Apr 092013

The date for the annual Independence Day Gala has now been set as July 6th, which means I have 88 days to plan and brew my beer selection for the party. It also sounds like we’ve been authorized for another chest freezer to use as a food overflow fridge/fermentation chamber (have to double check that one with The Hammer, I might have dreamed it). This all adds up to some lofty plans for some lager brewing.

I’ve never brewed a lager, but it’s been on my list for quite some time, and with almost three months of lead time I should be able to get one, maybe two brewed up in time for the party (assuming about 1.5 weeks fermentation and 6-8 weeks lagering). So what to make?

Sage advice...

Sage advice…

In my last post I talked about wanting to brew a Schwarzbier, so that seems a good place to start. I love the idea of having this beer at the party, as it pleasantly surprises a lot of people who think dark beer is heavy beer. The Schwarzbier is dark as night in appearance but drinks nice and mild. There’s not a lot of hop bitterness (think typical German lager balance) and it uses dehusked Carafa which adds the dark black color without the roastiness and astringency associated with stouts. I’m looking at a grainbill of 50% Munich, 40% Pilsner, and some specialty grains to add color and a touch of depth to make up the other 10%.

If I do find time to get a second lager going, I think I’d like to try a Vienna Lager. This is one of my favorite commercial styles (Negra Modelo is a good example) and I like the story of how the style showed up in Mexico when Austrian brewers emigrated there in the late 19th century. It’s a nice, smooth beer that also works well in hot weather. I’ve seen some variations like smoked Vienna Lager, so maybe there’s some room to play around there as well.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get one of these started this weekend and have enough time to make two lagers and one or two ales (a lighter wheat beer and an IPA are on the short list).


May 122010

Negra Modelo

Austria via Mexico?

I was in the market for a Vienna Lager, so I took a trip down to the local liquor store and started browsing. I was unable to locate any Austrian beer, so I whipped out the iPhone and loaded up the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines, checking the entry for 3A – Vienna Lager.

I was quite surprised to find Negra Modelo on the list. I had never really researched the history of Vienna Lagers and it had never occured to me that a Mexican beer would be a documented example of the style. It seems Austrian immigrants brought the style over to Mexico in the 1800s, and darker examples like Negra Modelo are actually closer to the original Vienna Lagers. The style seems to have been widely replaced by the close-but-not-quite Oktoberfest/Märzen style (category 3B) in modern European breweries.

So, here is my review of Negra Modelo – a fine example of this great style, and a fine beer in general!

After pouring, the beer smells somewhat nutty and toasty, indicitive that it is balanced towards the malty end of the spectrum. It is an understated yet inviting aroma – no unpleasant or harsh odors detected.

The beer pours with a thick, white head which takes a little while to settle. It is a very appealing dark copper color, not surprisingly very similar to an Oktoberfest. The clarity is great – overall, a very impressive looking brew.

The flavor keeps me coming back for more. For some reason, I never thought of Negra Modelo as a quality beer. I think I’ve actually avoided it in the past thinking it was swill. However, after giving it a chance, I am pleasantly surprised! True to style, the beer has a strong malt backbone, with some biscuity/toasty flavors rolling around. There are just enough hops to balance the malt out – the hops are not in your face hoppy, but keep the malt from tasting sickeningly sweet. The beer finishes with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Carbonation is on the medium to low side – just enough to create a little bite on the palate. The beer has an overall smooth sensation – medium thickness, enough to coat the mouth slightly. The word “chewy” comes to mind, but not in the super-thick milkshake stout sense.

I am impressed with this beer – I can’t quite call it a favorite yet, but it has earned a spot on the rotation for future tastings. It is a little heavy for session or summer drinking, so take that into account. Would make a wonderful fall beer (like it’s cousin the Märzen) and would pair nicely with some heavier or spicier foods. If you haven’t tried Negra Modelo, give it a shot – you might be pleasantly surprised!