Great Grolsch?

Posted on 01.09.08 5:30PM under Lager, Stories, Tasting

Grolsch Premium LagerI write a lot about appreciating beer, and I review a lot of big beers. I try to give props to lower alcohol beer where I can, but ‘tis the season for high alcohol beer, so it could seem as though I am obsessed with big beer. OK, I admit that maybe I am a bit in favor of the big beers right now. I blame the cold rain and snow. But I had something the other day that made me turn around quick. I received as a gift a bunch of different beers, some of which I probably wouldn’t buy myself. These are really the best kinds of gifts to get, the ones that you wouldn’t buy yourself. If you never got something like that as a gift, you might never get it.

So, one of the bottles was Grolsch Premium Lager. I can see why the person would be tempted by it. The bottle is so cool looking, with the little hops and stuff formed right into the bottle. The flip top looks really impressive. However, my overall impression – prejudice, really – of Grolsch is that it is just about as interesting as Heineken or even Bud. Man, was I wrong. Hell, I could be wrong about Heineken. I am even considering buying some Bud to do a real tasting on it.

Back to the Grolsch. Follow my internal battle between hating and loving the Grolsch: Green bottle – this will be skunked! Wow, this pours beautifully – so clear and with a perfectly fizzy head. I wish I had a homebrew that looked like this! The first whiff reveals an aroma of skunk, but perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe that smell that I always thought was light struck skunk is really just something that’s supposed to be in there, like some sort of husky grainy smell. Recently, I’ve had some imported beers in brown bottles with that same smell. Either way, the smell didn’t really translate into the taste. But maybe it’s because the taste was so solid. Hop bitterness plays a leading role, but there’s not a lot of hop flavor in there. In fact, it is pretty well-balanced in the middle, as both hops and malts gently show themselves. The finish is a bit harsh, just a tad bitter-astringent, but the finish on many many Barley Wines and Imperial anything are pretty harsh, too. Re-smelling the Grolsch, I could pick up a floral hop aroma in there, as well as some mild malty sweetness, including perhaps light butterscotch. Oh my god, this is actually good beer. There are actual aromas to be perceived. It is like, all flavorful and stuff. It isn’t just bland piss-water.

My whole beer world is turned upside down. I had to pick up a pack of Flying Dog’s Horn Dog Barley Wine and Anchor’s Old Foghorn Barley Wine today just so I was not to be caught enjoying a Pale Euro Lager. Arrgh but here I am admitting to it, hell, bragging about it, telling others to do the same thing, right here on this blog.

But that’s the whole point of the story. I challenge anyone reading this to go out and buy a beer that they think they won’t like, but haven’t had in a long time. Grolsch, maybe Killian’s Red, Honey Brown, who knows. Maybe something that you used to like, but are now ashamed to admit you ever liked. You might just find something likable in there with the more mature palette that you have today. Try tasting it as you would any beer that you expect to be great. Take notes. Really stop and admire the work that went into making that beer. Savor every sip as if it were a bottle of Westvleteren, or a six-year-old Gueuze. Really analyze it, BEFORE you judge it, and see if there might be something in there you didn’t see before (I just had an auditory hallucination of the song in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle realizes she loves the Beast – just forget I said that if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

The final moral of the story is that beer appreciation is about more than just finding extreme beer and loving extremeness, it can also involve appreciating plain old beer for being good and normal.

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