Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Samuel Smith's - Organically Produced Lager Beer

I had some preconceived notions about this beer.  Having lived in America all my life and having a penchant for "good" beer, I tend to look down on lagers.  I know there are some great lagers out there, but my geography lends me a bias that lagers are watered down, flavorless, mass-produced, gutter run-off.  I know many American beer drinkers (and probably international ones as well) will agree that American lagers (or pale lagers) offer little to no appeal to the palate.  However, I have seen this bottle several times and it is always offered at a premium price.  This intrigued me and I prepared to set aside my biases.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only
Aroma 10/12
After pouring a frothy 3-4oz sample and taking several short sniffs, one can easily detect the rich, bready aroma of the malt.  It is a bold. sweet smell and not unwelcome.  The hops come later and ever so delicately. They are a light, woody smell and hard to detect through the sweet malt.

Appearance 2/3
The only point subtracted here was for the head retention; everything else was flawless.  The beer was not crystal clear, but instead a blurred, golden hue (EBC roughly 12).  The ivory head rose quickly and lost half of its volume before I was half-way through the pint (not even a collar).  The head, when present, was a lovely, creamy compliment to the light beer that created it.  My first reaction?  Wow.

Flavor 19/20
While this beer is not saturated with thick flavors like other styles (double coffees, wit biers, etc), it is not required to do so.  Lagers are generally light in body and flavor and this beer was no exception.  The aroma the malt gave initially was revisited again in taste - a rich, bready taste that filled the mouth.  The hops came along stronger than in the aroma, but not out of balance with the malt.  Their strength in the flavor was a pleasant surprise after being almost absent in the aroma.  They were light and herbal and blended well with the esters that were present.  Wait, esters?  In a lager?  Oh yes, my friends.  This beer's flavor was phenomenal for a lager.  With the esters of perhaps light lemon and/or dark honey this beer tasted more like a long lost relative of a weiss than a lager!  Very nice!  This may be the first beer that I gush over and its a lager.  Wonders never cease.

Mouthfeel 5/5
This beer has the best of both worlds.  The light body and drinkability of a lager, but with the sweetness and flavor profile (muted though it be) of a weiss or Belgian.  The body was perfect for the style and the sweet finish makes it a truly refreshing beer.  I dare you not to love this beer on a summer day.  Also true to style there was almost no warmth, creaminess, or astringency.

Overall Impression 9/10
No surprise in the rating here.  I was greatly impressed with this offering.  In fact, I'm sad it is gone.  I usually do not purchase the same type of beer if I can help it, but this beer may be the exception

Total 45/50
This rating put it at the lowest end of "Outstanding: World-class example of style."  I do not believe that rating to be inaccurate.  It offers all the classic signs of a lager (light color, good carbonation, light body/good drinkability) but with the flavors and other perks of a more "serious" beer (sweet finish, esters, creamy head). This beer is deserving of praise and your sampling.  I hope you will go out and find one, after all, why else are you reading this if not for suggestions?

Don't forget to share with a friend!  It is half the fun.

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