richmond in Surrey.

This bottle is the usual volume of 355 millilitres. But the alcoholic volume is a rather typical 5%. It contains, surprise surprise, barley malt. And there is a UK postal address for comments. Unusual not to see an email address or consumer helpline though.

With that out of the way, its time to answer the big questions of our time. Namely, are there exceptions to the rule of big-name American beers generally being terrible? And does Michelob Lager taste as good as it looks?

Michelob Lager poured into a glass

Be careful if you decide to pour it. The head fizzes up almost uncontrollably, so keep an eye on your enthusiasm. It does end up as a good, thick layer after a few moments though. The other thing you’ll notice, if you went for the half-pint glass, is that it wasn’t big enough. Frustratingly, 355 millilitres is somewhere between half a pint and full-pint.

The colour is typical for a lager. It’s a pale yellow. It’s also filled with bubbles. Oh dear.

The label talked about “European aroma hop varieties”. And I’m delighted to report that the smell is not bad. Even compared to European lagers, it smells good. It has a much more rounded smell of barley and hops than many others. Not quite up to the levels of a proper ale, but not bad.

The first gulps were hindered somewhat by the thick layer of foam. First impressions aren’t too bad. I liked that it was smooth. I liked the initially light taste of lager. I was starting to think that it wasn’t a bad example of a lager.

Then the aftertaste hit me, and everything changed. The initial taste of a light blend of malted barley and hops vanishes. To be replaced by an intense, sour and bitter aftertaste. It feels like it’s clinging on to every surface of your tongue. And it is ghastly. You might expect this taste if it were a 9% super-strength lager, but for a premium, imported lager, it cannot be excused.

I truly wanted to enjoy Michelob Lager. My expectations were modest, and achievable. It looks the part. And smells the part of a quality, premium lager. But that taste. It is one of the worst and most unpalatable I’ve tasted.

How can I sum it up? This is a beer for people who have spent their lives drinking Budweiser, and want to imagine that they’re experiencing a European quality beer. When in fact, all this is doing, is perpetuating the reputation that big-name American brewers produce urine and get away with it.

Rating: 1

Have you tried Michelob Lager? What did you think? What reputation does it have elsewhere in the world?
Leave your corrections, opinions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions here please. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think.


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