Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Lager

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John Linn

Unrepentant beer drinkers, rejoice! Each week, Clean Plate Charlie will select one craft or import beer and give you the lowdown on it: How does it taste? What should you drink it with? Where can you find it? But mostly, it's all about the love of the brew. If you have a beer you'd like featured in Beer of the Week, let us know via a comment.

Call me a turncoat, but I just haven't been in the mood for big beers lately.

I know, it's crazy. I'm kind of mad at myself, because I have two bottles of Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale and a very special bomber of Left Hand's Chainsaw Double Sawtooth that have been collecting dust in my rack for a few weeks now. A few weeks. That's longer than any beer has a right to last in my house. Maybe it's the heat or the fact that I'm consciously cutting down on consumption of all sorts in the off time that I'm not snarfing down everything in sight at restaurants around South Florida. But when I reach for a beer these days, it's something crisp and refreshing, with the caveat that I still need some good flavors.

Brooklyn Lager satisfies those requirements completely.
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John Linn
Straight outta Williamsburg, Brooklyn Brewery crafts some damned fine American craft beers with an old-world twist. Their flagship beer is Brooklyn Lager, a dry-hopped, Viennese-style lager with a medium body and plenty of malty, caramel flavor.

Most people are familiar with lagers and pilsners by way of low-flavor, low-alcohol American brands like Miller, Budweiser, and Coors. Which is a shame, because those beers (if you can call them that, since these days they're made with just about everything except real barley malt) give lagers a really bad rap. Lagering is actually a different process from making an ale, in which the wort (that's what the liquid is called once it's steeped with the mash all the way until it's finished, fermented beer) is fermented at much lower temperatures. The cooler climes cause the bottom strain yeast to move slowly -- flavors that develop are milder, and the esters, which give ale its bold, fruity flavors, are subdued. What results is a lighter beer, crisper in flavor with an overall smooth character. Those words have been used so much in big-brand marketing that they're almost interchangable with "devoid of character." But that's not always the case, and Brooklyn Lager is a good example of that.

This lager is fairly well-balanced, in my opinion. It's not sour or musty, as some lagers can be; rather, it has a substantial caramel body with hints of nuts and smoke. Like many lagers, it has an airy, creamy head that disapates quickly. But the aroma is sweet and hoppy, a result of allowing hops to sit in the fermenting wort, imparting their flavor and character without extracting much in the way of bitterness. There is a touch of bitter background as well, but it's tempered nicely against the maltiness. This is beautiful, warm-weather beer, perfect for guzzling on a stoop, swiping the cold bottle against your neck in between glugs.

Brooklyn Lager is a versitile brew. It could hang with fried chicken and burgers just as well as among spicy stir-fry. At 5.2 percent ABV, it's just outside the official session beer range (up to 5 percent), but you'll find it works well in that capacity.

Where can you find it? Luckily, Brooklyn is one of the largest craft brewers in the country these days, so just about everywhere. Some Publixes have it; Whole Foods certainly has it, as does Total Wine, ABC, and BX Beer Depot. Grab a six-pack and take solace in the fact that this beer ain't big, but it sure is bold.


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