Unless you’ve been napping, you’ve probably noticed that Amsterdam brewery has made some big moves in the last little while.
One interesting little change, though, that seems to have escaped most people’s attention (or interest?) was the fate of Amsterdam’s 416 beer.
416 was originally created to celebrate Amsterdam’s 25th anniversary and was billed as an “all-natural, unfiltered and unpasteurized wheat beer with a distinct citrus aroma.” Indeed, the marketing push that I remember surrounding the 416 Urban Wheat seems now like something of a preview to Amsterdam’s current more serious efforts to hype their products and the beer even enjoyed such distinctions as it’s very own URL! (http://www.416urbanwheat.com/ is still active as of this posting).
The problem of course was that 416 Urban Wheat wasn’t very good.
It didn’t have enough wheat beer flavour to entice fans of actual wheat beers and it ventured too far from the expected “clean and crisp” territory to be of interest to mainstream beer drinkers.
And so I suppose it wasn’t a very difficult decision, when the folks at Amsterdam were looking to make some changes, which beer they might scrap in favour of adding a lager to the lineup (plus, I imagine they had stockpiles of green bottles to rid themselves of and this likewise took care of that).
Today’s 416 is Amsterdam’s 416 Local Lager. It’s a relatively new development, and one they don’t seem too keen on advertising a lot just yet (indeed, the new Amsterdam website still lists 416 as a “an all-natural, unpasteurized, unfiltered wheat beer” despite the fact that that description sits next to an image of a bottle clearly marker “lager.”)
My first experience with the 416 Local Lager was on tap at Amsterdam’s new waterfront brewhouse and, while I remember it being a great lager, I enjoyed that pint in the company of Amsterdam’s own Iain McOustra, so it’s possible that my judgement was swayed by his imposing physical presence and propensity for physical violence.
(In case it’s at all unclear, this is sarcasm.)
Regardless, to be sure my judgement wasn’t clouded by having to perform a proper tasting under the terrifying scrutiny of Iain, I recently picked up a can at the LCBO (despite my better judgement, which was screaming at me that anything in a can this ugly can’t possibly taste good–sorry, Amsterdam art department, but this isn’t working for me).
The beer poured exceptionally clean and clear and has an appearance that’s sure to confuse anyone who reads online that it’s an unfiltered wheat. It likewise had a pure white, foamy head and basically looked precisely like a classic beer commercial pale gold pint. If you’re thirst, it’s hot, and you’re dying for a beer, this is the imagine you likely have in your head. Minus the large-breasted blonde on roller blades in a bikini who is serving it to you…Er, is that just me?
There were obvious sweet malt aromas with maybe a suggestion of grassy hops or subtle citrus, but generally, there wasn’t a lot in the nose. As for taste, well, uh, it tastes like a lager. All the flavour notes implied in the aroma are here in the taste, but but for the most part this is just a simple, thirst-quenching beer.
There’s certainly a place for well made lagers, and this is one to be sure. That is to say, lagers aren’t always my cup of tea, but this is a great example of a beverage well suited to people who like beers with the word “clean” tucked somewhere in the tasting notes .
The 416 Local Lager isn’t going to break down any doors, but in my opinion, it’s infinitely better than the 416 Urban Wheat. This might certainly find a home as a good, locally made lager and I’d gladly pick up another one if I’m ever in the mood for a refreshing lager–provided it’s on tap and I don’t have to look at that can again.