Category Archives: Lager

Augustiner-Bräu München Edelstoff

rating_verygood71 points

Look, I don’t like to be confused when I’m drinking my beer. And this Helles lager from Munich is downright perplexing.

It has a label that is just God-awful, printed in light blue and gold with confusing German text set in a font only someone in lederhosen could read. The label is adorned with a drawing of an elderly monk in an apron, standing in front of a cinder block wall, surrounded by drawings of medals and hop flowers. What the fürchterlich?!

augustinerbraumunchenThe label reads “Augustiner-Bräu München Münchner Bier Edelstoff.” With a random set of German words like that, we had to take to the Internet just to find out what the hell we were drinking.

On top of that, you have to remove a sheet of aluminum foil from the neck just to drink it, and when you do, you only get 11.2 ounces — not a full 12.

Everything about the packaging of this beer begs you not to purchase it. But you know us — we’re always up for the challenge.

Besides, Augustiner has been around since 1328, so we trusted that whatever the hell we were drinking, it would probably be decent. We were right.

Let’s clear up the mystery behind this horribly-marketed beer. Despite the lack of any useful information on the label, it is a Helles lager — a malt-forward light lager developed in Munich, Germany, in the late 1800s. “Helles” means bright, so it’s meant to be crisp and refreshing.

Basically, our panel felt it was Munich’s version of a light beer. So that’s how we judged it.

Edelstoff pours a pale, almost-neon yellow, which immediately sent our panelists into a whirlwind of urine jokes.  But aside from its off-putting color, the panel enjoyed it’s big, bubbly carbonation and short, sudsy head.

The panel felt the smell was better than average, with strong notes of grain and cereal, with a noticeable lemon overtone.

Edelstoff’s taste is dominated by malt, with strong flavors of lemon and raisin. Some panelists noted a bit of a tartness that is reminiscent of the sour yeast of Belgian whites.

Mouthfeel is smooth and a bit sudsy — what you’d expect for a typical lager — but our panelists mentioned that Edelstoff has more flavor than a typical lager.

Aftertaste is average, falling off quickly and leaving behind a bit of the lemony tartness, accompanied by a hint of Hallertau hops.

This beer makes its points on drinkability. It’s a light drinker, best served cold. Even panelists who were underwhelmed by the brew admitted they could drink several.

However…this beer is $12 per six-pack. It ain’t cheap. And when you factor in the 11.2-ounce bottle size, you’re actually paying the equivalent of $12.86 per standard 72-ounce six-pack.

That’s way, way more than a typical light lager.  While Bud Light might not be a good beer,  for $12.86, not only could you buy  a case of it, but probably the dolly the distributor used to deliver it.

All told, though, if you can get past the high price of Augustiner-Bräu München Münchner Bier Edelstoff — and the mouthful of words it takes to say its name — you’ll be rewarded with a mouthful of solid, light summer lager.

(Appearance 5.29, Smell 6.86, Taste 21.29, Aftertaste 13.71, Drinkability 23.57)

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Hooker Octoberfest

rating_fair59 points

What do you get when you cross the off-putting appearance of apple juice with the even-more-off-putting taste of pumpkin rind, green beans and molasses?

If you guessed Hooker Octoberfest, congratulations…you just won the remainder of our six pack, because we have no plans to drink it.

Editor’s note: Our label had “Oktoberfest” spelled with a “K.” According to the brewer’s website, it’s now spelled “Octoberfest” with a “C.”

Look, we wanted to like Hooker’s autumn offering. They’re practically in our backyard, and we support anyone helping the craft brew industry.

And we very much enjoyed their Chocolate Truffle Stout. But in every category, Hooker Octoberfest was fair at best.

On pour, the beer is light and looks like clear-filtered apple juice. Most panelists found it unimpressive, though several remarked on its generous, lacey head, supported by lively carbonation.

The aroma of Octoberfest is all malt. It smells, as one panelist put it, “like a light beer.” Our panel found no discernable profiles other than the malt. Not surprising…after all, it is a Marzen-style lager. But not impressive, either.

Taste also was all malt. Panelists picked up faint tones of smoky molasses, pumpkin, and even cooked green beans. But the malt dominated on first taste, then quickly disintegrated into a watery, nondescript aftertaste.

Most panelists noted a slight bitterness to the aftertaste, but one that also disappeared quickly, leaving our panelists to rate it sub-par.

Our panelist Bob gave up trying to be scientific at this point, and instead wrote inappropriate jokes on his tasting sheet. We won’t repeat them here, but suffice it to say…we found the jokes more satisfying than the beer.

With its light structure, this beer is easy to drink, but the panel scored drinkability only fair, because while you could drink a lot of it, you probably won’t want to.

So Hooker Octoberfest isn’t a home run in our books. But don’t let that detract you from trying their other products. As we said, their Chocolate Truffle Stout is very good.

Maybe they should find a way to get some of that delicious chocolate into this beer as well. Ooh, I think I just found a use for my leftover Halloween candy.

(Appearance 7.33, Smell 5.17, Taste 17., Aftertaste 12.5, Drinkability 17.17)

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Stella Artois

rating_good64 points

To our panelist Amy, Stella Artois is more than a pale lager. It’s a reminder of good memories with her father.

The two of them would sit at a seafood bar at a nearby casino, enjoying plates of steamed Ipswich clams, cornbread and glasses of the Belgian pilsner.

stellaartoisIt’s nice to have precious memories like that, because the gold-rimmed glasses and bittersweet nostalgia can help you forget that you’re basically drinking Bud Light.

Maybe we’re being a little harsh on Stella. It’s not a bad beer. But when you have more to say about the gold-rimmed glass it’s typically served in than the beer itself…you’re not off to a great start.

Stella Artois has a long history, dating back to 1926 (pay no mind to the “1366” adorning the bottle.) But it’s now a mass produced product of Anheuser Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer. So perhaps comparing it to Bud Light isn’t that far-fetched after all.

Stella Artois is nicknamed “wife beater” in the United Kingdom, due to a perception that it’s connected to binge drinking and domestic violence. As mediocre as this beer is, we certainly hope you have a better experience with it than that.

Our panelists took no exception to Stella’s clear golden color. It certainly looks refreshing, with lots of carbonation and a thin white head.

Accompanying that is a clean, crisp lager smell. Not overly impressive, mind you, but not bad…though one panelist picked up a bit of a metallic scent.

As you might expect from a mild, pale lager, the taste was crisp and refreshing, but the panel found it only slightly better than average. There really wasn’t much to say about the taste, and that’s where this beer is lacking.

It has a faint grassy taste with a bit of a sourness that one panelist noted as “lemony.” Don’t be intrigued by that, though — our panel really had to work to identify any discernable flavor characteristics.

One thing that was clear to us was that this beer needs to be consumed cold and quick — much like Rolling Rock. In fact, more than once during the tasting were the two beers likened to each other. Any warmth risks skunking this brew.

Aftertaste was average, with a dry finish. Panelists noted it as metallic and wheaty, with a slightly tart note of grapeskin/wine, and a faint bitterness.

As for drinkability, the panel agreed that it’s a light drinker that you could consume all night. It’s crisp and refreshing enough, for certain. But many of the panelists just weren’t impressed with the flavor — or lack thereof — to justify drinking much of it.

So overall, Stella Artois isn’t overly impressive. There simply are much better choices.

But it’s a decent enough to enjoy a couple of gold-rimmed glasses, while splitting a bucket of steamers with your Dad.

And if that leads to some wonderful memories, perhaps that makes the beer all that much better.

Buyer Beware: Stella Artois comes in 11.2-ounce bottles, instead of standard 12-ounce.

(Appearance 6.25, Smell 5.75, Taste 18.75, Aftertaste 11.75, Drinkability 21.5)

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Rolling Rock

rating_good64 points

With the craft beer market exploding around us, and modern beer drinkers rattling off varieties of hops more easily than the letters of the alphabet, it may seem odd that we chose to rate this relic of the American brewing landscape.

We couldn’t resist choosing the tall boy can over the bottle, this time.

Everything about Rolling Rock screams “nostalgia.” Its bright green bottle is adorned with a white-and-blue painted label featuring a romantic horse-racing theme. The fonts used for the text are so retro, you’ll want to buy war bonds. And it proudly boasts that it is brewed by “Latrobe Brewing Company.”

Don’t get too excited about that last one. Latrobe Brewing Company ceased to exist in 1987, and Rolling Rock is now a mass-produced product of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev.

The 122-year-old Latrobe, Pennsylvania, brewing facility, by the way, still exists and is owned by City Brewing Company, which currently contracts it to brew Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

But let’s talk about the product.

Rolling Rock describes itself as an “Extra Pale Lager.” In these days of hopped-up IPAs, sour Belgians, and experimentally-spiced concoctions, that may as well say “Water.” Right?

And when you pour Rolling Rock from a green bottle — maligned by modern brewers for its lack of ultraviolet light protection — it’s easy to expect you’re going to endure a skunky, factory-produced mess. Right?

Those assumptions are specifically why we chose to include this old-school beer in our “Guilty Pleasures” tasting. So let’s see how this World War II era brew your father’s father drank has held up in the modern beer drinking world.

Our panel made a lot of jokes about Rolling Rock immediately on pour. It’s clear golden color and lack of notable head elicited more than one comparison to urine. We were off to a lovely start.

Immature micturition mocking aside, Rolling Rock’s appearance is fair at best. But what it lacks in head and beauty, it makes up for in huge carbonation.

Smell is average, with our panel noting a textbook lager aroma layered with notes of lemon. Our panelist Rick joked that it “smells like a bar floor back at college.”

In Rolling Rock’s defense, Rick went to a very good college.

Rolling Rock has a decent flavor — light, with a grainy cereal profile and notes of lemon. It has a sudsy mouthfeel and a mouth-drying effect that begs you drink more. But with an aftertaste that is watery and a bit grassy, you end up questioning those pleas.

It’s light, it’s fizzy, it’s watery — so as you might imagine, it’s quite easy to drink. And with an ABV of only 4.4%, you could drink a lot.

But our panel recommends you drink it very cold. We mean ice cold. Warmth does this brew no favors, as ours started to sour in our tasting glasses as our lengthy panel discussions warmed it.

Rolling Rock is, overall, a “Good” beer. Mock us for that if you wish. And admittedly, there are thousands of beers that are better than it.

But given its recipe dates back to the Greatest Generation, it has stood the test of time, and might be a nostalgic choice for a hot summer day, when you need to chug down an ice cold brew. Remember, we said ice cold.

Each bottle and can of Rolling Rock is emblazoned with the number 33, and we would be remiss if we didn’t weigh in on the “33 mystery.”

Several legends swirl around the origin of that number. Some say it’s the number of words in the company’s credo; some say it’s the number of a racehorse the original brewers bet on; some say it was a printing code that was accidentally left on the earliest labels. Rolling Rock claims not to be certain on the origin, and whether or not that’s true, they’ve cashed in on perpetuating that mystery.

For us here at The Basement Beer Tastings, none of that matters. We have our own interpretation — “33” is the number of points Rolling Rock is away from a near-perfect brew.

(Appearance 4.67, Smell 6, Taste 18.33, Aftertaste 12.67, Drinkability 22.33)

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Sierra Nevada Summerfest

rating_good64 points

As The Basement Beer Tastings panel delved into summer seasonals, the panel found the selections they tasted were apparently brewed to be consumed, not savored.

Light and crisp seems to be the name of the game with Czech-style lagers like Sierra Nevada Summerfest — a full 180 degrees from their massive Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Ale that currently tops our ratings.

sierranevadasummerfestOn pour, Summerfest exhibits a clear, bright golden color, a soda-like carbonation that hangs around a while, and a loose, quickly dissipating head.

This beer says, “Hey, it’s summer. Stop looking at me and get back to looking at the ocean.”

Smell is light and doesn’t have much in the way of notable overtones, though one panelist picked up a faint smell of pomegranate. Other than that, it’s an average light lager with a clean, malty smell.

It has a moderately sudsy mouthfeel, and aftertaste is average. The brew’s dry finish is highlighted first by light hops, followed by a slightly earthy, slightly metallic taste as it trails off.

Summerfest is a middle-of-the-road, average beer. It’s obviously well-crafted, and won’t turn you off. But it’s not going to knock your socks off, either.

Our panelists had a hard time explaining the delicate balancing point between “not finding anything remarkable” about a beer, yet “not being disappointed by it,” either.

Perhaps Summerfest is best summed up by one of our panelists, who remarked, “I’m not impressed. I’d drink about three.”

(Appearance 6.5, Smell 4.33, Taste 18.5, Aftertaste 14.33, Drinkability 20.67)

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Cisco Summer of Lager

rating_fair57 points

Cisco Brewers’ website describes Summer of Lager as  “5.5% ABV, Bohemian Style Pilsner.” And that’s all they say about it.

Upon tasting the Nantucket-based brewery’s summer seasonal, the panel understood why. There just isn’t much to say about Summer of Lager other than, “It’s just beer.”

ciscosummeroflagerPerhaps that’s what Cisco was aiming for — an understated, simple, no frills beer. But our panelists felt that it was a little too unremarkable.

This brew had a nice clear golden color — a little darker than a typical lager — accompanied by a nice white head and lively carbonation.

Smell was a bit above average, with a strong aroma of what our panelists described as “beer.” While there were hints of lemon, the aroma was dominated by the grainy smell typical of a light lager.

Taste was only average, with no standout flavors. Summer of Lager finishes dry, with traces of a black peppery, slightly metallic aftertaste. But even on the aftertaste, the panelists unanimously agreed that the best summation was, “It’s just beer.”

This brew is light and refreshing — probably it’s biggest plus — but its underwhelming taste will probably have you seeking something else instead of an encore.

If you’re up for “just having a beer,” then you may find yourself grabbing one of Cisco’s Summer of Lager brews. But remember what you’re signing up for, because after all…this is “just beer.”

(Appearance 7.67, Smell 6, Taste 17.33, Aftertaste 10.67, Drinkability 15.67)

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Guinness Blonde American Lager

rating_verygood74 points

Looking for an American lager? Then pack your bags and head all the way to Ireland for Guinness’s new take on this classic. Then pack your bags again and head right back to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, because that’s where it’s actually brewed.

If all of this seems like a recipe for disaster, you may be surprised that the output is actually quite pleasing.

guinnessblondeThe panel found the appearance and pour of this lager appealing, with a darker, vibrant golden color highlighted by lively carbonation. It had a light nose with hints of caramel and fruit, and a solid, smooth taste. A bit of hops showed up on the aftertaste, as did a dry, somewhat metallic taste that lingered. The panel noted that beer’s taste and aftertaste improved as you drank it.

So while this brew had nothing unique to it, it’s an easy choice as a drinkable session beer, and way better than Diageo’s other offering of Harp Lager, which came in about 12 points lower.

(Appearance 7, Smell 6.33, Taste 21.67, Aftertaste 13.33, Drinkability 25.5)

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Rogue Irish Style Lager

rating_verygood72 points

Rogue describes this award-winning lager as an “Irish style lager with a smooth mellow flavor and an apple crisp finish.”

It’s also a heavy-hitter for a lager, with a 7% ABV. It pours pale and murky with good carbonation and a soapy head. rogueirishThe panel noted no distinctive smell, other than a slight note of fruit.

Taste is where this beer grabs points. The panelists recognized the apple overtones immediately, with a bite of hops that left a mild bitterness and burn on aftertaste.

Most of the panelists found the aftertaste trailed off nicely, though others felt the sharp hoppiness was unbalanced. Generally, the panelists found it pleasing enough to want to drink more.

(Appearance 6.67, Smell 5.5, Taste 22.17, Aftertaste 15.17, Drinkability 22.83)

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Harp Lager

rating_good62 points

Harp Lager is the best selling lager in Ireland, and after rating it, the panel wondered why.

This pale lager from Diageo poured with a transparent golden color and a decent, lacy head that gave off a light, balanced lager smell.

harplagerHowever the taste was unimpressive to the panelists, who commented that it was so lacking, it showed up only as an aftertaste. And at that, it was grassy and somewhat metallic.

The light body did offer decent drinkability, though the panel didn’t find that a saving grace.

Appearance 6.5, Smell 5.83, Taste 16.83, Aftertaste 12.17, Drinkability 20.17

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Tasting Notes – Impromptu Tasting

Members of the panel had not met for a couple of weeks, so two days prior to the Feb. 13 tasting, a few panelists convened to sharpen their palettes with a selection of three beers. The results were as varied and ranging as the selections themselves.
(Panelists: Mike Festi, Jon Graney, Amy Graney)

Tasting Notes

Samuel Adams Cherry Chocolate Bock . . . 76 points
With the chocolate beers tasting mere days away, the panel sampled this seasonal bock from Sam Adams. The beer had a pleasing deep red appearance reminiscent of a cherry cola, and had a pleasant scent of cherry, cocoa and vanilla. On taste, the panel found a strong cherry taste and buttery caramel that trailed off a little too early. However, the tasters noted a light chocolate aftertaste and excellent drinkability.
(Appearance 7, Smell 7.67, Taste 22.67, Aftertaste 14.67, Drinkability 23.67)

Back East Ale . . . 59 points
This flagship amber ale from Back East Brewing had notable fruity aroma, with notes of citrus and melon and a hoppy overtone. Despite its hoppiness, the panel found it light and refreshing. But ultimately the panel found the flavor somewhat neutral. The panel was split on drinkability, with some noting a bitter aftertaste while others enjoyed its light body.
(Appearance 6.67, Smell 6.33, Taste 17, Aftertaste 12.33, Drinkability 17)

Long Trail Brush & Barrel Series Imperial Stout . . . 56 points
Crack open this limited imperial stout from Long Trail, and one thing will hit you hard: smoke. The panel admired the extra-dark color and lacy head of this imperial. Aromas of campfire smokiness and earthy vegetation were pronounced, yet dampened by somewhat antiseptic and yeasty notes. On taste, the panel found the smokiness and malt to be a bit overpowering, and not as balanced as expected. The aftertaste was exceptionally dry, and drinkability only average. The panel agreed that while it was a decent offering, it didn’t stand out as an artisan brew.
(Appearance 7, Smell 3.67, Taste 16, Aftertaste 13, Drinkability 16.67)

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