A corny old lager and a piney IPA

by Chevy Impola

When I get a hankering for a particular style of beer, well, that’s the kind of beer I want.

It was lager the other day. Plenty to choose from these days – you’ve got your macro-lagers, your regional lagers (I still consider Leinie’s a regional brew), your craft lagers and a quaint style known as pre-Prohibition lagers.

That’s what caught my eye – a single sixer tipped at an odd angle and waas extremely awkward to extract from the shelf. A masked employee came over and assisted me by going into the other side of the cooler and pushing against the back of the overturned sixer as I pulled, and together we accomplished the task of extracting the last six-pack of Schell’s Deer Brand Pre-Prohibition Lager.

It was just what I was looking for when I walked into the place. I just didn’t know that at the time.

Pro-Pro lager, as I will refer to it herein, is a legitimate style of American beer.
Before the evil time of Prohibition, American brewers were making hazy lagers with the harsher six-row malt, and smoothing it out with adjuncts, either rice or, more likely, corn. The resulting beers had the crisp taste of Euro-lagers, but were sweeter from the corn. I already mentioned the haziness.

Compared to the great sophisticated golden Euro lagers and pilsners, Pre-Pro lager comes across as an ugly, oafish American cousin dressed in loud and ill-fitting clothes. But who’s comparing?

I’ve seen a few all-malt Pre-Pro lagers out there, and that, I’m afraid, goes against style. I’m sure they are delicious, malty lagers, but the Pre-Pro style does rely on adjuncts, so the all-malt varieties are snobbish recreations of beer that sound remarkably like our modern-day macrobrews that use adjuncts – some say as cost-saving measures – to produce bland, characterless beers that have given lager a bad name.

[And I should mention here that flaked corn, for example, is more costly to brew with – at least on the homebrewing level – than most specialty malts.]

But there is no lack of character with Deer Brand. It’s a very drinkable, moderately malty/corny/hazy lager, with just the slightest hop bite.

The recipe is a true one, having been made by Schell’s of New Ulm before the evil pall of Prohibition veiled this country for 13 years in the last century. Think of it as time travel in a bottle. Perhaps your great-grandparents once quaffed a Deer Brand back in the day.

***

I feel so much better about myself when I’m drinking a beer for a cause. What a remarkable fellow I am – having a beer for blind puppies.

Sorry, did that sound facetious?

Forget about the blind puppies.

How about an IPA for trees?

I spent Memorial Day with White Pine Project IPA from Castle Danger Brewing of Two Harbors.

It’s a yummy, piney IPA made with three hop varieties, two of which (Idaho 7 and Chinook) are known for their piney characteristics. The third is Citra, which, as its name implies, imparts citrusy characters.

The grain bill includes six components – including oats – to hold their own against the heady hops.

But here’s the philanthropic note to this beer – proceeds will be used to plant white pines along the North Shore, where the tree was once a staple along with massive red pines, but they were logged out or lost to blister rust or fire.

Yes, I guarantee you will feel better for drinking a White Pine Project IPA. Probably the only thing that would make you feel better is to go plant some white pine yourself, but me, I’ll have another beer for the trees, and if anyone does come out with a beer for blind puppies, I might try that, too.