While it would be madness for me to say that the zwickel/kellerbier is a trend in microbrewing, I have run across a trio of them this summer courtesy of New Glarus, Weihenstephan
, and Summit
. A picotrend, perhaps? An unfiltered pale lager, I am quite partial to the style and its Maillard reacted malt goodness which gives a wonderful yeasty bread flavor.
San Diego's Green Flash Brewing
is well-known for its eyepahs and so I did a double and almost triple take when I saw Sea to Sea Lager
, a zwickel, from them in the cooler of a local purveyor of fine brews. Not only was I amazed that they had a lager on offer, I was also surprised that it wasn't an eyepah masquerading as a pilsner.
Truth be told, I've never had a Green Flash beer before. I see their bottles on the shelf and am under the distinct impression they simply want to pummel me with hops all day, every day. Ergo I avoid their brews. Could an eyepah brewery brew a good zwickel with its emphasis on gentle malt flavor instead of a West Coast wave of fruits and pine? I was suspicious at first that they had merely brewed an India Pale Zwickel, all of the tasty toasty malt flavor having been washed away by a cascade of citrus. My fears were allayed when I saw the words "Hallertau Mittelfreüh and Czech Saaz" emblazoned on the side of a can.
The name of the brew comes from the fact that Green Flash will soon be opening a brewery in Virginia and will then have facilities on either coast.
Sea to Sea pours a nice darkish straw color that borders on yellow. It has a slight haziness to it. A big, frothy, white head adorned my glass for a minute or so. It was rather an effervescent brew with lots of bubbles inside.
I smelled a bit of cracker as well as a fairly faint bit of pepper which I presume came from the Saaz hops. But the primary scent was a more grassy dose of hops that was a bit like hay. All in all, the bier had a fresh, pungent smell about it.
The taste was similar but, if I may channel John Madden for a moment, different. The malt, which was like restrained cracker on the nose, was transformed into a fuller flavor. "Biscuity" is a fair descriptor. However, the hops haven't faded into the background. There a nice grassy/herbal taste with perhaps a touch of citrus which surely the Hallertau Mittelfreüh and the Saaz have, in the immortal words of Emeril Lagasse, kicked it up a notch with an even spicier and more pungent flavor.
Unsurprisingly, the Saaz shine on the finish. The malt fades and a sharp pepper flavor is ushered in that is vaguely redolent of mint and it brings the dryness with it. (You hear me?! Dryness comes with it!) Don't get me wrong, we're not talking Bohemian pilsener levels of Saaz hoppiness here but a fair amount nonetheless. There was a goodly amount of Schaumhaftvermoegen
with a some thick streaks of foam lining my glass.
I needn't have worried about Green Flash's ability to brew a lager because Sea to Sea was quite tasty. It had a good, clean lager taste with plenty of malt goodness. While I tend towards something a little more like bread, I really cannot complain here. And I loved the grassy hop flavor here. It was fresh and piquant and every bit as toothsome as trendier hops that taste like passion fruit. With its light body and sessionable 4% A.B.V., Sea to Sea is a great brew for these dog days of summer.
Junk food pairing: Try lighter fair such as Lay's Brazilian Picanha chips with their pungent simulacrum of chimichurri sauce or some White Cheddar Cheetos Puffs.
Labels: Beer, Green Flash Brewing, Kellerbier, Lager, Zwickel