For all of its reviled status among craft beer fans, one can’t deny that American-style pale lager is still the best-selling beer variety in the world. The staple products of Anheuser, Miller and Coors are light, easy-drinking lagers that ideally convey a crisp, clean profile with just enough malt and hops to keep things interesting. You could (easily) make the argument that their beers by and large fail to do this, but if that’s the case, then why are there so few replacements/alternatives on the shelves from craft brewers?
Sure there are plenty of pilsners, but those tend to be German or Czech-inspired efforts, traditionally bitter lagers with a good charge of floral and spicy noble hops. What you still don’t see all that often is truly American-style pale lagers, because creating a beer like that means going up directly against the BudMillerCoors machine. And that’s a scary proposition. But California’s House Beer seems eager to take on that particular task.
Launched in December of 2013, this southern California brewer is making only one product, and that’s “House Beer” itself, an American lager that straddles the line between multiple styles that a BJCP judge would recognize. Unlike the flagships of a brand like Anheuser, House Beer is an all-malt lager. It also challenges the “pale” description, clocking in at a shade of gold that just barely stretches into light orange. In the glass, it immediately looks a little burlier than the beers this company is inviting you to compare it with.
And in reality, House Beer does want you to compare it to Bud, Miller and Coors. It’s important to note that the creators conceived this product as something for people who already enjoy most American lagers, which is certainly not the assumption made by say, Stone Brewing Co. when they bottle a batch of Arrogant Bastard. One is supposed to drink a can of House Beer and think, “Hey, I like Bud, but I think this might be even better, and I also get to support a craft brewer.”
That’s a fine idea, but of course the beer has to be good, and thankfully I can report that yes, it is. The aroma is mildly sweet and corny, rather like a just-opened bag of Corn Flakes with some floral German hops mixed in. There’s also a darker, deeper malt character present, which reminds me of the scent of spent grain after a brew day. Others often describe it as being similar to Grape Nuts, to stick with cereal comparisons.
The flavor is once again mildly sweet, but not so much to kill its drinkability, which is obviously important with this style. The malt presence is a little bit rounded and chewy, sort of like an American cream ale with a drying, grainy finish. There’s not a ton of noticeable hop flavor, but a light bitterness lingers softly. Most important by far is an absence of off-flavors, which would stand out abrasively in the style.
This is not the most “interesting” beer in the world and it’s not the sort of thing that beer geeks wax poetic about, but it’s well made and it does what it’s supposed to do. In execution, it’s really not all that close to the likes of Bud or Miller, having far too much malt character, but ideally this kind of brew will start drinkers down a path that leads them far away from mass-marketed lagers. As is, House Beer would be an excellent thing to keep in the house for slaking one’s thirst after mowing the lawn or painting the house. Its quality proves there’s no occasion where you can’t go craft.
Brewery: House Brewing Co.
City: Santa Monica, Calif.
Style: American pale lager
Availability: 12-packs, 12 ounce cans.