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Oct 13, 2009 11:43 PM

lager or pilsner as smooth as boddingtons

back in US after trip to czech, serbia and hungary and can't belive the amount of amazing lagers and pilsners i had on tap that were as smooth as boddingtons. not exactly as creamy, but definitely with such practically nonexistent bubbles. besides the luck of finding alesmith's esb on tap, any recs for a beer like this in USA?

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  1. Any beer served on cask will have this texture that you want (i.e.: smooth with few bubbles). However usually only English style beers are served on cask.
    What you liked about the eastern European lager was the rich sweet full malt texture and flavor. I don't know of any American brewery that comes close but some swear by Lagunitas Czech Lager.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Chinon00

      thanks, i do like that lagunitas beer (was probably drinking one while posting that question last night) but it's not really what i'm after.
      youre right about the cask beers too - whenever i go to san diego, i try to enjoy them as much as possible since that's the oly place nearby LA (where I am) that has them regularly

    2. Boddingtons, I believe, is nitrogenated, like Guinness. That explains the smooth texture -- nitrogen bubbles are smaller than co2 bubbles. A lot of beer bars will occasionally put beers on nitrogen, particularly stouts and IPAs. I haven't ever seen lagers done that way.

      Casks are also smooth, but not because of nitrogen. They are smooth because they are naturally carbonated (and less carbonated than beer that is force-carbonated by co2) by living yeast in the cask.

      13 Replies
      1. re: TripelDouble

        Exactly right.
        The nitrogen/co2 mix that Guinness and Boddingtons are dispensed with give that great texture. To my way of thinking, a LOT of beers would benefit from that treatment. So many potentially good beers are over carbonated, serving only to hide the flavors that the brewmaster theoretically spent so much time creating. Then again, Americans are so accustomed to over-fizzy (and practically frozen) beer that it has become the norm. I'd love to see more beers served with the mixed gas dispense, but the vast majority of bar patrons would probably reject that.

        1. re: The Professor

          CO2 is a natural by-product of fermentation, and is what you get in bottle- and cask-conditioned beer. American beer bars may need to reduce the amount of carbonation they use for kegs, but using nitrogen instead doesn't really make sense, and brewers aren't brewing their beer with the expectation that they'll be served with nitrogen.

          Nitrogen does provide a creamier texture, but it also diminishes hop bitterness. Nitrogen carbonated IPA (or cask-conditioned, for that matter) tastes insipid, with the hop flavor so diminished that you might as well be drinking another beer.

          I guarantee you that the bars that the OP drank these lagers and pilsners in were using CO2 to carbonate that beer.

          1. re: Josh

            I do concur with you that the OP experienced beers dispensed strictly with co2 or gravity...just not massive co2pressures (and not a lot of absorbed co2). That has been my own experience in Europe as well. Smooth and refreshing.

            With regard to nitrogen dispense...I don't know...I guess it's a matter of personal taste and what you're used to. But I do know that excessive co2 totally ruins the hop character of IPA and Pale Ale, as does too cold a temperature. Nitrogen is pretty inert and does not in any way affect the flavor, and I think it is the best alternative to a cask dispense with a good turnover. I would disagree that the lack of co2 diminishes the hop flavor...if anything, the exact opposite is true. It's OK to disagree on is strictly a mater of personal taste and a matter of one's being accustomed to the American style of dispense rather than the traditional method.

            After so many years of virtual absence in American beer (with a couple of very notable exceptions going back 40 years and more) , the hop has become a much abused thing in American brewing...and I find it most odd that the new American palate has become convinced that young, green hop character is actually a good thing. That is pretty much thanks to a sector of the micro industry that uses hops largely to hide their deficiencies as brewers. Just my own opinions, naturally (as well as other beer lovers')... it all boils down to personal taste.

            1. re: The Professor

              You may prefer the taste of IPA on nitrogen, but that doesn't mean it's what the brewer intended. The brewers I know, to a man, always lament the loss of perceived hoppiness that occurs in cask conditioned and nitrogen-carbonated IPAs and APAs.

              It's also important not to conflate this very real phenomenon with the audience that craves extreme beers. There are well-made IPAs with pronounced hop flavor where the hops aren't masking anything. It's an easy thing to say that some brewers do this, but brewers of the caliber of Vinnie Cilurzo and Garrett Oliver don't need to hide behind abundant hops. Pliny the Elder is an incredibly well-made beer, and yes, it is a DIPA. But a big part of that beer's appeal would be lost served on nitrogen, and the brewer is producing it with the expectation it's going to be pushed with CO2.

              Lastly, I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "green" hop character - there are breweries making beers with fresh hops (literally pulled off the vine and added to the wort) that are world-class brews. I don't know where in the US you live, but if you're encountering a lot of craft beer that tastes unpleasantly grassy and soapy, then that's more a reflection of the quality of your local brewers than hoppy beers per se.

              You can read more about this here:

              1. re: Josh

                It's all about personal the big picture, what I think hardly matters anyway. To each his own.

                In any case, the opinions (and they are only that) which I expressed are shared by brewmasters with whom I've spoken at great length . It's simply a matter of what you like. The brewers you mentioned are certainly competent even if it is not universally accepted (and it isn't) that their beers are the pinnacle of brewing arts.
                My main point (aside from my own and other brewers' feelings about hops and hop character..that sidetrack was only incidental) was that most American beer including much of the "craft" beer out there is just too darned fizzy and it hinders more than helps the hop character in beer, especially ales. My personal solution is easy...I just stir the hell out of it to get rid of the excess gas, and I'm happy. End of story. It (as well as G-mix dispense)is just not as big a deal as we're making it here. There is no right or wrong answer.
                It all boils down to what you like.

                I'm familiar with a homebrewer (for going on 39 years now) I read it and similar publications often, though perhaps not regularly... I hadn't seen this particular article so thanks for that link and yes, some very good info there. The author seems to be in sync with my feelings, for the most part.

                You asked about my location...I'm in NJ, but being in show-biz I travel a good bit and have tried beers from all over the US, and the west coast is indeed the best, greatest place for my hop fix.

                So my opinions (and again, that's all they are) do in fact come from a varied sampling from around the country...I've had lots of great beer, lots of 'passable' beer and lots of really bad beer (most of the latter from brewpubs; these days I enter them with a low expectation and just hope the food is good. LOL).

                1. re: The Professor

                  I hear you, I just don't agree. :-)

                  While I like cask-conditioning for many styles of beer, I do find that for IPAs it does diminish some of the brighter citrusy notes, and, at least here in SD, brewers of IPAs typically are very choosy about the hops they use because they are going for a really specific flavor profile. Some of the flavors apparent in the local IPAs are startling - pineapple, peaches, mint - but those flavors are muted considerably from inadequate CO2.

                  I wasn't trying to suggest that Russian River or Brooklyn represented the pinnacle of brewing arts, I was merely pointing out that carbonated, hop-forward beers are made by some of the best brewers out there, without having the kinds of rank flavors seen in poorly-made hoppy beers.

                  Brewpubs are typically a lousy place to get a beer, I agree. My experience with them is typically poor, though there are always exceptions. Pizza Port Carlsbad, for example, produces almost uniformly superior beer.

                  1. re: Josh

                    In San Francisco, brewpubs are a bit of a mixed bag. 21st Amendment and Magnolia are capable of making some pretty decent beer, but I usually find their food somewhat unimaginative: mostly burgers and salads and such. They recently collaborated on what they called BRU/SFO, where they've been making Belgian style ales. On the other hand, Monk's Kettle, which is not a brewpub, does a pretty good job matching more creative food with an interesting lineup of California and Belgian beers. What I'd really like to see more of is ethnic restaurants -- Indian, Thai, good Mexican -- being more adventurous in featuring beers that would complement their food.

                2. re: Josh

                  I'm a bit surprised by your claim that brewers lament the loss of hop character in cask conditioned IPA's. Why then, do breweries like AleSmith, Green Flash, Stone, Alpine and Ballast Point so often offer their IPA's and other hoppy beers in casks? I've spoken to all those brewers about their cask beers, and never heard one mention a loss of hop flavor due to cask conditioning.
                  To my own taste, some hoppy beers are better enjoyed from the cask (Sculpin on cask is one of my all time favorites), others not so - the Stone Sublimely Self Righteous on cask just didn't work for me.
                  As to IPA's on nitrogen, I've honestly never heard of such a thing. Does someone actually do this?

                  1. re: juantanamera

                    Not sure if it has been done though it seems that these days commercial brewers are becoming more adventurous (a double edged sword from what I'm seeing and tasting lately), so I suspect that maybe someone somewhere has tried it.
                    I brew a long aged IPA several times a year and was considering trying it on a 'beergas' dispense to see how it fares. Right now I push it out with co2 and a constrictor to tame the carbonation and get a smoother drink.
                    But I' haven't had a commercial IPA served with 'beergas'. The discussion of that aspect was more of a speculation than anything else.

                    1. re: juantanamera

                      They offer it because there's a demand for it. If a pub has a regular cask night, you want to make sure your beers make it in that rotation. Also, it's not really a loss of hop flavor, it's a diminished perception of the hop flavor. Obviously the context is key - if you're having a casual conversation with a brewer, I don't know that this would come up. If you mentioned that you noticed that the hop flavors aren't as bright (Sculpin to me is a good example of this), then they might mention it.

                      Nelson, to me, is a good example of a beer that suffers from cask vs. keg. The bright flavors of the Nelson hops are very muted without the normal CO2 carbonation.

                      IPAs on nitrogen I have seen at O'Brien's, the old Mission Beach Liars' Club, and Toronado. It's a very different experience, for sure. Toronado had an IPA from Hollister served that way, and it was really good - just not as hoppy as it would have been on CO2.

                      1. re: Josh

                        I don't know near enough about the current methods of serving draught beer in the US (and, from what I've seen and heard from them, neither do many bartenders) but, as I understand it, many (most?) bars have switched from straight CO2 to "Beer Gas" (CO2 and Nitrogen mix)- especially those with many beers on tap and/or long line runs (pure CO2 with too long a line needs a higher pressure which then can result in too much carbonation) .

                        Still the "Beer Gas" usage is not necessarily the same as "nitro-dispensed" (most commonly for Guinness Draught) also being discussed since CO2 is still the primary gas in those mixes. Apparently there is no one ratio "Beer Gas" but they vary- even from tap to tap in bars with their own mixing gauges/valves (as opposed to places that might buy "ready mixed" Beer Gas).

                        So, as I understand it, the use of Beer Gas, with nitrogen as a smaller portion of the gas, is not considered "nitrogenated" (a la Guinness) and is actually recommended by brewers who would never want or expect their "regular" beers served "nitrogenated". Right?

                        1. re: Josh

                          I guess your perception of the hop flavors just differs from mine. Out of curiosity, do you feel the same way about bottle conditioned IPA's versus draft (forced CO2) IPA's?

                          1. re: juantanamera

                            I love bottle conditioned IPAs. I prefer them to draft, by far. In fact, just last night we enjoyed a Full Sail Slipknot Imperial IPA that had been aging for several months, and it was one of the more delicious beers I've had recently - really well-balanced.

            2. Add me to the long list of beer geeks that despise Nitro dispense. All beer I've had on Nitro the flavor seemed to have been washed out compared to bottle or draft versions.

              Cask conditioned is hit or miss depending on the beer and those making and serving it.

              Not all people think "smooth" is the pinnacle of beer. If I wanted "smooth" I would just drink milk.

              6 Replies
              1. re: LStaff

                Referring back to the original question, I feel bound to address the issue of why on earth someone would want to seek out a beer that resembled Boddington's in any respect.

                Thank you for the very interesting exchange regarding the gases used for pressurizing the beers; it's interesting how people's tastes vary. For me, the nitrogen smoothness is pleasant in the darker roasted stouts, but almost nauseating in bitters. I have never known it to be used for a lager beer.

                I live in the SE of England where much IPA and similar are brewed. In my opinion, any aritificial gassification of these beers greatly diminishes the flavour rendering them from delicious to merely pleasant.

                It seems sad that your nation's barmen are too lazy to use manual force to draw beer from the cellar into the glass, yet expect to tipped every time you take a drink!


                1. re: ojm

                  Heh, that's funny. I think the entire rest of the world uses CO2 carbonation for beer. IIRC, "real ale" (in the cask sense, not bottle-conditioning) is unique to the British Isles.

                  1. re: Josh

                    As a sidenote:

                    Nitrogenated beer exists only to replicate the texture of cask-conditioned ale; it is not a natural process. The technique of pressurizing/serving beer with nitrogen was developed by Guinness in the 1950s/60s as an attempt to maintain the texture and appearance of "real ale" in beer that has been pasteurized for distribution in order to make it less susceptible to spoilage.

                    The major downside to this is that many flavor components are lost through the filtration/pasteurization process. You'll hear many ale enthusiasts in the UK wish they could go back in time to 1964 and try real Guinness.

                    Personally, I think cask-conditioning mutes both hop aroma and bitterness. I find that it lends itself better to beers with larger body, e.g. Russian imperial stout. Alpine Nelson is one of my absolute favorite IPAs on draft and in bottle, but on cask it loses its bright, sauvignon blanc-like aromatics and crisp bitterness that make it so delicious. Cask-conditioning sweeps its legs right out from under it.

                    That being said, I've had amazing imperial IPAs on cask, usually dry-hopped. Another absolutely delicious hoppy cask was 2008 AleSmith Evil Dead Red. But once again, that is a dry-hopped beer with substantial body.

                  2. re: ojm

                    if youre wondering why anyone would seek out a beer that resembled boddington's in any respect, it's because of the texture. it's also an easy reference point for texture that people understand. I lived in london for two years and found plenty of pubs that served beer with a lot less carbonation than is common in teh states, and i greatly preferred the mouthfeel of beer served that way.
                    my original question had to with why, even in los angeles, where there are now a bunch of fancy beer bars, i havent found a single tap that produces a nice lager or pilsner with the super small bubble consistency that i have found is standard in even the crappiest bars in central europe.
                    good thing i'm flying to austria for another two weeks tomorrow.

                    1. re: mr mouther

                      this doesn't do you any good, but Coors, of all people, through their little micro at the ball park in Denver (Sandlot Brewing Co) came up with a pretty authentic Bohemian Pilsener they call Barmen Pilsner, that I believe provides what you are looking for. Here's an interesting interview which goes into this beer's development (about 2/3 of the way through), note the micro brewer does give credit to "the rocket scientists in Golden" for the development of the original recipe.


                      One of the places you could always get this (note the brewer indicates around 20 accounts) is the hotel on the main street in downtown Golden where Coors does a lot of entertaining; it's my understanding Pete Coors insists they keep it on tap. The name eludes me as I write...

                      You are in CA? Does Trumer Pils not have a little of this character you seek? or Moonlight's Reality Czech Pils? At a place like the Toronado?

                      1. re: southdenverhoo

                        The hotel in Golden is...wait for it... the Golden Hotel. I think Table Mountain Inn might also have the Barmen Pils. Takes ten minutes to pour, for a reason that escapes me. I love Golden; to me, it's like the whole town is one big dive bar, in a good way. I drink Coors there and it's okay somehow. Interesting, that Coors malts its own barley onsite. You can periodically smell it malting, a strange chemically/grassy smell, wonderful and weird.

                        As for the Boddington's, I understand perfectly (I think) what the original poster was asking. Conor O' Neill's, in Boulder, does a beautiful, creamy, nitrogen-assisted pour of Boddington's (dependent, of course, on your skilled bartender) that I love.