When did Target turn into a legitimate beer store? I sauntered into a Targét Boutique the other day to pick up some paper towels and Star Wars action figures (a standard Tuesday for a writer who works from home) and I wandered out with half a dozen bombers of really good beer. I mean really good beer. Limited release saisons and barrel aged stouts and something weird brewed with Chai tea…Target might have the best selection of beer in my town outside of an actual beer store.
It’s weird because I’m not used to that main stream/indie cross over with the craft beer world. You’re not supposed to be able to get the latest limited release bomber from that small brewery that doesn’t have a name, just a symbol, at Target. You’re supposed to have to go to the brewery itself (which is only open between 2pm and 3:15pm on alternating Tuesdays) or slip the owner of the local beer store a $20 to hook you up with a couple of bottles he squirreled away in his secret stash. That’s how the craft beer world works, and yet, there I was in Target, filling my red shopping cart with all kinds of hopped up goodness.
Weird, right? Up is down. Left is right. Another sign that the craft beer world is changing? Almost every brewery in America is making a shitty lager now. And when I say “shitty lager,” I mean that as a compliment. I’m talking about the straight forward, sometimes corn or rice adjunct lagers that I grew up sneaking from the fridge as a kid. I’m talking about the kind of lager that Big Beer has managed to dominate the world by producing. Craft beer emerged as a direct response and opposition to this very style of lager.
After decades of trying to distinguish themselves from Big Beer macro lagers—that “yellow piss,” that tasteless, watered down swill—craft breweries are now doing their best impersonation of that same beer style. Don’t get me wrong; the craft breweries did their best to dress up their lagers at first. They dry hopped them, they added fruit, they soured them, they released them as part of their “locally foraged” series by mixing hand-picked rosemary and morel mushrooms into the kettle…but now they’re cutting straight through the pretenses and just brewing shitty lagers.
And again, I use that term as a compliment. Because I love me a shitty lager. Miller High Life. Love it. PBR. Love it. Red Stripe, Dos Equis, Foster’s…I’ve spent many quality evenings with all of these beers. Pacifico, Lone Star, Presidente, The Beast, Stroh’s, Keystone, Natty Boh’…the list could go on and on and on. And now I can add Creature Comforts’ Classic City Lager to that list of “shitty lagers” I love.
Creature Comforts is a brewery known for nailing popular styles like the IPA and delivering hard-hitting flavor bombs with limited releases like their Berliner Weisse or fruity saisons. Double IPAs, coconut porters, mango gose…this is the territory of Creature Comforts, and yet Classic City Lager is…a beer. It tastes like beer. It’s great. I love it. But it’s just a lager. It’s just “good cold beer,” exactly as the label suggests. This isn’t fancy beer. This isn’t complicated beer. It’s just…beer.
The smell took me immediately back to high school. I was 17 again, in the back of a buddy’s truck doing keg stands. Actually, more specifically, it smells like Landmark, this crappy third-rate beer that was probably owned by a subsidiary of an off-shoot of a big corporate concrete manufacturer, but when I was in college in Athens, Georgia, I could buy a 12 pack of it for under $5. So I did. A lot.
Classic City Lager is so damn easy to drink, I took it down in about three big gulps. If you want to know what it tastes like, it tastes like my childhood. It tastes like growing up in the ‘80s and stealing beer from the back of the fridge. It tastes like summer and pick up trucks and gravel roads. It tastes like keg stands and prom dresses. It tastes like promise and hope. I love it.
Personally, I’m psyched that the craft beer world has come around to producing “good cold beer.” Straight forward lagers are awesome. I don’t think they always need to be dry-hopped or fruited or soured or blessed by a bus load of nuns and run through a basil filter.
Creature Comforts released Classic City Lager in October and the beer is supposed to enter year-round distribution beginning this month. So if you live within the distribution footprint of this Southern brewery, consider yourself lucky. If you don’t, here are five other “shitty” lagers from craft breweries that you should put in the back of your fridge so your teenage kids can steal them.
5 More Craft Lagers
Is it hard to distinguish one of these lagers from the others? Maybe. Is that okay? Yes. They’re all good, they’re all easy to drink, and they’re all low-ABV. So now you have a craft substitute for that crappy Big Beer lager that you secretly love to drink when your mustachioed craft beer friends aren’t around.
Founders Solid Gold
Founders broke the world when they introduced All Day Session IPA, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they were one of the first big breweries to go all in on a straight forward American Lager. 4.4%. Easy drinking. Cans. Word.
21st Amendment El Sully
A Mexican Lager in cans at 4.8% ABV, and it’s available year round. Pair this beer with tank tops and sunscreen.
Anchor California Lager
It’s in a bottle, so consider this your fancy American lager. There’s a lot of talk from the brewery about this beer being a historical recreation, but all you need to know is it’s easy to drink. Maybe a little creamier than some lagers, but a lager none-the-less.
Cigar City Tampa-Style Lager
I’m pretty sure the “Tampa-Style” means it’s brewed specifically for strippers-turned-real estate agents-turned back into strippers, but I’m not a classist so I think everyone can enjoy this beer. Cause it’s really good.
The Veil Jackson Flavor
It’s billed as a Mexican Lager, and it’s 5.4% which is kind of heavy for an easy-drinking lager, but it fits the bill. Look for it as a periodic big can release from the brewery.