This blog documents my attempt to drink a beer from every country in the world and every state in the United States.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

State #3: New York

Beer: Brooklyn Lager

Brewery: Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, New York

ABV: 5.2%

The Tour de Northeast continues!

This ain't your average fizzy yellow lager.
From the hippest neighborhood in the hippest borough in the hippest city in America comes Brooklyn Brewery's Brooklyn Lager, which, despite its geographic advantage in hipness at nearly every scale, retains an utterly unpretentious air about it. It’s a lager, the simplest and most popular of all styles of beer. Its name isn’t cryptic or clever or allusive (though it is very geographic!). And unlike the oddly-dressed and coifed girl at the dimly lit bar in Williamsburg---exuding an air of creativity and urbanity, but who is actually a cashier at a Hot Topic in New Jersey---it’s exactly what it claims to be.

Dear Williamsburg hipsters: You look stupid. Brooklyn Lager does not.
Fortunately, it’s also much more than that. We’ve been conditioned to think of lagers as flavorless, fizzy yellow beers, and many of them are.  Brooklyn Lager is darker, hoppier, and fuller-bodied than your average lager. Unlike other symbols of hipsterdom, it doesn’t relish in being undiscovered either: Brooklyn Brewery is the 16th largest craft brewery in the United States. Like a hipster, it does care about its appearance: all of the brewery’s packaging and design elements were done by Milton Glaser, who is not a household name, but who my graphic designer father describes as “his hero.” (You may have seen his work elsewhere). And those are indeed some sharp duds: understated yet classic, with the script ‘B’ evoking the old Brooklyn Dodgers uniforms.

Brooklyn Brewery's B: sorta, kinda evocative of the old Brooklyn Dodgers' B. Maybe.
In addition to their flagship Lager, Brooklyn Brewery also makes a bunch of other tasty styles, a few of which I’ve tried. I chose the lager simply because I’ll probably be having very few good lagers as part of this endeavor, and the style deserves a little more respect than it gets. I hope it’s available on the West Coast at some point (I got a six pack while back home in Connecticut), because it’s nice to take a break from the usual IPAs now and then.

And finally, a bit of awesome trivia:

When I wrote my introduction to this blog, I wondered if an American oil company worker might be homebrewing in Saudi Arabia, which would be the only beer brewed in that country due to hard-line Islam’s disdain for booze. It turns out that one of Brooklyn Brewery’s founders, Steve Hindy, learned how to make beer in the 1980s under just those circumstances! In a bit of poetic justice, the current brewery is located in a former matzo factory. Take that, militant Islamists!


  1. A few words about lagers:

    1. For a "simple" beer, they're one of the most difficult to brew.
    2. The difficulty in brewing is probably one of the reasons why so many taste like piss. You can brew a crappy IPA and cover up almost all your mistakes by adding a ton of hops, but if you mess up a lager, there's no easy way to fix it and no hiding that piss taste.
    3. The American lagers we know (and hate) today, are nothing like the American lagers of 100 years ago. When Budweiser was brewing beers during their pre-prohibition era, they were delicious. And if you have the chance to have a classic American Pilsner (a nice replica of those early American beers), you'll shed a tear wondering why they changed. The answer is simple, the grain mix went from 30% corn to 50% corn (and/or rice) because it was much cheaper than barley during WWII and they never switched back because people got used to the crappy beer.

  2. Monsieur Cousteau is correct. (I'm still learning a lot about beer, obviously). Unfortunately, relatively few craft brewers are putting any energy into making GOOD lagers.

    Brooklyn Lager advertises itself as "Pre-Prohibition Style," which seems to reflect your statement about lagers from way-back-when. Seems like corn has infiltrated so many foodstuffs in which it has no business being, not just beer.

    Thanks for reading, too! It's nice to know that people are finding my blog who are not my friends. Hope you enjoy it.

    1. Though now I suspect that you are Nate... but thanks for reading regardless.