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Off the Beaten Path 

The road less traveled reveals two rugged lagers made for the adventurous palate.

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MIKE RIEDEL
  • Mike Riedel

This week I found two lagers that are far more complex than I was expecting. As the weather begins to chill, a lager with a little more oomph seems to pair perfectly with these colder autumn days.

TF - Tochtervat: Assistant Brewer Rita Behles and her father, Joe, brewed this special collaboration for the simple reason that dads and daughters should always be making beer together. Tochtervat is German for "father/daughter," and I must say, this is one of the most unusual lagers I've ever had. It breaks a lot of rules brilliantly, and I must share what I've found.

It's noticeably bronze in a color that radiates like a setting sun. It's brilliantly clear, with two inches of pillowy, airy white foam. The nose is very floral and herbal—earth, hay field, sweet but light pale malts and spice gently waft off the beer. It is very ticklish to the senses, with a slightly sharp bitterness and tart sweetness in the back. Still, rose petals and fresh grass mixed with white pepper and muddled spices keep the aroma superbly fresh and appetizing. It smells crisp and quenching with notes of lemon peel and grapefruit.

Right from the start, the Nobel hops delivers crisp, floral and spicy refreshment as promised. Pale malts come in initially, but are instantly followed by delicate spice and crisp natural carbonation. Hops follow right away, slightly tart and sweet to cool your palate, and also excite. Citrus and hay build in strength as still-soft sweet, granola-like malts glide across your palate. It shows great complexity, and also a luxurious texture. It really is soothing and exciting to enjoy. Light notes of melon and strawberry are hiding in the back, but are mostly covered by citrus rind and bitter herbs. Touches of yeast and spice at the end also aid a very crisp and bitter finish to make it a superb and complex lager.

Overall: If you're looking for something unique that feels traditional, while turning everything upside down, check this autumn beauty out before it's gone.

Hopkins - Cowboy Lite: This beer is partially the progeny of Hopkins' Campfire Smoked Lager and a light pilsner. After making their Campfire beer, the brewers used the smoke-infused yeast to craft the Campfire Lite. This imparts a subtle level of smoke flavor that's barely perceivable, but adds nice character to the finished product. It pours a completely clear light straw gold, with a moderate crisp-looking white head and steady, fast visible carbonation. There's a very crisp, clean pilsner nose—light grass, dough/fresh bread, some crackers and a bit of floral character as well. A good marriage of malt and hop aroma.

The taste delivers what the nose suggested, making for a really pleasant swig. Nice malt notes start up front, with that bread and dough character coming through nicely. Hop notes follow closely, providing that slight peppery spiciness and floral flavor. Those Chinook and Saaz hops have a nicely restrained bite that carries through all the way to the end. Some smoke becomes evident as it warms and develops a light roast profile. Grapefruit and floral/peppery spices linger in the crisp finish.

Overall: A really excellent American Lager. The assertive hop profile, combining German and American qualities with that hint of coffee roast smokiness, takes a "lite" beer and makes it something more than ordinary. I guess my only question is, can they make this beer only after making the Campfire Smoked lager? I guess we'll find out.

Both of these lagers come in at 5.0 percent ABV, and are on their respective seasonal tap handles. Both are available to go in growlers and crowlers. Enjoy these before the heavy holiday beers take hold of the market. As always, cheers.

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