- Mike Riedel
There are some beer styles that just work for any time of the year. Whether it's cold or sweltering, beers like these are a solid bet, no matter what your calendar is screaming at you.
Bewilder Brewing Co. Munich Festbier: This looks like white gold as you hold it up to the light—remarkable clarity with lots of energetic carbonation that gives this lager a very animated appearance. There's a bright white, sculpted rocky head with impressive retention and stamina, featuring very sticky condensed lacing that hardly budges around the entire glass. When I get my nose on top of it, scents of semi-sweet toasted malt swirl around with a fine layer of nutty grains. A spicy hop character slides in next, with an underlying touch of must—a nice aromatic balance between spice and cereal malt.
On first taste, it's almost moderately sweetened in terms of this lager's malt character up front, with a strong flavor of rounded, malted wheat puffs. The peppered spice from the hops keeps the semi-sweet malt alive throughout the sip, making for a dry finish. Notes of grass, lemon, pepper and toasted oats linger in the aftertaste. The body is, of course, light and dry, and leaves a crisp snap on the palate—well-balanced in the spice and grain department. It's a well executed 5.0% fest-style lager from Bewilder and co-brewer Bohemian Brewing Co.
Overall: The brewers did a nice job bringing some exciting flavor aspects to what could have been a pretty pedestrian effort. This will be a nice, all-weather beer for those looking for a nice drinking lager.
Level Crossing Brewing Co. Oat Slayer: Always looking for opacity in your stouts? It can tell you a lot about how it's made and what you're in store for. Oat Slayer offered a very dark black that sucked all light into it, basically leaving a black hole in my snifter. The nose was very roasty up front, with sweet malt and a slight chocolate presence. Lactose levels were also very distinct, and a bit unexpected.
The taste was surprising to me as well, but in a good way. While a lot of milk stouts tend to get a little heavy-handed with sweetness, this one didn't follow the trend. It tasted like a very standard, tame porter. A very distinct roasted malt flavor emerges up front, with an obvious lactose smack toward the back. It doesn't overdo either one much at all. There is a bit of that chocolate/coffee flavor at times, which comes across as quite natural. The lactose gives it a nice, creamy and light mouthfeel. I definitely wouldn't call it watery.
Overall: I love milk stouts, so I'm pretty harsh on bad ones. This was a solid interpretation of the style. The crew at Level Crossing created a nice 4.7% milk stout, while keeping the ridiculous sweetness and rich flavors balanced just enough to get me through the entire glass. Worth a try for stout lovers and rich, milky stout lovers in general.
Level Crossing currently offers at least a half a dozen beers in 16-ounce cans. This is not one of those, unfortunately, so you'll have to look toward the brewery's taproom to find this stout. Bewilder's Festbier is a part of the brewery's debut line-up, and will likely return at some point. However, I wouldn't take any chances; snag some sooner rather than later. As always, cheers!