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Classic Beer of the Month July 2010: Brooklyn Lager

Brooklyn Lager, 5.2% (USA)

News that Brooklyn Lager is now available in draught form in the UK will have excited many beer lovers.

Brooklyn LagerThis amber-coloured beer has long been a flag-waver for US craft brewers on the world stage, a clear statement – if one was still needed – that American lager is not just pale, cold and tasteless.

Up to now we have been forced to rely on bottles to appreciate this beer and it’s mostly only those in the know that have had the sense to seek some out in the pub’s cooler or the off-licence shelves.

The more prominent presence of a draught dispense unit on the bar should now ensure the beer reaches the bigger audience that it deserves.

Appreciation of the beer begins with a read of its advertising strapline, ‘Pre Prohibition Beer’, a reference to the fact that its recipe pre-dates that miserable time in US history when alcohol sales and production were banned and hundreds of breweries went out of business.

When the move was reversed, the momentum was with brewers who majored mostly on the bland, light lager style loaded with cheap cereals – the sort of products that gave American beer a bad name for so long.

With Brooklyn Lager, the company aimed to turn back the clock and give Americans an all-malt product with real character and integrity.

The brewery itself is a mere 23 years old, founded by former Associated Press foreign correspondent Steve Hindy and former banker Tom Potter. They didn’t even have a brewhouse at first, but contract brewed at another site before taking the plunge and investing in premises in the New York suburb that shares the brewery’s name.

Grandfather's Recipe

The company turned to retired brewer Bill Moeller for the recipe for Brooklyn Lager, which has become far and away the brewery’s major brand. The story has it that Moeller discovered it in his grandfather’s brewing books.

Broadly speaking, it falls into the Vienna lager style, with its rich, amber-copper looks, but if anything it is a hybrid, an American derivative. Along with Samuel Adams Boston Lager, it’s the leading exponent of what is now described as the American Amber Lager style.

The American twist comes primarily from the use of Cascade hops, for a light citrus freshness. They join Hallertauer Mittelfrüh from Germany and US Vanguard hops in the grist, which ensures there is enough bitterness to balance the fullness of the pale and darker malts, especially when, as here, dry hopping is involved.

The aroma is lightly nutty and toasted, but layered with pungent American hops and their floral and citrus accents. Gentle caramel lines the palate, topped by bold, clean, tangy hops that add a soft orange-like fruitiness that continues into the fairly dry, bitter and hoppy finish with more suggestions of caramel.

At 5.2% ABV, it packs a good punch, too, making this a satisfying drink on all levels. Hopefully, it will be available by the pint in a bar near you soon.

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