Fearful Symmetries

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08 April, 2017

Welcome To St. Louis, Son: Noble Lager by Schlafly Beer



A friend of mine who swears that Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis has the best ribs and pulled pork in the known universe had been talking about making a trek south to enjoy some of their admittedly very fine ribs and whatever other meat trips his trigger that day. Well, that day happened a few weeks ago.

As I discovered less than a mile from Pappy's lies The Schlafly Tap Room. And it was our first stop after we rolled into town. My experience with the brewery's beer is not extensive which is probably due to a combination of my parochial tastes and the limited selection of their brews I am presented with at the bottle shops I frequent in Chicagoland. Amongst the brews I sampled was their hefeweizen which was excellent. It featured fine phenolic banana with a touch of estery clove – just the way I like it. A light body and a citrusy edge made it perfect for a nice sunny day.

Upon returning home I was reminded that I had started a review of their Noble Lager but had never finished it. And so I thought it was the right time to do so.

Noble Lager is a late summer seasonal and I found some in Chicago last autumn. Schlafly bills it as a "traditional lager" without saying whose traditions in which it was steeped. The ingredients are all European or European varieties but it's not being sold as a Helles. An American lager with European ingredients, perhaps?

The beer was a medium yellow hue and, curiously enough, hazy. Not muddled like the new trend in eyepahs – just a tad cloudy. (May St. Gambrinus save us from totally turbid lagers!) I managed only a small head on my pour which was loose and white and lasted about an average time while inside was a surfeit of bubbles. While clarity would have perhaps made for a prettier beer, it still looked good to me.

My notes indicate that the aroma was "awesome!". This was mainly due to a wonderful bready scent that was accompanied by a tad of malty sweetness. Although moderate, the hops greeted my nose with a fantastic mix of grass and floral scents. I presume the latter came from Lublin hops which are commonly thought to be a Polish variety but in fact are Czech. (They are, however, apparently quite popular in Poland.)

If the label "traditional lager" had me worried that this was going to be what I see called an "American pale lager" – often times a moniker for micros that are macro+ - then my fears were dispelled quickly because Noble Lager tasted like a Zwickel/Kellerbier. The heavenly trifecta of biscuit, bread, and yeast were like manna to my tongue. A bit of honeyed sweetness followed before those Noble hops imparted a nice grassiness. Just enough to add balance along with a firm fizziness.

The finish was a bit surprising. As the malt faded a bold spicy hop taste took over. Think black pepper. This made things fairly dry and bitter and gave a nice crisp snap to the finale. My glass had Schaumhaftvermoegen everywhere and thick webs of it too. It was a beauty, eh.

Whatever a "traditional lager" is, count me in because this is a fantastic beer. It was as if a melanoidin bomb went off in the kettle triggering countless Maillard reactions to give Noble Lager its great toasty-bready aroma and flavor. And the yeast was a bonus. I wish some of that floral scent has been in the taste but that's a minor quibble. The Saaz-like finish was a lovely surprise and added a nice contrast to the clean bready flavor. I'd love a return trip to Schlafly to taste this stuff fresh from the teat.

Junk food pairing: Pair Noble Lager with a heaping plate of potato chips topped with melted Provel.

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|| Palmer, 10:30 PM

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