Category Archives: American Lager

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.

rollingrock
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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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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Tasting Notes – Pilot Tasting

The first Basement Beer Tasting was held on Nov. 21, 2014, and provided the inspiration for the continuing series. Because the structure hadn’t been fully developed, this tasting included a random mix of what was in the fridge.
Panelists: Jon Graney, Mike Festi, Rick Czapla

Tasting Notes

Shipyard Export Ale . . . 53 points
This American blonde ale was a decent, middle-of-the-road brew. While it failed to stand out to the panelists, it received average or slightly above average points in every category. Panelists noted that it had a heavy caramel and malt taste that was reminiscent of a higher-end Yuengling Lager.
Appearance 5.5, Smell 5.5, Taste 17.5, Aftertaste 8, Drinkability 16.5

Berkshire Brewing Company Oktoberfest Lager . . . 48 points
This Marzen-style lager looked good on pour, and had a decent taste to it, but the panelists found its aftertaste disappointing. It invoked notes of sweet honey and citrus, but its heaviness and lackluster finish left the panelists saying, “I couldn’t drink a lot of this.” Appearance 7.5, Smell 7, Taste 15, Aftertaste 7.5, Drinkability 11

Harpoon Pumpkin Cider . . . 68 points
Shifting gears, the panelists decided to try a spiced cider offering from Harpoon Brewery. The appearance, smell and taste were very pleasing, though the panel noted that it was lacking a notable pumpkin flavor — instead showcasing strong tastes of apples and grapes. The aftertaste was a bit flat, but ultimately strongly drinkable.
Appearance 7.5, Smell 8.5, Taste 20.5, Aftertaste 11.5, Drinkability 20

Yuengling Traditional Lager . . . 52 points
Since the Shipyard Export reminded the panelists of Yuengling, they decided to compare it to Yuengling. The results? Remarkably similar marks, across the board. The smell was a bit better than Shipyard, with nearly identical taste and easy drinkability.
Appearance 6, Smell 5, Taste 14.5, Aftertaste 6.5, Drinkability 20