For the first Oredigger of the academic year, I think I should start by explaining some of the terminology of beer. Beer was first legally defined by Germany’s Reinheitsgebot in 1516 as containing four ingredients: malted barley (which provides sugar and starch), hops (a flower which provides bitterness), water, and yeast (a micro-organism which converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles). All beer varieties are ultimately different combinations of these ingredients, but can also be divided into two major categories: ales (fermented at room temperature) and lagers (fermented at cold temperatures, and usually with a cleaner, crisper flavor). In general, most mass-produced beers like Coors or Budweiser are lagers and most microbrews are ales. You can learn more about beer by touring the Coors brewery or any of our state’s many microbreweries, or by reading this column.
My friend spotted the Lion Imperial Pilsner imported from Sri Lanka at the Applejack’s liquor store and generously shared a bottle with me. Weighing in at 8.8 % alcohol (almost twice that of Coors), this beer definitely earns its “Imperial” title and could more accurately be described as malt liquor. The flavor is rather light for a pilsner and, as expected, dominated by alcohol and lager yeast. There is also a sticky-sweet malt flavor and a slightly “off” flavor, most likely from corn-based adjuncts (think Keystone Lite or other cheap beer). The mouth-feel is similarly heavy and viscous, reinforcing my previous malt liquor associations. Unlike most pilsners, very little bitterness or hop aroma exists. Too bad, since a little bit of hop bite would provide a much-needed balance to the sweetness and alcohol flavors. The color and carbonation, on the other hand, are what you would expect from a pilsner, with a light amber hue and about half an inch of head. There is none of the skunky flavor often associated with imported lagers such as Heineken, however, which can occur when hop flavors break down during long ocean journeys or when exposed to light.
Ultimately, I cannot recommend this beer, even for those who enjoy high-alcohol beers (you are better off with a New Belgium Trippel or Oskar Blues Old Chub in that case). Even though I’m generally a beer guy, in this case I prefer Sri Lanka’s tea exports to its beer. I give Lion Imperial Pilsner a D+, or maybe a PRG – the Lion Ceylon Brewing Company should really start over and try again.