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Beer Man: Batch 19 is a tasty reminder of early 1900s lagers

11:18 AM, Apr. 11, 2013  |  Comments
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Brewers were among the many German immigrants who arrived in the United States in large numbers in the 1800s, bringing with them the knowledge of crispy beers made from bottom-fermenting lager yeast, as opposed to the more common top-fermenting ale yeast.

Quickly displacing ales, these lagers were a far cry from the watery substances now consumed by most American beer drinkers, which, instead of being made mostly with barley grain, now can contain nearly 50 percent corn and/or rice.

World War I, Prohibition, the Great Depression, Dust Bowl and World War II all had impacts on grain harvests that led to this bastardization of our beer. Corn, and later rice, were used more and more often simply because adequate barley supplies didn't exist or were too expensive. As the years went by, unfortunately, the average American became used to the lower amount of barley to the point where 100-percent barley beers now taste weird to them. I refer to them as the Lost Beer Generation (actually, several generations).

Essentially, any beer purporting to be a "pre-Prohibition lager" is simply what a current traditional German lager still is. Batch 19 is supposedly based on a recipe found in the Coors brewing archives.

The 5.5 percent ABV beer had a vibrant golden color and nice head, with tight bubbles that spiraled nicely upwards through the V-shaped pilsner glass it was sampled in. The aroma of sweet malt and grassy hops were readily apparent - not subtle at all, but not overpowering.

The malt flavor leaned more toward caramel malt than the more biscuity pale malts - somewhat of a surprise, since caramel malt is usually more evident in reddish-to-darker beers. The hop flavor was citrusy and sharp, providing a nice tang to counteract the malt. The hop bitterness also had a bite, but faded away quickly. It makes sense that a beer in the early 1900s would be hoppier - like the India Pale Ale style, hops would help preserve beer at a time when refrigeration was not yet common.

Batch 19 is available virtually everywhere in the country. For those not used to craft beer, here's a chance to get a feel for how everyday beer used to taste. For those more experienced, it's a chance to find out that, yes, the giant breweries can sometimes make a beer worth your while.

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