Style: California Common/Steam Beer
From: Lewiston, ME
Brewery’s Note: “Brewed in a style born in 19th-century California, Tarnation is Baxter Brewing’s first lager. American crystal malts provide light toast and caramel notes along with the beer’s rich amber hue, while Munich malt supplies Tarnation’s malty body. The complex malt notes balance the ample bitterness of American Northern Brewer hops (the signature hop for this style) giving the beer great balance. An authentic San Francisco lager yeast ferments the brew, yielding a clean, crisp and satisfying beer. This lager requires several weeks of cold conditioning (“lagering”), but we think it’s worth the wait.”
The can’s design is quirky, yet slightly old school in look. It kind of feels like a jab at mass-produced labels. There is a heavy use of small text, but the bright color palate really helps to grab the eye and lead you to the label, despite the clutter of text. I also love the prospector graphic and all of the stuff surrounding him. I like this can, and I think it is a nice stab at the macro design. Its worthy of a shelf.
The beer pours a creamy, very light amber/rich golden color with a silky, off-white head of medium-sized bubbles. In body, the beer is clean and translucent, with just a slight haze from the beer’s rich coloring. Bubbles are a constant fixture within the beer, and punch towards the surface with quite a lot of tenacity, keeping the head rocky at about a fourth of a finger’s width. The head leaves some nice fluffy lacing as it moves down the glass. On the nose, the beer smells of caramel, cream corn, slight cider, herbal hops, and a finish of sweet bread. The cream corn is a little strong in the nose, but not off-putting. On the tongue, the beer tastes sweet with a bitter back finish that balances out the beer. There is a little earthiness in the beer, adding slight complexity, but really this is a simple sweet and bitter beer. In flavor, it tastes of cream corn, crackers, soft caramel, and very faint watermelon. These flavors slide into a finish of herbal and grassy bitter hops that blend and mellow the sweetness, leaving a slight metallic twinge on the finish and aftertaste. Again, the DMS seems a little high in the initial sip, though it’s nicely drinkable and inoffensive. As you drink more of the beer, the bitters tend to grow and provide a nice bite that covers up much of the cream corn character. In the mouth, the beer feels light bodied with just a little gelling. The carbonation is fluffy and full, and the mouthfeel is silky (nearly syrupy) with a nice little crispness on the finish. After the beer leaves, the mouth is left slightly wet, but fairly neutral, making it perfect for another sip. From the can I detect little to know change in the drinking experience, aside from the slight metallic bite, which is actually quite pleasant in this particular beer. Overall, the beer is refreshing and simple. The DMS is a little high, but still manageable, and the flavors are all inoffensive. I’d place this a step above the Adjunct Lagers. It’s easy to drink, refreshing, and mild in flavor. Not a bad beer, but not amazing either. A nice, simple (almost) session lager.
[See a Food Pairing with this beer here]