We have successfully made it through the half-way point of the calendar and are drawing ever closer to the end. I’ll be heading out of town on the 22nd to enjoy some holiday time in the sun with my wife but I’ll do my best to post the last two beers while I am away. Whether I bring them with me, or I break the rules and drink them before I go, I’d like to get the posts all done before the New Year.
After these blog posts I’ll be back to my regular shtick of trying to keep anyone who is interested up to date on what is happening in the beer scene. I’ve been checking in with folks along the way and hope to be able to write some posts updating you all on where the various local breweries are. My expectation is that Peg Beer and Barn Hammer will be up and running around mid-January (at least I hope) and we will all be able to enjoy pints of what I expect will be fantastic beer.
Today we have a beer which comes to us from Evil Twin Brewing and it is The Cowboy, smoked pilsner.
Founded by Jeppe Jarnit–Bjergsø in 2010, Evil Twin isn’t really a brewery. Jeppe is known as the “gypsy brewer” in that he brews all over the place. He develops recipe after recipe of unique styles and plays on styles that are brewed out of other breweries and exported around the world. At the moment, he brews out of 10 different breweries in 6 different countries around the world. This means that Evil Twin doesn’t really have any year round beers but rather a huge number of different and interesting one-off brews. To put it in perspective, Evil Twin launched more than 40 beers in 2012.
Jeppe was born in Denmark and began his adult life as a school teacher. In 2012 he moved his family to Brooklyn, NY so that he could be closer to where it all happens and to grow his brand. His goal is to make New York the beer capital of the world. While many of the beers that he makes are experimental, they are also in many cases critically acclaimed. Brewing in small batches, usually no more than 2500-3000 barrels (~3500 hectoliters), the beers tend to be a bit more on the expensive side and very difficult to find.
This particular beer that we are going to be trying today was brewed out of Two Roads brewery in Connecticut and is another example of an experimental recipe from Jeppe. It is classified as a smoked pilsner which is unique in itself as most beers that are classified as smoked tend to be on the darker side. As this is a combination of styles, I’ll make some comments on both Pilsners and Smoked Beers.
“I need to know what kind of beer cowboys drink, as I have recently become one. I want to be the best cowboy I can be, and I think drinking the correct beer is important. I already have a cowboy hat and a nice big shiny buckle?”
-From the bottle
Pilsners are one of the most popular beer styles in the word and originate in the City of Pilzen in 1295. While Pilsners are considered to be bottom-fermented beers now, they were actually top-fermented until about the mid-1840s. The taste and standards of this older styles varied widely and in many cases entire barrels of beer were dumped out. In 1839 the city of Pilsen founded a city owned brewery (now Pilsner Urquell) which was to brew beers and pioneer the Bavarian style. Brewers had already begun to brew using bottom-fermenting yeasts that were fermented and stored in colder temperatures to be drunk later. This is where the term lager comes from. Lagern is the German word for storing and comes from this process.
Using Pilzen’s soft water, local saaz hops and this Bavarian style of lagering produced a clear, crisp and refreshing beer that became the standard for the style. With the introduction of modern refrigeration there was no need to use caves for beer storage and this enabled the brewing of bottom-fermenting beers in many new places. There are three styles of Pilsner:
- German-style Pilsner – More bitter and earthy in flavour
- Bohemian (Czech) Pilsners – tend to have lighter flavour
- Classic American Pilsners – Brewed with more corn and rice as well as native cluster hops along with the noble hops when available.
All modern pilsners are very clear, very light beers that are pale to golden yellow. All of them have a distinct hop aroma and flavor. There are also Dutch and Belgian pilsners (not a separate style) which can be slightly sweeter.
As for smoked beers, they should not be confused with a traditional Rauchbier. Smoked beer can be quite robust and even overpowering. Many versions of this style use peat smoked malts which are much stronger and more assertive in their smoke flavor. Beers of this style tend to be made in the style of Scotch Ales or more typically Porters. What is expected is that there be a balance in aroma between the base beer (in this case Pilsner) and the smokiness imparted by the smoked malts. This should be low to assertive and not overpowering. Flavours should also be balanced between base style and the smokiness. I’m curious to see how smoke combines with the nice crisp flavours of a pilsner. Let’s get to it.
Glassware: Flute, Stein, Pilsner Glass or Stange.
Temperature: 4-7 Celsius
Appearance: Golden, slightly hazy, many uplifting bubbles and a thick head that retains well.
Smell: Slight alder smoke smell reminiscent of smoked sausage or bacon.
Taste: Bitterness right away and then the smoke comes through on the finish to leave a smooth and lightly smoky flavor. It is balanced with the light body of the pilsner. The smoke is not overpowering and blends well with the bitterness and earthy notes from the hops used in this beer.
Mouthfeel: High carbonation, coarse mouthfeel, finishes with wood smoke.
Overall: Overall this beer has subtle bitterness on the start that balances well with the smoke. The smokiness goes well with the beer and the bitterness is reminiscent of a German-style Pilsner but using more american hops than noble hops. As a smoked beer though, it is quite tasty and really nicely done with the light body of the base beer.
Do I like it: I really do like this beer a lot. I would be happy to drink it and would certainly buy it if I had the opportunity. I think this is a great summer beer that would go especially well with a barbecue. I certainly would expect a cowboy to drink this beer and love it.