It’s long been the case that the most interesting breweries in Brooklyn only sold kegs. If you wanted to take home beer from Kelso (in Fort Greene, more or less) or Sixpoint (in Red Hook), your options were exactly one: growler fills from one of the increasing number of beer stores with that option.
That’s now changed for Sixpoint. Since 2004, Shane Welch and his staff have been churning out beer for New York and the surrounding area, plus occasional forays into Boston, from their home base in, frankly, the middle of nowhere — okay, now there’s an IKEA nearby — and more recently, to meet demand, contracted out a lot of their best-sellers to breweries with extra capacity. Currently that job has fallen to Lion Brewing in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and Lion now packages four Sixpoint beers in the best trend in craft beer in a very long time: cans. Plus, as Sixpoint can’t just do what others do, they decided to package these first beers in 16-ounce cans instead of the usual 12-ouncers.
Last week I talked about the best reasons to can one’s beer. Sixpoint clearly understood that, and for their first major packaging venture — they hand-bottled one run of their Bolshoi Imperial Stout several years ago, but otherwise haven’t packaged their beer for retail sale — they chose, in my eyes, wisely. So it was that I sought out these new four-packs of four popular Sixpoint beers: the Righteous Rye Ale, Bengali Tiger IPA, Sweet Action (kind of a Cream Ale), and today’s review, the The Crisp Lager.
Formerly known as Sehr Crisp — “sehr” is German for “very” — The Crisp represents Sixpoint’s first “real” foray into brewing lagers. There’s almost no way the brewery could do this in their current Brooklyn digs; that space was outgrown years ago, and as lagers take an extra two to eight weeks, sometimes even longer, to be ready for consumption, that’s a lot of space filled by product that just isn’t ready to be shipped. Contract brewing, when done right, represents an opportunity to expand the portfolio without expanding the physical space of the brewery, and that’s pretty much exactly what Sixpoint did. The time was simply right, and I predict big things for the lager and the other initial offerings in can form.
Awkward name aside, the taste is the thing, right?
I poured my first can of The Crisp straight from the refrigerator, stopping a couple of times thanks to an enthusiastically-forming head. The beer settles a crystal-clear, pale gold, with lively carbonation and topped by a sudsy two-finger white collar of foam.
The Crisp showcases noble hops like Tettnanger or Saaz, classic hops for pilsners, which are essentially highly-hopped light lagers. This beer was born a pilsner, and it shows in the aroma and the flavor. The nose is filled with sharp hay from the pilsner malt, so clean, and laden with fresh, herbal, grassy hop aromas, often described as “chlorophyll”. As expected and desired, there’s no hint of the 5.4% alcohol by volume in the nose, which continues easily into the flavor profile.
And The Crisp tastes solid, too, a big, honeyed cracker of a malt backbone, certainly a clean flavor profile, if not particularly “crisp”. It’s softer than that, like a good German Kölsch (I know, that’s an ale, this is a lager), devoid of fruitiness, just a solid malty beer, with an honest dose of those noble hops contributing the grassy, herbal notes coating my palate and sticking around through the finish, providing balance throughout.
Overall, The Crisp is certainly a solid Czech-style pilsner, and a great choice at the bar in its short existence in keg form. I purchased this four-pack at Whole Foods (endcaps strewn about the Bowery location) for $9. That price is pretty much in line for a local, regular-strength beer — volume-wise, we’re talking $10 and change for the equivalent 72 ounces of beer in a six-pack, for comparison.
While it might be tough to find the cans in stores right now, owing to their newness, I’d say it’s best to wait it out instead of looking for equivalents. If you’re in a Bohemian-style pilsner mood, though, Brooklyn Pilsner (itself a contract-brewed beer) and Stoudt’s Pils are widely available around the city, and the classic import, Pilsner Urquell, is in every grocery and deli that carries Miller or Coors (they’re all owned by the same conglomerate). Be sure to give the other cans a try as well, and by all means, give Sixpoint a look at your local bar. Chances are you’ll find at least one Sixpoint tap handle, and it’ll be worth your money and effort to have a pint.