Oh, Vienna: Brooklyn Lager v Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings
I said in a recent post that my love for Brooklyn Lager had recently been reawakened. It was certainly my first US craft “wow” and I even visited the Brewery last year, documented in a post no-one read.
It was also my first Vienna lager. Style icon Michael Jackson said Vienna is:
Amber-red or only medium-dark, lager. This was the style originally produced in Vienna. Brewers still talk of a “Vienna malt” to indicate a kilning to this amber-red colour, but the beer-style itself is no longer especially associated with the city.
One suspects that Brooklyn (supposedly an reimagining of a pre-Prohibition US style) is something of a style of its own, with the blend of Cascade and more noble hop flavours (Hallertau, Vanguard) reflecting a clever piece of US genre-merging.
I’ve been very pleased to see Brooklyn Lager increasingly available in the UK, in keg (North Bar claims to have been there first) and bottle, including in Sainsbury’s. However the Brooklyn in my fridge found itself elbowing for attention with a chippy novice from Derbyshire, Thornbridge Kill Your Darlings. Also a Vienna Lager, also from one of my favourite breweries; but which one’s best? There’s only one way to decide: a Viennese sandwich!
Appearance: From the moment they’re out of the bottle, you can see that Kill Your Darlings is a different beer to Brooklyn. Whereas Brooklyn is an amber, chestnut colour, KYD has the appearance of a much darker wood, mahogany perhaps. The heads also reflect a difference in the malt bill, the relatively clean ivory whiteness of the Brooklyn contrasting with the slightly nicotene-stained froth on the KYD.
Smell: The Cascade hops really shine in the New Yorker’s aroma, a lovely pine scent mingling with a light but noticeable sugary maltiness. The KYD is more malt-forward in its aroma with an inviting burnt-sugar smell dominating.
Taste: The malt continues to dominate the KYD, with the lovely rich, deep, dark, sweet maltiness that you might expect of a US double IPA, but without the heavy stickiness. There are also hops, with a pine and a light lemon citrus emerging especially on the finish. By contrast the Brooklyn lets the fresh piney and herbal hops shine throughout, more bitter than sweet but still with a smooth caramel base: a light, invigorating, very tasty beer.
It’s almost unfair to compare Kill Your Darlings to a world classic like Brooklyn, but this examination has demonstrated two things: (1) that Thornbridge have, once again, expanded successful and very enjoyably into a new style with a delicious and complex malty Vienna lager; and (2) that Brooklyn Lager has earned its success (as both a gateway beer and as a standard to return to over and over again) due to a perfect balance of hops and malt which come together in a very drinkable beer with hidden depths.