A trip to the liquor store to pick up some canned beer for an outdoor event where glass bottles are a no-no, which excludes my own beer brewed at home, yielded a couple of new beers from Lightning Brewery out of Poway, California.
When you open a bottle of beer you expect certain things to happen. A nice pop is one. A rush of aromas from hops is another. However, this was something unexpected:
I popped the top of the bottle and was treated to a science experiment worthy volcano of craft beer. Ugh! Normally, I would associate such a level of carbonation with some kind of contamination particularly from a bottle conditioned beer.
So, what to say about Thunderweizen Ale:
The beer was not contaminated, which is a good thing.
I have a love-hate relationship with hefeweizens. Sometimes, when the brewer plays down the spice notes and neglects the banana flavors I am all about a cold glass on a warm day. Conversely, when the brewer gets cute with a sucker punch of cloves and an armload of banana I want to puke.
Thunderweizen was right on the line. I could taste some notes of clove, just enough to taste good without making me think I was eating a spiced ham, and the flavors of banana were muted enough to be bearable. The most disappointing thing is that I lost about half the beer to the Mount Vesuvius moment earlier.
The other bottle was Elemental Pilsner:
Brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, or Bavarian Beer Purity Law of 1516, Elemental Pilsner should be brewed only with water, hops, and barley. Notice the omission of yeast? Interesting, huh? Apparently, when the Reinheitsgebot was first written no one knew about the micro-organisms, yeast in this case, that were responsible for the fermentation of beers. My guess is that the folks at Lightning Brewery are using yeast in addition to the original three ingredients.
Elemental Pilsner, like other well-crafted pilsners, is an extremely clean drinking beer. In keeping with a beer that only has three ingredients, forgetting the yeast for a moment, the key here is execution rather than recipe creativity. With so little room for mistakes to be covered up by bold flavors from non-approved ingredients the flavors need to be spot on or the beer comes across very poorly.
I am naturally inclined to favor ales as opposed to lagers, a pilsner being a lager, because I find a lot of lagers to be “middle of the road.” Ask someone what to pair with a pilsner and you will likely get a list of every food type in the world because the beer is so vanilla that is complements everything. It’s like chicken. Everything tastes like chicken because chicken tastes like nothing. At least the crazy birds that we have bred to reach maturity in as little as forty two days.
None of this should come across as an indictment of Elemental Pilsner or the work the folks at Lightning Brewery are doing. The beer was crafted well and tasted good. It just does not float my boat, so to speak.
The lineup from Lightning Brewery includes quite a few other styles to choose from, but only these two are available in my little corner of the woods right now. The good thing is that on my next business trip to Poway—yes, I actually have trips to Poway scheduled about every six months for my “real” job—I have a new place to check out.