Indoor climate control and the industrialization of brewing have meant that “seasonal drinking” isn’t as Mother Nature-mandated as it once was, but there is still logic in retiring imperial stouts and doppelbocks in favor of sunnier spring fare. It just feels right to swap out some of the residual sugar-laden winter drams now that (hopefully) the threat of frost is passed. Before you’re ready for summer’s goses and easy lagers, though, ease yourself into crisper beers with these three new-to-the-U.S. lagers from Germany:
Ayinger Bavarian Pils
Brewed for years but previously unavailable in America, this pils is exactly as technically perfect as you’d expect from Ayinger. It’s beautiful to look at: A tightly knit, eggshell-white head caps the golden, crystal clear pour as fine bubbles float to the surface. The aroma is quiet and balanced, with lightly spicy and earthy hops flitting across a cracker malt base. A sip begins with similar Saltinelike malts, followed by a peppery, dried oregano hop character that fades into a medium-earthy bitterness at the close of the squeaky-clean swallow. “We’ve had requests for Ayinger Pils over the years, and you can taste why,” says Craig Hartinger of Merchant du Vin, the beer’s importer. “There’s a pretty famous 40-tap alehouse here in Seattle, open for over 20 years, that ordered their first 50-liter keg of Ayinger Pils about a month ago. They put it on, and it sold out in three days. They’re ordered at least four more kegs since then.” Lucky for all American drinkers, this beer is now available year round on draft and in bottle four-packs.
Can I get an internet high-five for spelling that beer correctly, first of all? OK, thanks. So, they’ve named this beer a long string of letters that are tough to pronounce (crystal-WHITE-zen-bock) but actually do tell you a lot about the beer itself: Kristall means it’s filtered clear, unlike Weihenstphan’s traditional Vitus bock. Weizen means it has a preponderance of wheat in the grain bill, and bock means it’s brewed to a higher strength (in this case, 7.5% ABV) than a standard German weissbier/wheat beer. So if you’re normally a hefeweizen drinker, this daffodil-colored weizenbock should appeal to you on those occasions when you’d like a little more oomph. The German yeast character announces itself from the get-go with smoky clove, banana and pear syrup in the nose; light vanilla rounds the edges. The flavor is smoother and more compact than the aroma as sugary pear and apple juice lead the way with dried banana and wheat rising at the swallow like a soft Bananas Foster. The soft, light-bodied sip closes with mild bitterness and a touch of warming but not distracting alcohol. The limited release beer just hit shelves this month, so get it while the getting’s good.
Veltins Grevensteiner Landbier
If you’ve never heard of a landbier, you’re not alone. It’s not really a style, per se, but more of a regional, rustic creation that translates to “country beer” and would have varied from brewer to brewer in more pastoral times. It can be traced back to the Franconia region and could also be thought of as a kellerbier, or an unfiltered lager. “When formulating Grevensteiner, Veltins researched the malt used in the late 1800s and early 1900s and found a match. The prominent malt is an Austrian or Vienna-style amber malt with a rich caramel flavor note,” says Mark Stratton of Artisanal Imports, Inc., which imports this beer. There’s quite a bit of malt in the aroma, but it’s of a lighter-than-caramel bent like sourdough bread, baked apples and clover honey with a hint of grassy hops at the swirl. Likewise, the flavor launches with a big, bready kickoff with cracked pepper and grass clipping-flavored hops balancing the sweetness at the edges. The beer dries somewhat at the finish of the sip, but still leans fruity-sweet before crunchy bread crust and some mineral snap wash in a beat later. If you don’t think lagers have much to offer flavorwise, allow this rustic and brawny 5.2% landbier change your mind. If you like what you taste, you’re in luck: This beer is now available stateside all year long.