Z Lager | The Fort Collins Brewery

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Z LagerZ Lager

Brewed by:
The Fort Collins Brewery
Colorado, United States

Style: Rauchbier

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.40%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Crosling on 12-06-2003

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Reviews: 216 | Ratings: 322
Photo of corby112
2.88/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours a dark golden amber color with orange hues and a one finger white head that quickly settles into a thin lasting ring. Sporadic spots of lacing left behind.

Toasted malt aroma that is only faintly smokey with hints of sweet malt and wintry spices. Very subtle smoke character with hints of charcoal, caramel and biscuit.

Medium bodied with a prominent spice character up front that takes away from what little smokiness is underneath. Hints of cinnamon and brown sugar along with faint bitter hops that are slowly countered by a sweet malt backbone. Very faint smokiness but it is completely overpowered by the other characteristics. Lots of sweet caramel along with some biscuit and toffee. As it warms the smokey elements become more evident but are still considerably weak.

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Photo of flexabull
3.94/5  rDev +11%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a bright copper color with a thin white head, a little lacing.

Aromas are nice, distinct caramel, sweet grains, and hints of smoke.

Taste is more smoky than the nose suggests. Light caramel sweetness, cereal grain, with brewed tea notes, and light creamy sweetness. Finish is has a nice crispness, with solid undertones of smoky wood. Nice balanced flavors.

Mouthfeel is nice and full, with good carbonation.

Overall a very solid smoked lager. This is well worth trying if you are a smoked beer fan.

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Photo of JayS2629
3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

It pours a rich amber in color with a nice frothy head that fades fast but leaves spotty lacing.

The aroma is of caramel, toasted bread, rye, and faint, mild bacon notes. Low hop profile, some grassy touches.

Very mild with light caramel and toast, bready with spicy rye notes and very mild meaty smoke flavors. Dissapointing on the smoke, especially for such a light base.

A bit on the thin side, nice carbonation.

Overall, balanced well but too subtle on the smoke. Easy enough to drink.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.21/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The sweet-smoky interplay of caramelized malts, toast and bread provide a firm background for the decoration of savory smoke for a tasty lager that begs for barbecue.

The medium amber-copper beer shows bright clarity while building a dense froath of lightly tanned foam while leaving broken patterns of lace behind. A very classy look.

Dense malty aromas are chocked full of caramel, bread crust, medium toast, and overall elegant malt profile. But the overriding smoke character is unmistakable. Showing a lot of restraint, the smoke character offers complexity to the nose but not without allowing the subtle malt aromas to pronounce.

The grainy sweet flavors of sun dried barley, mild toast or the crust of freshly baked breads blend with caramel sweetness decorated by notes of light toffee- malty rich indeed. Low in hop character, the smoke character seems to bring about a more savory and meaty flavor from the malt sweetness and leaves a lingering impression of smoke, grain, and caramel on the mouth. The clean lager could use more malty flavor and less grain to win me over.

Medium-light on creaminess, the beer allows grainy textures to impeed the mouthfeel as well, but only in low intensity. Releasing the early creamy flavors and foregoing the grainy feel, the beer finish malty-dry with a slight linger of sweet smokiness and light alcohol warmth.

A very nice smoked lager that's about as formitable as Negra Modelo except with a balance of smoke aroma and flavor that's careful not to dominate the brew.

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Photo of WastingFreetime
3.41/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Very dark amber in appearance, no cloudiness at all, single finger cream-colored sticky head, nice lacing. A bit too thin in body, smells of mild bacon-ey smoke with a medium strong malt underneath, and tastes exactly the same as the nose, only with a heavy emphasis on the sweet malt. Did I mention that the smoke is really mild for a Rauchbier? This seems like its meant to be an intro to the style for those unfamiliar with it... Nice and mild, but not what I want when I seek out a rauchbier.

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Photo of FarmerTed
4.18/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep amber in color. It has a nice malty taste, almost chocolatey, and has a mild, smoky finish. If I didn't know it used smoked malt, I probably wouldn't be able to tell from the taste alone. It's pretty subtle to me, but very nice.

Overall, it tasted really good. I would drink this again for sure.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.4/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Part of the Brewer's Lunchbox mixed pack.

Pours a clear dark copper orange with a 1 inch off-white head that settles to a thin film. Small dots and streaks of lace form on the glass on the drink down. Smell is of roasted malt and some smoke/campfire aromas. Taste is of roasted malt, smoke flavors, and a coffee grounds aftertaste. Mild bitterness on the palate after each sip. Good carbonation with a crisp and clean mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good American take on a rauchbier style that is much more mild than any of the others I have tried so far.

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Photo of MrDonQuixote
2.95/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Served on tap at Fort Collins Brewery:

A- Nice amber profile color tone, White head

S- Oak, slight espresso smell

T- Slight espresso bite, oak taste, but I don't think it is oak aged

M- Nice carbonation with a watery finish

O- Quite bland and meh.

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Photo of kojevergas
2.86/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

33cl brown glass bottle with classic pressure cap served into an imperial pint glass in high altitude Denver, Colorado. Reviewed live.

A: Pours a four finger head of nice soft cream, good thickness, and good retention. Colour is a dark transparent copper.

Sm: Smoke, light bacon, and plain barley. No trace of amber hops anywhere, but then me nose is broken... Aroma is mild in strength.

T: Poorly handled artificialish smoke and out of control bacon dominate, with tinges of hopeless amber hops and a bit of cream ever-so-slight (but not subtle) on the finish. Talk about ruthless imbalance. That said, the flavour isn't bad. The build is actually decent.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Does it complement the flavour? Not really.

Dr: Very drinkable for a rauchbier, but then it really isn't one. It's quite affordable in any case, and while it won't please hardcore fans of the style, it would make an excellent introduction to the style for newcomers before plunging them into Schenkerla. It's certainly worth a spin, and I admire the brewery's boldness in trying to capture an American mainstream market with this.

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Photo of DarthKostrizer
4/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Look: Deep copper color with 1/4 inch head and ok retention

Smell: Nice amount of smoke upfront and traces of caramel and toffee in the background

Taste: Smoke upfront that reminds me of smoked alderwood. There are a couple other very muted flavors like toffee but this beer is smoke forward and does not let up

Mouthfeel: Medium body and medium carbonation nice feel to it

Overall: Very good smoked lager. Highly recommended if you like smoked beers

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Photo of Halcyondays
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle,

A: Pours a clear amber with a medium white head leaving good lace.

S: Barbeque and wood smoke, ribs, mesquite.

T: Sweet smoke flavour with notes of Munich style malt, some caramel. Nice balanced flavour for the style.

M: Smooth, creamy, soft carbonation.

O: This is a nice beer, but it's nowhere near as intense as Schlenkerla, more like Spezial if we're going German. Caldera's is better domestically, but frankly hardly any brewers make this style so it's always nice to see.

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Photo of micromaniac129
4.33/5  rDev +22%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A brillantly clear copper color lager with a tall white fluffy head thats has great rentention, although there is not much lacing.

A nice and sutle smokey malt aroma. Aroma is similar to what you might experence with smoked cheese.

Taste is smokey up front but mildly so.

A medium body beer with a bit of grittiness.
Smooth and clean with nary any aftertaste.

An excellent ell made beer, the smoked malts are not overpowering and really enhance the flavor of the beer.

 474 characters

Photo of chocosushi
3.6/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On sale for 4.99,
couldn't pass up.

12oz->Big Sky Pint

A ~ Dark Amber, what you could call Mahogany. Only an 1/8 inch of head from an Aggressive pour. Great clarity.

S ~ Malt & smoky Dry wood. Bit of bread & Faint Red Pepper Flake.

T ~ Nice Dark Malt, Tree bark, Dry Grass (hops?) & a flavor reminiscent of dry rubbed beef over a campfire. Red pepper spice following through with toasted, buttered wheat-bread on the throat.

M ~ Pretty thin bodied. I think it works, though. Spicyness on the throat and bit of hops and roasted malt on the tounge.

D ~ A sessionable Rauchbier to say the least. Not the most exciting beer, but refreshing & appropriate for the climate. I would LOVE to cook with it. At this price I'll be buying the rest tomorrow.


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Photo of uwmgdman
4.13/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This lager pours brilliantly clear deep red with garnet hues and a sticky off-white head. The aroma is moderate-high peaty, smoky malt, a bit biscuity, spicy, and sweet - very inviting. The flavor is moderately malty, earthy a bit spicy, maybe from hops and malt, a sweet caramel flavor comes through at the swallow. The beer finishes quite smooth and rather balanced. The carbonation and body are both moderate. Overall a well crafted tasty brew--worth a try. One wish would be the flavor to come through a bit more intensely like the nose.

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Photo of n2185
3.58/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a clear copper with two fingers of off-white head that recedes into a thin layer with a little lacing.

S: Some light biscuity aromas with a hint of sweetness followed by a strong smoke aroma.

T: Similar to the aroma, slightly sweet bread and biscuit flavors up front. The smoke flavors follow without overwhelming.

M: Light body with medium carbonation, this beer is fairly crisp but the smoke gives it a slightly heavier feel.

O: A nice smoked beer for those who don't really want to drink liquid bacon. It's not too heavy like many rauchbiers and isn't overwhelmingly smoky.

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Photo of bucklemyshoe
3.13/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle at 42 degrees into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint.

A: It pours a mostly clear copper color with a finger of cream-colored head that slowly recedes but laces okay.

S: Lots of char, caramel, and a little toast.

T: It is essentially a blend of smoke and strong maltiness. If you want a complex Rauchbier, look elsewhere.

M: It has a medium-light body with relatively low carbonation.

O: This is a tasty smoke beer but it lacks complexity and does not stick out in any way.

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Photo of JoeAmerican77
3.14/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Colored like sweet tea an evening cream tops the champagne bubbled brew....

Sweets and smoked woods hit the nose as a malty aroma breaks even and sends the senses in anticipation

Cool, calm smoke on the tongue and acrid pork, but in a good way. The alcohol is apparent in the back as it comes forth with mild hops for balance

Light bodied and wet in the mouth leaves the without any residual trace wish there were more here

A decent beer and a good introduction to the smoked variety but as a rauchbier lover I really hoped for a more intense experience

 557 characters

Photo of DesMoinesMike
3.8/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A medium copper color with light carbonation and little foam. The aroma has a mild smokiness reminiscent hickory chips in a fire pit. The taste has a nice maltiness but I was expecting a little denser body, which seems a tad watered down, probably from being produced on the level it is. It has promise up front with the aroma but is weak on the follow-through.

 361 characters

Photo of rawfish
3.19/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours dark amber with garnet highlights a fizzing yellowish head accumulates a finger in height. The retention is moderate but no lacing is left on the glass.

The nose is actually pretty strong on this one, especially for a lager, caramel malts, wood fire smoke, cinnamon spice and sweet fruits with a little bit of nail polish remover solvent. The result is something like wood chips soaked in apple cider.

Caramel malts likely also crystal, comes off as sweet and gets rather tiring. Light smoky flavors help balance this out a bit, in addition there's some noticable fruity yeast quality, apple, with spicy earthy hops for some balance on the back end. Finishes surprisingly clean.

Rather light mouth feel bordering on watery with practically no carbonation. Decent with food but not your typical crisp, refreshing lager.

A unique brew but really not what I'm looking for in an enjoyable beer. Smokey qualities are adequately demonstrated but without much of a hop presence to balance the malty sweetness it begins to get flat and unpleasant. FCB could deliver this one a bit better.

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Photo of Avagadro
3.97/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Z Lager is honey-hued, and topped with a thin layer of froth. Lacing is present, but the bubbles are lazy in traveling through the brew's slightly hazy body.

S: The nose is appetizing, with notes of caramel, smoke, and a touch of hops.

T: This beer is very well balanced, with malt, hops, and smoke all playing their part. Bready toasted malt, spicy continental hops, and a subtle note of hardwood smoke play elegantly together.

M: Light body, good carbonation, and a clean finish.

D: A great brew, and an excellent choice for someone looking to get into smoke brews. Z's smoke is subtle, but easily perceived, so that it will give the drinker a good idea of what smoke is all about without overwhelming them. All-in-all, this is a very well balanced brew that deserves some attention.

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Photo of Jesse13713
1.54/5  rDev -56.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Appearance - Pours a smoked cloudy caramel brown. No real hint of amber color on this one. Low carbonation and poor lacing.

Smell - A very strong smoked smell. Small hints of bacon that slowly take over the smell of the beer.

Taste - I definitely get that 'smoked on the fire' description as stated on the bottle. However, this isn't necessarily a good taste. It pairs poorly with the smokey bacon light body. No hop or ethanol characteristics at all.

Mouthfeel - An unpleasant smokey taste. It tastes like I'm guzzling down ground up campfire coals.

Drinkability - Easily drinkable but not very enjoyable.

The verdict - I personally did enjoy this beer at all. I was very disappointed with it after getting excited to see it in my local store. It tasted very similar to Three Skulls Buccaner Bacon, which was also not very good.

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Photo of clayrock81
3.18/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Let me preface this review by saying I didn't think the beer was bad and I enjoyed it, but when I was told by the bartender it was a rauchbier and then tried it I felt let down. Poured a reddish copper with minimal head that stuck around and died slow and left lace ring. Had a bittery, watery smell for some reason and some sweet malts but not the smokey smell I expected. Taste follows the same as instead of a smokey, bullish malt beer I get a rather lightly sweetened bitter pale ale, it seems, as a light-to-medium body passes over my tongue w/ sharp hoppy bitterness and hints of roasted malts mixed w/ minor sweet caramel. It finishes dry and was alright to drink but they missed the ball on this one.

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Photo of sweemzander
1.72/5  rDev -51.5%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

12oz. bottle poured into a nonic. Thanks to cjacobsen for this one. . i think.

(A)- Pours a dark/burnt caramel colored amber. Produced some tan bubbles and froth.

(S)- Intensely smoky. Bits of a rye-like caraway seed spice, but otherwise just smells like liquid smoke and a sickly sweet soy sauce or old molasses and fermented raisins.

(T)- Same as the smell. Tastes like liquid smoke and a sickly sweet, almost sour flavor like bad raisins or something.

(M)- A good carbonation level. Extremely smoky and so sugary, its almost sour if that makes any sense.

(D)- I am no a fan. I am appreciate a good smoked beer, but I am not sure what this wants to be.

 659 characters

Photo of IronGiant
1.86/5  rDev -47.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

I was talking with the manager of my local brew bar about Fort Collins beer. We're both big fans of Fort Collins brews and I was surprised when he said he had a FC beer he couldn't give away. "I put it on sale for a dollar and no one will drink it."

Okay, so I had to try it. Pour me the Z Lager.

Z Lager looks very nice in a pint glass. It smells smokey, which is to be expected for this style. But then...there is the taste.

The best descriptions I have come from two other bar patrons:

Patron 1: "This tastes like they drained bacon fat from a dirty griddle into this glass."

Patron 2: "No, this tastes like I accidentally dropped my cigarette in the glass then picked it up and drank it."

I like a rich, smoky beer, but I don't like this one. Nope, it really is cigarette bacon beer.

Odd that this comes from Fort Collins which brews such great beers. Their Rocky Mountain IPA is one of my favorites and is an undiscovered gem.

 939 characters

Photo of rhoadsrage
2.75/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

(Served in a dimple mug)
A- This beer has a slightly dense dark copper body with a yellowish antique white head that last for a good bid. There is a good carbonation of big bubbles that glide to the surface.
S- The rich caramel malt aroma has some Munich malt note in the finish.
T- The nice caramel sweet malt is quickly overpowered by plastic band-aid that wrap up my tongue and the full flavor of latex gloves finishes the beer and lingers.
M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with a flat texture and a soft fizz finish.
D- This beer is undrinkable with a great nose, and a nice malt flavor buried under the awful peat smoke/chlorine phenol quality. I love rauchbiers and this is not one. It is to harsh to drink.

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Z Lager from The Fort Collins Brewery
3.55 out of 5 based on 322 ratings.
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