Classic American Pilsner (Pre-Prohibition Lager) Beer Style

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by JackHorzempa, Jul 20, 2021.

  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    There seems to be some excitement brewing (no pun intended) for the upcoming BA Lager Fest. Some folks have discussed they are particularly excited to try Live Oak Pre-War Pils.

    There is likely a few BAs who do not have a lot of familiarity with the Classic American Pilsner (CAP) style so a bit of background:

    “Classic American Pilsner

    It was not just European beer drinkers that wanted to drink golden colored lagers. The challenge for producing a beer like Pilsner Urquell in America was a difference in barley. The predominant type of barley grown in North America was 6-row barley vs. the 2-row barley grown in Europe. The 6-row barley was better suited for growing in the climate of North America. The issue with 6-row barley when it comes to brewing a golden beer is that it is higher in protein as compared to 2-row. Brewing an all malt golden beer in the America would yield a beer that suffers from chill haze – a hazy appearance when the beer is cold. The American beer drinkers of that time preferred to drink their beers cold so this chill haze issue was a real problem. It should be noted that chill haze was not too much of a problem for the others beers being produced in America in the mid-1800s since they were typically darker in color (e.g., amber/dark ales, dark Bavarian Lagers, etc.).

    Thankfully there was a brewing scientist who came to the rescue. Anton Schwarz immigrated to America in 1868 from the Austrian Empire. “He was educated at the University of Vienna, where he studied law for two years, and at the Polytechnicum, Prague, where he studied chemistry.” The year after he immigrated to the US he wrote a seminal article entitled “Brewing with Raw Cereals, Especially Rice” in American Brewer magazine (1869). What Anton Schwarz recognized is that by adding some adjuncts (e.g., rice, corn) to the grain bill the overall content of protein was diluted since the adjuncts contained little protein and consequently the resulting beer would not suffer from chill haze. There was also the added benefit that the beer brewed using adjuncts would have improved beer stability. This improved beer stability was a great asset since American beer consumers drank quite a bit of bottled beer. The information that Anton Schwarz provided was quite an innovation for American brewers.

    Below is how Anton Schwarz is lauded in the book American Handy-Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades by Wahl & Henius, 1902, page 711:

    “It was Anton Schwarz who first advised the employment of rice and subsequently of Indian corn, which is so abundant in this country. The stubborn perseverance with which he sought to convert conservative brewers to his ideas and finally succeed in doing and, last, not least, the discovery of suitable methods to scientifically apply them, entitles him to be called the founder of raw cereal brewing in the United States.”

    https://www.morebeer.com/articles/Pilsen_Beer

    Live Oak Pre-War Pils is detailed on their website:

    “Live Oak Pre-War Pils

    After the repeal of prohibition, World War I still loomed large in public consciousness. Consequently, these beers were commonly known as “pre-war” pilsners. This 1912 recipe, mashed with one-third corn grits in a cereal decoction mash is a fine example of American early 1900s brewing.

    OG: 12ºP ABV: 5.0% IBU: 32”

    https://liveoakbrewing.com/pre-war-pils/

    If you visit the above link there is also a promotional video for this beer.

    A principle difference between a contemporary AAL beer (e.g., Budweiser) and the beers brewed in the latter 1800’s in America was the hopping – CAP beer were generously hopped in all three phases (bittering, flavor and aroma). As can be noted above Live Oak Pre-War Pils has 32 IBUs which is significantly more than a Budweiser of today (about 10 – 12 IBUs).

    There are not many commercially brewed CAP beers but a few examples:

    “Examples of Classic American Pilsners

    There are few examples of commercially brewed CAP beers. They tend to be only available in limited regions and sometimes on a rotating basis: Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager (Pennsylvania), Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager (Oregon), Short’s Pontius Road Pilsner (Michigan), Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. Rocket 100 (Texas), Upland Champagne Velvet (Indiana), and Fullstream Paycheck Pilsner (North Carolina).”

    My favorite commercially brewed CAP is Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager but unfortunately it has been a few years since I have seen this beer at my local beer retailers. I suppose Straub mostly distributes this beer in western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio?

    Have any of you had the chance to drink a CAP (maybe at a local brewpub)? Do you have a favorite? If you already had the opportunity to drink Live Oak Pre-War Pils what did you think of this beer?

    Cheers!
     
  2. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,127) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota
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    If Classic American Pilsner is a style, it is clear BAs don't know how to classify it in the "official" style list of BeerAdvocate. It seems to most often (but not always) be lumped into the AAL style.

    Using the CAPs you name...

    Listed as Lager - Adjunct are:
    Live Oak Pre-War Pils
    Upland Champagne Velvet
    Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. Rocket 100
    Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager

    Listed as Pilsner - Bohemian / Czech are:
    Fullstream Paycheck Pilsner
    Short’s Pontius Road Pilsner

    Listed as Lager - American is:
    Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager

    Locally, there is Schell's Deer Brand Pre-prohibition lager, with a grain bill containing 30% corn. It is listed as Lager - Adjunct.

    I haven't tried Schell's Deer Brand lager. Perhaps I should. Although its rating here is pretty low... no doubt it suffers from the snooty AAL classification bias (not to mention all the cool kids looking down on Schell's). I have to admit, its AAL classification is one of the reasons I've never tried it.

    As to the ongoing lobbying for adding styles for Italian Pilsner and even New Zealand Pilsner, it seem to me the Classic American Pilsner has a much deeper history. It is unfortunate that it seems to be lumped in with macro AALs very often.

    It would do these beers a service if they could be classified differently.

    There seems to be a fair about of rigidity about where lagers that use corn belong. Even the Brewers Association started out being very hard line on this with their first definition of a "craft brewer". They backed down after they were publicly shamed by the open letter from Jace Marti (Schell's Brewmaster).
     
  3. BJC

    BJC Initiate (182) Nov 9, 2002 New Jersey

    Founder's Solid Gold ?
     
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  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    You may already be aware of this but this beer style is addressed in the BJCP style guidelines under the category of Historical Beer: Pre-Prohibition Lager. A snippet from that style guideline:

    “Comments: The Classic American Pilsner was brewed both pre-Prohibition and post-Prohibition with some differences. OGs of 1.050–1.060 would have been appropriate for pre-Prohibition beers while gravities dropped to 1.044–1.048 after Prohibition. Corresponding IBUs dropped from a pre-Prohibition level of 30–40 to 25–30 after Prohibition.

    History: A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.”

    The BJCP style guidelines does list a few example beers:

    “Commercial Examples: Anchor California Lager, Coors Batch 19, Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch.”

    FWIW I personally would not classify Anchor California Lager as a CAP since it is an all malt beer.

    Cheers!
     
  5. jkblr

    jkblr Poo-Bah (2,828) Nov 22, 2014 Indiana
    Society Trader

    I was able to have a glass of 1910 St. Louis Lager at Urban Chestnut Brewing several years ago. It was a clone of a 1910 Budweiser recipe with rice as an adjunct. It was excellent. It is listed here on BA as an American Lager. I have tried to have several lagers reclassified here on BA after providing proof of adjunct, but it's not always done. Regardless, the Classic American Pilsner is a great style and I'm lucky to have access to fresh Champagne Velvet right up the road.
     
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  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    From the Founders website (with emphasis in bold by me):

    “Solid Gold

    Premium Lager

    ABV: 4.4%

    IBUs: 20

    From the BJCP style guidelines (with emphasis in bold by me):

    “Vital Statistics:

    OG: 1.044 – 1.060

    IBUs: 25 – 40

    FG: 1.010 – 1.015

    SRM: 3 – 6

    ABV: 4.5 – 6.0%”

    Founders Gold is not consistent with the BJCP style guidelines plus from my tastings of Solid Gold it is ‘lacking’ in hop flavor/aroma (my opinion).

    If I was the Grand Poobah of for beer classification my ‘vote’ would be that Founders Solid Gold is not a CAP beer.

    Cheers!
     
  7. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,927) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    That Champagne Velvet is a really nice beer. Unfortunately I've only found it at boutique prices in the NYC area.
     
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  8. MrOH

    MrOH Meyvn (1,469) Jul 5, 2010 Malta

    @JackHorzempa I know that you frequently make a homebrew CAP. How close is your recipe to Jamil's in Brewing Classic Styles? How similar in taste is it to the the examples you have tried? I don't think I've ever had one, and am trying to get an idea for what they taste like.
     
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  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    I am a little embarrassed to admit this but...I didn't know that Jamil had a CAP recipe in the book. I just got done reading it and my recipe is quite different. I will send a PM to discuss further.
    It is pretty close to the Straub 1872 Pre-Prohibition Lager that I discussed in a 2018 NBS thread:

    "Overall:
    I really like this new version of this beer! When I am done drinking one I really desire a second one. This beer has the quality that the Germans refer to as being süffig!!

    My guess is that Straub changed up the proportions of the grain bill of this beer. Specifically I think they reduced the amount of Munich Malt in the grain bill. The older versions were darker in color and had sort of a Vienna Lager-like aspect to them. This version tastes similar to a Classic American Pilsner that I brew every year (I brewed another batch of my CAP yesterday)."

    [​IMG]

    https://www.beeradvocate.com/community/threads/new-beer-sunday-week-678.559974/#post-5884158

    Cheers!
     
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  10. moodenba

    moodenba Devotee (460) Feb 2, 2015 New York

    Having a defined style for preprohibition lager and other minor types is a losing strategy. There are so many styles now that I don't have the patience to choose the "best" style for beers that I have added. The brewers' descriptions and the reviews could better define what a beer is like. American Adjunct Lager is, I think, the default style worldwide, and adding more gradations to this wouldn't be informative.
     
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  11. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (3,143) May 30, 2005 Michigan
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    I've had the Short's Pontius Road Pilsner that was listed in the OP, and at the time I thought it was the best pilsner ever. Unfortunately Short's has not brewed it for 5-6 years. Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to write an email to Short's and try to change that.
     
  12. o29

    o29 Aspirant (239) Sep 29, 2020 Texas
    Society Trader

    I'm a little spoiled in this regard currently living in Austin, TX, as I've had the opportunity to try both Live Oak's Pre-War Pils and Austin Beer Garden Brewing's Rocket 100.

    Both were great examples of the style and far and away superior to a traditional AAL.

    I'm a big fan of Live Oak's regular Pils, and I found their Pre-War Pils to be similar but with a lighter body which made it more drinkable. I've had the pleasure of having both side-by-side in a flight and could see myself preferring the Pre-War on a particularly hot day, while their standard Pils is likely more generally suited for drinking any time.

    Austin Beer Garden's Rocket 100 was also quite good. Here too I tried their standard Pilsner called Industry (note that ABG's standard Pilsner is a German Pilsner while Live Oak's is a Bohemian/Czech) which I similarly preferred. I would have to give the nod to Live Oak here, however, as I found both their Pre-War Pils and regular Pils to be superior examples of the style compared to ABG's Rocket 100 and Industry. That being said I would very happily drink any of these 4 beers!

    I'm excited the rest of the BA world is getting to share a fantastic offering from Live Oak to prove their Hefeweizen isn't the only great beer they brew!

    Cheers! :beers:
     
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  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    I have family that lives in Hill Country Texas (formerly Austin but a few years ago a move to New Braunfels). While visiting I have had the pleasure of drinking Live Oak Pilz many times. Tastes more like a German Pilsner to me despite the marketing of that beer. The other Live Oak beer beyond the Hefeweizen that is deserving of praise IMO is their Grodziskie.

    Cheers to Live Oak and ABGB (and Real Ale)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
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  14. EmperorBatman

    EmperorBatman Initiate (146) Mar 16, 2018 Tennessee

    I'm fortunate to have a few pre-Prohibition options in my area of Nashville.

    Closest to the Pilsner-type is Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch. As per the description:
    Another, albeit an amber lager, is Nashville Brewing Company's Amber Lager:
    Unfortunately, NBC does not give the malt or hop bills for this particular one, but I'm fairly sure it uses a good dose of Cluster and then finished with Saaz.
     
  15. o29

    o29 Aspirant (239) Sep 29, 2020 Texas
    Society Trader

    I thoroughly enjoyed Live Oak's Grodziskie as well and am also very appreciative to have the 3 aforementioned breweries located so closely!

    And although unnoted, thank you for the minor spelling correction (Live Oak Pilz vs Live Oak Pre-War Pils).

    Cheers to traditional beer styles! :beer:
     
  16. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (5,013) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    I don't believe I've handled any of these, but you can always reach out to me directly if you want to go over any of these again - I'd be happy to look them over with you.
     
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  17. thegodfather2701

    thegodfather2701 Crusader (758) Nov 3, 2005 North Carolina

    I’ve had Paycheck Pilsner and remember not being impressed but I was wanting a traditional Pilsner at the time. What was the Coors product that was supposed to be pre-prohibition lager from about 8 years ago? It was better than expected.
     
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  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    That beer was Batch 19. I had a draft pint of that beer and FWIW I was not impressed.

    Cheers!
     
  19. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Was this a one time brew? Has Urban Chestnut ever brewed it again (e.g., a rotating beer brand)?

    Cheers!
     
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  20. jkblr

    jkblr Poo-Bah (2,828) Nov 22, 2014 Indiana
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    I was able to have a glass of 1910 St. Louis Lager at Urban Chestnut Brewing several years ago. It was a clone of a 1910 Budweiser recipe with rice as an adjunct. It was excellent. It is listed here on BA as an American Lager. I have tried to have several lagers reclassified here on BA after providing proof of adjunct, but it's not always done. Regardless, the Classic American Pilsner is a great style and I'm lucky to have access to fresh Champagne Velvet right up the road.
    I'm not sure. It was taproom only at that time and distribution of their beer here in southern Indiana has become spotty, which is sad.
     
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  21. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Defender (633) Jul 6, 2005 Indiana

    All the 12 packs you can handle around here. Summer crusher.

    EDIT: Pretty cool story about the beer too.
     
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  22. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,927) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Yeah, I figured it was only a NYC thing (like $3 a can, at stores that sell mostly singles).

    We're not exactly hurting for affordable lagers here, but that one would still be pretty cool to put in the mix.
     
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  23. spicoli00

    spicoli00 Defender (633) Jul 6, 2005 Indiana

    whoa....yeah, it's mostly like $19 for a 12-pack and you might get lucky and find it on sale at a grocery store for $16. It's a good beer but $3 a can is :money_mouth:
     
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  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,248) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    A quick look around but I can't find a trusted source for an IBU figure for Deer Brand (Schell's own website leaves it blank :confused:) but I'd imagine if one is going by the BJCP's criteria it's not hopped high enough to qualify as a CAP, either.

    Supposedly DB is 100% Cascade hops (obviously not the original pre-Pro or post-Repeal versions) based on a recent Schell handout - can a CAP be hopped with modern hop strains? Sure, asking somewhat tongue in cheek, but that is the constant problem with these sorts of strict beer style definitions.
     
  25. Crusader

    Crusader Disciple (331) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    A while back I noticed that they listed the IBUs on the label.
    [​IMG]
     
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  26. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,248) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    Ha, Ha... Well, c'mon, who's gonna look there? :grin:
     
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  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    According to the BJCP style guideline modern hops are verboten for this style. They even specifically mention Cascade:

    “Characteristic Ingredients: Six-row barley with 20% to 30% flaked maize (corn) or rice to dilute the excessive protein levels; modern versions may be all malt. Native American hops such as Clusters, traditional continental hops, or modern noble-type crosses are also appropriate. Modern American hops such as Cascade are inappropriate. Water with a high mineral content can lead to an unpleasant coarseness in flavor and harshness in aftertaste. A wide range of lager yeast character can be exhibited, although modern versions tend to be fairly clean.”

    Cheers!
     
  28. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (2,127) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota
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    Maybe by marketing it as a pre-pro lager, they mean the BRAND is pre-prohibition! :stuck_out_tongue:

    Anyhow, I guess I won't rush out to buy any as an example of the (sub?) style.
     
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  29. kevanb

    kevanb Poo-Bah (2,633) Apr 4, 2011 Illinois
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    [​IMG]
    we are truly blessed to have this beer in Chicago, awesome stuff.
     
  30. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Do you happen to know which adjunct (i.e., corn vs. rice) is used to brew this beer?

    Cheers!
     
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  31. FBarber

    FBarber Poo-Bah (5,013) Mar 5, 2016 Illinois
    Moderator Society Trader

    Jack, according to Metropolitan Brewing, who brews this for Seipps, they use flaked corn.
     
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  32. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    As it happens, I also use flaked corn to brew my Classic American Pilsner (CAP). I think the description provided (copied below) is pretty accurate with just one minor addition in bold:

    “Flaked corn in the malt bill adds subtle cereal sweetness, but remains easy on the palate because it simultaneously lightens the flavor and body of the finished beer.”

    Given the generous hopping schedule (in all three phases: bittering, flavor and aroma) I can ‘register’ something from the flaked corn in my CAP but it is not very evident.

    Cheers!
     
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  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    On a related note, have you had the opportunity to drink Aldstadt (Fredericksburg, TX) beers? If so, what do you think?

    You may already know this but they won gold at the 2019 GABF for two of their beers: Helles and Kolsch. I think this is impressive.

    Cheers!
     
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  34. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,029) Mar 12, 2009 New York
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    The best CAP I ever tasted was brewed by Dennis Decker as a member of our home brew club. He now is brewmaster at Pinellas Ale Works in Florida, but he doesn't seem to make that style commercially. Maybe some of you Florida people who love the style can convince him to make a batch.
     
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  35. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Dave, do you have knowledge of his recipe? Which adjunct (and format) did he use? What was his hoping schedule? etc.

    Cheers!
     
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  36. o29

    o29 Aspirant (239) Sep 29, 2020 Texas
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    I actually was not aware of Altstadt's GABF medals. I only moved to Texas this past October so I still have some local breweries that I need to try, and while they were already on my "to try" list, you've propelled them to the top!

    Funny timing as I actually was eyeing their Kolsch while beer shopping yesterday, and it sounds like it was a mistake to pass on it.

    Thank you for enlightening me and cheers! :beers:
     
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  37. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,066) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    If you are ever motivated for a 'road trip' I would suggest a visit to the brewery. A couple of years ago I visited Fredericksburg with my sister and wife and as I drove my the brewery I really, really wanted to turn it but....

    Well, see for yourself:

    [​IMG]

    Prost!
     
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  38. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,029) Mar 12, 2009 New York
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    Sadly I do not. I also regret not getting another member's Double Cream Ale recipe when I had the chance. The lesson is get those recipes when you have the chance.
     
  39. puck1225

    puck1225 Poo-Bah (3,471) Dec 22, 2013 Texas
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    Live Oak beers are usually good stuff and their pre-Prohibition is no exception.
     
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  40. ChicagoJ

    ChicagoJ Meyvn (1,362) Feb 2, 2015 Illinois

    Thanks for bringing up this style / topic again, @JackHorzempa .

    I've come across three of the beers mentioned in this thread. I enjoyed Upland's Champaign Velvet the most, we previously discussed how bold this is, or is not.

    I found the Seipp's beer to be good, tried it on draft at Metropolitan where it was (is still?) brewed, but didn't like it enough to pick up a six pack. Seipp's was a real brewery before the Civil War, this just seems to be the founder's great great great (+/- great(s)) granddaughter and a marketing campaign, but Metropolitan is a solid brewer and the beer is good, just not wow.

    My take on Batch 19 and rated it average for the listed style here (AAL), prefer a Budweiser.

    Your threads have me on the look out for more in this style, but I am still searching. Would have picked up a sixer of UCV last week, but it was a few months old sold room temperature, so that is where it remained.

    Would like to try the Urban Chestnut offering if they ever brew it again, and it sounds like there are a few breweries in Texas I should check out.
     
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