I have to admit that I’m a big Samuel Smith fan. In fact, I’m such a big fan that I have the following rule of thumb when judging beer: if you need to know what a particular style of beer is supposed to taste like, just taste the Samuel Smith version and you’ll know.
So, when I decided to do a review of their Lager, I was already a little prejudiced, and my standards were probably set artificially high.
A little history on the brew.
The Samuel Smith Brewery was founded in 1852 in Tadcaster England, and it utilizes a rare fermentation technique that is almost completely extinct called the Yorkshire Square system. Essentially, the system uses square (usually limestone) fermentors that have a deck on top that captures the yeast in the head of the foamy krausen.
These yeast cells are extremely active and would be the best if you were trying to isolate the strongest cells for future batches. The yeasty foam is then kept on the deck until the next batch of beer is pumped onto the deck. The beer then drains back into the fermentor through the deck.
This system both aerates and inoculates the new batch with the yeast cells from the previous batch. The cycle repeats itself over and over, and in this way Samuel Smith has been working with the same strains of yeast since the early 20th century.
The Yorkshire Square System is expensive, difficult to do consistently, and impossible to scale up to megabrew levels. It also produces some fantastic beer. Which brings us to the Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Lager.
This beer is one of the “pure” beers that Sam Smith makes. Although it is English, it is made in the German tradition of Rheinheitsgebot whereby the only ingredients allowed into the brew are barley, hops, yeast and water.
But this is definitely an English Lager. When you pour a Sam Smith Lager, you will notice that it isn’t the same as a Czech or German style Pilsner. This is a little heavier on the malt, a little toastier, and a little lighter on the hops - as if you took a normal Lager, and gave it more body, and malt character.
If you are an Ale-lover, then this is a great Lager. If you don’t like Ale, then this English style of Lager will probably taste too thick. I won’t geek out on you and start talking about the beer’s “nose” or anything like that. I will say that it is damn good, and exactly what I have come to expect from this incredible brewery.
It is so good, in fact, that I would encourage you to be careful not to drink this Lager next to a MegaBrewed beer. Your Sam Smith’s superiority will just make the other beer jealous.
P.S. Also try their Oatmeal Stout – it’s the best I’ve ever had.