Where as Charles Dickens novel A Tale Of Two Cities was about a heavy economic dispute fueled by the economic decline in France in the 18th Century, where the poor grew ever poorer and the rich sat on a throne to control it all. This is a tale of two tanks. Specifically fermentation yeast. And the history of this battle is not one of an economic baseline, but rather a trend baseline. Beer trends tend to change ever so swiftly these days and it can be said in the last one year and a bit. I had intended to put out a top 10 Quebec Lagers article sometime at the end of 2019, as I saw the rise of Lagers coming to fruition. But it always sat on the backburner as I kept watching the rich Hazy ales take the lime light. During that time Isle De Garde has spoken forward about the rise of this misunderstood and often belittled style. Along with that Mike Davis, of Beerbrit Mtl and guest writer for Beerism.ca wrote about how Lagers would erupt even further in 2021. You can catch his article here. And all of us were so correct to see this sadly abused and name called style make its much welcomed return to the scene. This tale is between top fermentation and bottom fermentation. Fuck you Ales. Its time for a Lager. Now a little explanation, the popular style IPA or India Pale Ale, is as the name states an Ale and the most common style to date in the craft beer scene. And has existed for a very long time. Especially one that is cloudy or hazy. The NEIPA style has taken the craft beer scene by storm the last decade. But the difference between an Ale and a Lager? An ale uses a yeast which top ferments and a lager utilizes slow bottom fermentation yeast strains.
The NEIPA style has become popular because its consumers are making it so, And I sip one of these hazy Pales Ales, I realize one thing. I am part of the cause. Because well, how can one not love this style, its fruity, tropical, easy to drink, at times has the perfect bitterness and it appears like orange juice. To the scent, the eye, and the taste it is nothing but spectacular. And it gets such a great rep. Unfortunately the same can not be said for a Lager. When common or craft beer lovers think Lager, they think Molson, or Budweiser. But we forget that true lagers from Europe were not made with corn or rice. They were real lagers. Now we tend to look at the history of North America and focus on how prohibition came to ruin the brewing industry and giving rise to what we have known for long as the corn or rice made lagers which we call piss water (Bud or Moslon). However the North American Lager brewing was already seeing its decline well before prohibition was enacted, because North American malt was brewed with Six-Row barley whereas Europe used a two-row barley. The six-row having more proteins and a haze and harsher flavour. Haze and harsher flavour? Seems like 102 Years later that is more favorable, well the haze, maybe not the harsh! The solution to this problem for brewers was something brewers considered long before Pastry stouts, its called adjuncts. And so they added corn or rice. Which came with it pale colour, and a stability that could match Europe, but the downside, it lost its taste. And so North American Lagers started a snowball to ruin. But today Lagers are brewed the real way, ever sip intended to be as planned and perceived. And now this long history comes to an end.
And so with that I would like to introduce Silo, a lager centric brewery which arrived at the most pristine time in Quebec. Just as the boom of this style has seemingly taken over my interest and many others, crisp is in, haze is, well always here to stay.
Lagers are a style which have failed to get the recognition they truly deserve in part due to their association with macro styles such as Budweiser and in part due to their drop in popularity. This however does not take away from the fact that lagers are in fact a difficult and complex style to brew. Utilizing lager yeast, a slow bottom fermentation yeast, means the particular yeast requires a lower fermentation temperature than those used in Ales. This will result in the yeast working less vigorously. This also results in slower fermentation times, which means they take much longer to brew than an Ale. Why the name bottom fermenting? Because once the yeast has preformed its duties, it settles at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. They say that Lagers are difficult to brew, in fact all beers are a challenge to brew and I find Lagers simply have different challenges and are a bit more complex in their process. Lagers come in different colours and styles and Silo seems to have created a vast palate for themselves in this regard.
Lets start with an easier yet complex style of lager, a german Kolsch. Reason why I say complex is because it is kind of a hybrid between a lager and an ale. They utilize an ale yeast for fermentation but use a lager yeast in bottle for final cold conditioning. This style originated in the German city of Cologne, and is considered to be a very popular lager in North America for its easy drinking and for its ability to easily pair with food. Saint Laurent is a Kolsch style beer brewed by Silo gives way to malted and sweet flavours with a very heavy focus on a breaded cereal. There does seem to be a slight honey touch to it which sits around and has a bit of a bitterness to it. My expectation was quiet different, I had the perception that a kolsch should be more bright and almost limey, but this was a good surprise.
An even more crispier style is the Czech Pilsner style, and as you can probably guess its origins lie in Czech Republic. Czech Republic are known to be the kings of Pilsners and also the founders of the style. This style is named after the city of Pilsen where it was first brewed and many say you can only truly taste the beauty of a Pilsner at the source in the country. This trip is on my bucket list and hope to one day make it come true! Louvain is a pilsner made by Silo. And it has such an amazing mix of malty breaded cereal. There is a very light toasted biscuit, bready flavours but its prominent focus is on a bright flavours, almost a lemoney feel with low carbonation and ut is as refreshing as it is flavourful. A welcomed delight to look forward to as the summer approaches.
Another Czech Pilsner styled brewed by Silo is their Poudreuse, its a hazy take on a classic Czech Pilsner and gives way to a very cereal dominated flavour point. It has a great balance between bready and that amazing cereal and finishes off very clean and dry.
An Altbier, is another mixed definition beer. It utilizes a top fermenting yeast, and isn’t truly a Lager. Brewed in the Rhineland region of Germany, this beer pays hommage to the old tradition of brewing in the area before lager yeasts became more popular. Alt, means old. The altbier utilizes an aggressive top fermenting ale yeast, which works aggressively to reduce the sweetness in the wort. This beer can be defined by a balance between the malt and hop bill. What makes it a hybrid, is it still utilizes cold fermentation and conditioned for months like a lager. It also uses darker roasted grains and comes in a more copper reddish colour. Fluery, is an Altbier which has a heavy focus on its rustic malty amber aromas and flavour points. But does not take away from its ease of drinking. It still has a very serene balance to it and overall comes off very light. My eyes tend to see a dark copper beer and think it will have a more aggressive caramel attack in flavour, but this does not utilize those types of grains. A very underappreciated style from the Lager family.
The last style I will touch on, and currently sitting as my favourite from the Lager family is a Schwarzbier. It is a dark lager originating from Germany, and tend to focus on a more dry, roast-oriented flavour profile. They are not heavy on sweetness nor are they bitter. They utilize lager yeast but also a varity of roasted malts, barley and chocolate malts, which give it that delicious roasty character. For me they are just perfect, giving me that roasted quality without a bitter attack and reduced sweetness, means they are easy to drink. This is making me thirsty. Des Carrieres is my current favourite from Silo. The aroma burst with roasted malts, toasted coffee, chocolatey. Just divine on the nose. As you sip it, a very soft body, light cereal notes and a heavy roasted chocolatey coffee flavour which gives me shivery delight. There awaits a can in my fridge, and I think I will crack one soon!
Silo is a spot which many should keep on their radar. They are really producing some class Lagers, there is another wonderful spot which has been doing this for a long time now, Isle De Garde, as well as another new comer to the scene Lupulone, more on them soon! You can buy Silos beers in stores around Montreal or straight from the source at their location in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville of Montreal.