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Rose to Cicerone: Appreciating American Lagers

As I sit here with my fan at full speed, drinking a cold Kolsch-style ale, I can’t help but reflect on my last couple of chapters of my Road to Cicerone American Beer Styles Course. I am happily, albeit slowly, making my way through the study guide units and, of course, am enjoying sampling and comparing many different beers along the way (this was always going to be the highlight — we knew this from the beginning!).

Remember in your childhood math class when you begrudgingly wondered to yourself, Will I ever need to use this crap in real life? Well, those same thoughts crossed my mind when I turned the pages of my Road to Cicerone American Beer Styles Course book to reveal my next chapter: American Lagers and American Light Lagers. Having always associated the style with Budweiser or Duff beer from The Simpsons, I was less than thrilled to have to dissect these brews.

I so wanted to be salty about being asked to purchase Budweiser and Bud Light when there were so many other choices, but then I’d be turning my back on a beer I never turn down: Bud Light Lime. Back in 2008, when Bud Light Lime was everywhere, including my fridge in Washington, D.C., I was obsessed with it. It was the perfect beer for my 21-year-old self: refreshing, slightly sweet and tart, and with no hoppiness. It countered the humidity of summer in D.C. and got me just buzzed enough to not worry about the havoc that said humidity brought upon my hair. It’s hard to not feel some nostalgia for such a beer.

Once I finished the “official” comparison from the coursebook, I went searching for some locally made lagers and settled on my two favorite sub-styles: Helles and Mexican-style. Helles is a wonderfully refreshing lager that was likely the inspiration for the American-style lager in the first place. Helles is hella drinkable (sorry, still a NorCal girl at heart!), with low bitterness and alcohol and a lovely, light gold color. Two examples I have enjoyed recently are the Thunderbolt Lager from Highland Park Brewing and Hello Again Helles Lager from Chapman Crafted Beer. The Mexican lager is the other style I’m keeping cool with and is typically — and most enjoyably for yours truly — a pale lager with German roots. Similar to the Helles, it has low bitterness and alcohol and is very light in color but often accompanied by the addition of lime and salt. I am honestly living for Stone’s Buenaveza, which is an extremely refreshing salt and lime lager. This style often skunks quickly, so Stone’s can art serves as both beautiful and functional for keeping the light out.

Looking ahead, I am getting excited to compare some American wheat beers, German-style weissbiers and Belgian witbiers, especially because American wheat beers may have been my first true beer love. Blue Moon, with its giant orange slice, was a little piece of heaven and probably the reason I am unwaveringly not against fruit garnish on beer, and Pyramid Brewing’s Hefeweizen was another old flame.

Additionally, I’ve been reflecting on a previous chapter all about service and glassware, especially since I moved and misplaced all of my own glasses. I go back and forth between thinking glassware is the most important aspect and the least and, in all honesty, it is both and neither, depending on who you ask. I am very excited to delve more into that soon!

Keep cool everyone!


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