We managed to get our hands on some beers brewed in America! And that’s something, because they aren’t easy to get around here. Sure, we have Budweiser over here, but the Budweiser over here is brewed in an European brewery to European tastes and is significantly different from the American brew with the same name.
For the Dutch Championships the American beerstyle guide BJCP is leading. Being from American origins, it of course has several American beerstyles in it which we have to know as well. You’d say that with the world being as international as it is nowadays it wouldn’t be hard to get a proper example of all the styles in the guide. Especially not with big international companies like AB Inbev. But that’s exactly part of the problem of why they are NOT internationally available. Companies like AB Inbev are international, but they are that partly because they cater to the local tastes. So in name Budweiser is available in America as well as in Europe, but the flavour is totally different as the European version is brewed within Europe and tweaked towards European flavours. The European Budweiser is therefore not suitable as a style example for the American Lager.
But the beers we received from several parties are! Thank you so much everyone who brought along a beer for us! This gave us the opportunity to compare these American Lagers with European Lagers. The beers we compared were mostly lagers:
1b: American Lager: Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller High Life, Budweiser
1c: Cream Ale: Grimross Maritime Cream Ale
3a: Czech Pale Lager: Breznak
3b: Czech Premium Pale Lager: Pilsner Urquell
5d: German Pils: Trumer Pils and König Pilsner
19b: California Common: Anchor Steam Ale
You wouldn’t say there is that much difference between American lagers, German lagers and Czech lagers, but there definitely is. It would have been nice to have had other lager beers as well, like a Dortmunder Export, a Helles and more, but we have practiced those before, and this time the main goal was recognising the American beers.
The Cream Ale and California Common were meant as a comparison on their own. The Cream Ale is the only Ale in the line. That’s because of the way it is brewed. The California Common is a lager brewed on higher temperatures, which gives it a touch of aleness. The Cream ale is an ale, brewed in such a way that it gets lager like qualities. A bit like a Kölsch really. The Anchor Steam had a barbecuesauce like aroma and some caramel. The taste was unexpectedly bitter and astrigent, but still very nice. The Cream Ale really had the apple and pear aromas as described on the website, an aroma I never smelled before and was really enticing! The taste was bitter, dry and fruity and also a bit malty and I really want more of it!
We began with the three American lagers. They were already a bit old, but we hoped it wouldn’t mess up the flavours and aromas too much. After tasting the three beers I now understand why Americans craved bitterness so much that they started developing their very bitter interpretation of an IPA. The budweiser was weird. I assume they were off flavours, although I cannot place them. When the beer was still cold, it had a sweet popcorn aroma. When it became warmer it changed in cotton candy. My best guess it’s something related to DMS or a mix of that and something else? The taste was like pils, but sweet, very sweet and not bitter at all. Not malty either. The Pabst Blue Ribbon had some sulphur, but was mostly carbonated water in flavours and aromas. Boring, but exactly as described in the BJCP. As said, I really understand the craft beer revolution of the US if this is what they had to put up with. The Miller had some serious off flavour issues, including skunk and dyacetyl. It tasted like a slightly bitter water with a malty aftertaste.
We tried the König Pilsner first right after. Holy wow, that one is bitter after having drank those three American beers. It had a really bitter aftertaste, it was dry and it had quite some sulphur. The Trumer is more floral, herbal and fresher and more crisp overall. The Czech Pilsners were softer, as expected, but still had loads more flavour than the American Lagers. The difference between the two Czech lagers is the gravity and therefore the alcohol percentage. They also have a different bitterness. But that’s just theory and numbers, looking at the numbers, you could say it would be easy to taste the difference, but in reality it’s not.
After we tried them all, we did some blind tastings (literally with our eyes closed) and I’m happy to say I recognized all the American and German lagers, and the Cream Ale, but I had some difficulties with the Czech lagers as well as with the California Common.
I didn’t trust our Budweiser experience, so I let some people in America describe the beer. Their descriptions were much more like the BJCP description. I also tried the European Budweiser a few days later, which really did taste more like a Jupiler or a Dommelsch and is obviously more brewed towards the European market.
Have you ever had a real American Budweiser?