Late one night I was hanging around Novare Res and spotted someone pouring over the German section of the 20+ page beer menu there. Tom Bull had exhausted their selection of German lagers and had a certain twinkle in his eye after finishing the last Helles lager they had. He told me that he had a dream – to brew and sell amazing lagers – and that he was planning to make that dream a reality. A long-time homebrewer and former Gritty McDuff’s and Stone Coast Brewing employee, Tom recognized a gaping hole in the craft beer market not only in Maine, but in the U.S. for damn good lagers that weren’t mass-produced or made with adjuncts.
After connecting with his partner, Allan Jagger, Bull Jagger Brewing Company was born. It’s been a while since that freezing winter night in Maine, and I have been eagerly following Tom & Al’s progress since then. Bull Jagger’s debut beer, released last friday to an eager public, is simply named “Portland Lager.”
Described as a “pure local lager” this beer has a few very interesting characteristics.
“Portland Lager is a crisp, golden, premium lager modeled after the traditional Helles beers of Bavaria. We follow the German Purity Laws of 1516 and use only the finest water, malt hops and yeast to produce this original recipe. Portland Lager is handcrafted in small batches and aged to perfection. The result is a quaffable ‘micro-lager’ of the highest quality.”
First of all, any brewer that uses “quaffable” on the bottle is okay in my book. Secondly – by using only malt, hops, yeast and water, it takes a lot of precision to get the tastes where you like them. Any brewer can add fruit, or pumpkin, or whatever to their beer and add flavor, but not any brewer can stick to the basics and brew something clean, tasty and flawless.
I poured this into a glass, and I admit that I did expect it to be a little less cloudy than it is. The color is a very light orange, also a bit darker than I expected for a ‘micro-lager’ though I don’t have a lot to compare it to. A nice, fluffy head sprung up just as it was supposed to.
The aroma is sweet, yeasty, and ever so slightly bitter. I can smell some of the hops in the nose, though they’re subtle, and I like that they’re subtle. Some beers of the same style can be just a bit too “skunkily” hopped for me, and this one smells just right.
Upon tasting it, I can’t get over how absolutely smooth it is. Most of the taste is fruity and somewhat malt-forward, though the whole thing is very nicely balanced. There isn’t a bite to this, but a nice lingering hop flavor, which I hear might be toned down a tad in future batches, but is a nice touch. It has slightly low carbonation, making it go down very easily. The taste of this lager lingers on your lips for minutes after taking a sip.
I don’t say this often, but, I think I love this beer. I could have it with anything- with food, with a nice day at the beach, with dessert. It has a sharpness that keeps it interesting and a smoothness that keeps it almost forgettably good – the kind that makes you really want to have another. I actually needed about one and a half of the 16.9 oz bottles to sucessfully complete this review because I drank them too fast, but what a wonderful problem to have.
You know what’s crazy about this beer? It is going to become a go-to beer for a lot of people. Not only do I like it and appreciate it for its “quaffability” but also its complexity and smoothness, but my dad will like it because it’s light and tasty, my uncle will like it because it’s authentically brewed and will remind him of lagers he’s had in Europe, my mom will like it because it is slightly sweet and she can have more than one without getting full, my little brother will like it because he can drink many in a row. And beyond my family, I can think of a lot of people who will adopt this beer as their hometown brew – and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Congrats, Bull Jagger, on a great debut. Portland (and beyond) is looking forward to your next releases, and hope that you can keep up with what I am sure will be an unceasing demand for this.