Continuing to leverage my time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, I am studying for the second level of the Cicerone Certification Program for beer professionals. To stay honest in my studies, I am publishing reviews of DMV beers brewed in the classic styles and comparing them to the official style guidelines. While I recently took my online exam, I am continuing to do so to a) keep myself informed and b) I am really enjoying writing for you all.
American Lagers get a lot of hate from beer nerds, yet they remain the most popular beer style, by far, in the United States. Silver Branch’s labeling as “Classic American Pilsner” is telling –classically American (that is, immigrants influenced by US terroir), but perhaps closer to a traditional Pilsner than a Coors. Considering its use of corn in the grist, let’s compare it against the American lager style:
American Lager Guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP):
A very pale, highly-carbonated, light-bodied, well-attenuated lager with a very neutral flavor profile and low bitterness.
Appearance is very pale straw to medium yellow color.
Aroma is low to no malt aroma, although it can be perceived as grainy, sweet or corn-like if present. Hop aroma may range from none to a light, spicy or floral hop presence.
Flavor is relatively neutral with a crisp and dry finish and a moderately-low to low grainy or corn-like flavor that might be perceived as sweetness… Hop flavor ranges from none to moderately-low levels, and can have a floral, spicy, or herbal quality.
Mouthfeel is low to medium-low body. Very highly carbonated with slight carbonic bite.
Vital Statistics: IBUs 8-18, SRM 2-4, ABV 4.2-5.3%
This beer pours like, well, beer–pale yellow, clear as day, and exuberantly fizzy. The nose is quite light, maybe some bread dough wafting into my nostrils with generic sweetness and a touch of hop. The beer begins malty sweet on the palate but quickly shifts to surprisingly tongue-tingling bitterness. While the nose was a bit floral, the level of bitterness took me aback. The malt is grainy, a little sweet, and fades quickly, taunting you to come back for more. The carbonation is sharp and aids drinkability, cutting any other intense flavors and making the case for carbonation as a perceivable flavor. The beer “ends” quickly; there is a subtle floral bitterness that stays, but mostly you’re just ready for another sip. Gold Line tastes like beer!
In The Chef Show on Netflix, Chef Roy Choi talks about evoking nostalgia through elegant food using “high/low” cooking techniques –that is, utilizing high end cooking with approachable ingredients in order to make delicious, well put together food that is reminiscent of a simpler time. I have noticed that during the pandemic this is what I have been craving: Burgers with artisan beef and XO jam, free range fried chicken sandwiches, pizza with house-made nduja. Food that reminds me of simpler times, yet expertly crafted and appealing to Adult Begrudging Yupster Daniel (ok, I have eaten my fair share of frozen chicken tenders and mac and cheese as well – BIG shout out 8 Myles Buffalo Mac). That is Gold Line.
I, along with many brewers, am not shy in my love for Miller High Life, what I consider the platonic ideal of cheap American Lagers. Gold Line takes the crisp sweetness of High Life and elevates it. Local barley and corn, deftly used by Silver Branch’s brewmaster, evoking a (much) hoppier, well-attenuated High Life. I could drink 11 of these.
Gold Line pairs well with rye whiskey, Eddie’s Cafe Chinese, and mourning The Codmother when you are three years too old for it.
Next week – Wheatland Spring Bauernhof Altbier!