Walk into any brewery, tap room or bottle shop today and you will over hear a lot of similar conversations. Enthusiastic discussions about the latest hop bomb to hit the shelves, the limited release sour that is going on sale soon or something about a massive beer that spent years in a barrel somewhere. If you glance up at the tap list it will most likely reflect the same beers that are being discussed on the bar stools. A visit to the home of most beer nerds will likely results in a collection of the above mentioned beers. Generally missing from all of these scenarios would be one of the most quintessential and classic beer styles around.
A simple, clean and refreshing lager. The process of brewing a great lager is a lost art that most brewers do not bother with. The few brewers that put the time in required to produce a quality lager, often go unrecognized and under appreciated. So in this climate of craft beer to see a brewery come out that is solely focused on lagers is quite the rarity.1
Sudwerk Brewing in Davis, Calif. is on a mission to redefining the American lager. The brewery spent years churning out classic German styles but in recent years has shifted2 to mixing the classic German styles with modern American practices. One of the beers to come out of this movement is 3 Best Friends Coffee Vanilla Lager.3 The beer is a classic lager with large amounts of coffee, vanilla and chocolate.
As I open the bottle to fill my glass I get light wisps of the coffee aroma right off the bat.4 I fill my glass with the murky brown liquid thinking to myself that this is not the most attractive beer. I hold the glass to the light and somehow it magically transforms into a beautiful ruby red color. As I curiously turn my head to the side like a confused dog I pull it away from the light and it turns back into the muddy brown liquid once again. This beer is off to an interesting start. I quick sniff of the beer reveals the flavors I would expect from the description. Coffee, vanilla and chocolate come to the forefront of this style bending beer. The aromas are not nearly as strong as they would be in a stout or porter but still make their presence known right away.
My interest is peaked and I take a sip not knowing what to expect. The coffee and vanilla jump out the most to me. My brain takes a few sips to get used to the flavors that I would normally associate with a big rich stout. The chocolate comes through as well but more of a supporting flavor to the coffee and vanilla. The flavors of the base beer somehow manage to come through as well. Slight hints of the familiar lager yeast flavors as well as a bit of sweet malt manage to hold there own with the other flavors. The chocolate comes out a bit more in the finish lingering for a while.