I got my first installment of the Beer of the Month Club today. It was a gift from my wife for my 40th birthday. Next month will be the last month of it. It is expensive ($30 per 12 pack). The beers I received were Primo Island Lager from Hawaii and Session Black Lager from Full Sail Brewery in Oregon. I had read about each of them in recent issues of All About Beer Magazine, and was interested to try them.
Since it was a gift, I tore into it as such. The first beer I had was Primo. Primo is a throwback lager developed from an original 1890's recipe that was brewed on the Islands. It is a light american style lager and the packaging indicates it has a "touch" of Hawaiian cane sugar. To tell the truth, I didn't have high hopes for it before I opened it. It came in a twist off bottle that I can't even re-use for my brewing. It poured a deeper gold than I expected, with a nice white two finger head that subsided to a creamy film that lasted the rest of the glass. It was plenty cold when I tasted it, and I was impressed. It had no aroma of malt or hops and was very clean tasting with no aftertaste. The difference was it had a nice fullness to it, a slightly heavier body than the light lager I supposed it to be. As it warmed it started having that slight skunky flavor and aroma along with a little warmth of the alcohol. I suppose the flavors and alcohol are coming from the cane sugar added. It in no way was as skunky as the big name American Lagers. I would enjoy this beer much more than any of them on a hot day, or any day. This beer is for my light lager friends (and you know who you are). It is slightly fuller bodied, but in no way overbearing, nor horribly high in calories or alcohol content. If this is how beer tasted before Prohibition, it tasted pretty darn good, and what in the hell were those Do Gooders thinking with the 18th Amendment. Those Bastards ruined it for everyone. Actually, I have had throwback lagers before (See my posting on the 2009 Lager Festival Here, where I had Michelob Grand), and found them to be much more to my liking than today's American beers. According to the packaging, proceeds from the sale of Primo Beer go towards the preservation of Island Culture. Take that you Do Gooders.
My second Beer o' the Month Club was Session Beer from Full Sail Brewery out of Hood River, Oregon. It comes in an eleven ounce "stubby" bottle like Red Stripe and Olympia beer of the olden days. Although this beer also comes from the Pacific Northwest like Olympia, the packaging and the region of origin are the only things in common with Oly. I was kind of excited about the 11 ounce stubby bottles. I was thinking that they might make nice compact shipping bottles to send my beer to friends around the country. To my dismay, the bottle was a twist off (not good for re-use). The other problems I found with Stubbies is that the first opener I grabbed wouldn't work on it as the bottle's body got in the way of my long handled opener. Not to worry, I had a backup, and then discovered the twist off. The other thing about the stubby bottle is that while they are fun to drink from, I elected to pour it into a glass. The stubby pours like an old school pull tab can and glugs out of the bottle creating a bunch of foam using my normal pouring technique. I think that the rest of my six pack I will drink directly from the bottle. It poured dark brown with a light tan head that subsided quickly but left the lace on the sides of the glass. The aroma was of slight malt and my first taste reminded me of a lighter and less heavily bodied Porter. In fact, it is very similar to a light version of my Porter (which used Anchor Liberty Yeast and American Cascade Hops) that I need to taste them side by side. I would call it a Porter Lite. After all, it is designed to be a "session beer", low in alcohol and light in body so that you don't fill up having a few. I could drink these, but I am not sure that I would seek them out. I would prefer a Porter given the choice. Still, the stubby bottles are fun, and you now don't have to drink Red Stripe (which I hate) to drink out of Stubbies.
Both beers are worth getting if you want something lite or you have friends that are at least a little adventurous in their beer selections, but really mostly stick to light American Pilsner Lagers when ordering for themselves. They would be most impressed by these session beers. Both would be good for your Super Bowl celebrations where you and most of your guests have to get up for work the next day. I don't (have to work, that is), so I will enjoy sharing some of my homebrew with some new friends on Sunday.