Brewed Awakenings – The Great Cycle of Beer
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2022-2023 print issue of Quench Magazine.
There’s a joke often told between beer nerds about the ‘great cycle of beer’.
Before we learn more about the wild world of better beer, we start with a love of lager. After realizing there’s more out there, we go nuts with overly-hopped IPAs. And then boozy imperial stouts, Belgian ales, fruited sours, a brief but regrettable phase with milkshake IPAs, and then, having tried all there is to try in the gamut of beer styles, we find ourselves right back at the beginning enjoying lagers.
It’s funny to think about, but there’s a lot of truth to it. Only after we’ve learned the process of making beer and developed a deep appreciation for the skill and artistry of it do we fully appreciate the beer style that started it all for us, which is usually a Czech pilsner, but can also be a German pilsner or helles as well. They’re such simple styles of beer, but then again, it takes a lot of effort and experience to make a beer simple. Even more if you want it to be good. It has to be a beer that you don’t have to think about if you don’t want to, but if you do, it’s only good things. It has to be that beer that you think of when you want to just relax.
And it’s that love for the simple-done-well that has led Luc Lafontaine (known as Bim to virtually everyone), to be one of the country’s best brewers, with his brewery, Godspeed, Toronto’s gem for traditional Czech lagers. Garnering inspiration from the wonderful beer from Budějovický Budvar (known as Budweiser Budvar or Czechvar in North America), Lafontaine took it upon himself to learn the ways of the master Czech brewers and the elegant, understated beauty found in their beer…often learning from the brewmasters themselves and working with the Czech consulate to make it happen.
This past year Godspeed released Bůh Originální Ležák, meaning “God,” Bůh is a 4.6% ABV Original Czech Pale Lager, and a beautiful homage to a classic. Using a double decoction mash process and twelve week lagering time, and using 100% whole cone saaz hops with specially-sourced floor malted pilsner malt, the beer is crisp and grassy with just a little hint of smoke and spice. It’s a wonderful addition to a brewery lineup that already has some internationally loved lagers such as Světlý Ležák 12° Czech Premium Pale Lager and the Sklepník Old Pilsen Style Lager.
Meanwhile, just down the road at Rorschach Brewing, the brewery known for outlandishly fruited sour beers and Double IPAs has also been picking up a reputation as a place with excellent lager, namely their Reminiscence Mexican Lager and the Rorschach Super Dry Japanese Rice Lager.
The Reminiscence is light and crisp with a distinct note of toasted corn tortillas while the Super Dry is crisp, clean, and very dry with a little malt sweetness. There’s an alternative version of the beer available that includes shikuwasa citrus that’s also worth trying.
As to why there’s this rise in crisp light lagers in the craft world, there are a number of reasons. But one of the key ones is that there is admittedly a sense of relief in finding a simple, well-made beer in a world seemingly full of outlandish flavours that challenge and, at times, assault the senses. The beer style’s simplicity may be seen as a welcome respite for both the overstimulated beer lover and the overwhelmed newcomer. Sometimes you just want a beer that tastes like beer, you know?
And with that one commonality between beer expert and beer newbie, the ‘Great Cycle of Beer’ continues on. Lucky us there’s plenty of good stops along the way for a decent pint.