It's an exciting time to be both a Cubs fan and a frequent drinker (I'm sorry, is that redundant?). Even more so than usual. Old Style, the Official Beer of the Chicago Cubs, has officially made a commitment to cut down on what some term the "ass taste" they serve up in 30 packs and reintroduce the recipe that made this Milwaukee brew such a favorite of Chicagoans back in the day.
The brand has been under the umbrella of Miller for a long time, and as such has been brewed with a formulation from Miller not really related to the 1902 edition. And as such, one might argue that taste has suffered. Still, Old Style is the Friendly Confines beer of choice for WAIW, and while it's not exactly Bell's, Stella, or Guinness, it has a special place in our hearts. Who among us doesn't like to pull beer after cold beer from the seemingly limitless expanse of refreshment that is the 30 pack?
When I was in college at Tennessee, I used to load up on 30 packs to bring back down to school. I resided in a fraternity house, where one might imagine that any secret cache of beer would be set upon and devoured like locusts on third world crops. I combated this by handing anyone who asked a cold Cubs-emblazoned can. Their first drink usually put them off the stuff for life. I recall one of my friends smiling as he popped the top, and then all hope and joy draining from his eyes as it hit his taste buds. His exact words? "Fuck that." Needless to say, I finished that can, and was able to keep my beer supply to myself.
So how does this new (old) version stack up to the tall boys we used to sneak from our parents' garage fridge? It's actually ... pretty damn good. It's much smoother and far better tasting than the Miller generic "cheap beer" recipe that's been the norm. I actually, at the moment, have access to both formulations of Old Style. Because I like to stockpile regional beers for enjoyment after the Zombie Apocalypse. I notice that there's a notable absence of what I like to call the Grandpa Beer Aftertaste. Apparently, this is due to the return of krausening (KROY-zin-ing) to the process. Via Wikipedia:
Kräusening is adding active wort or other sugar nutrients to beer that is being bottled. The name is German in origin, though the method is used by brewers in various countries - most notably Belgium. Kräusening encourages the yeast to continue fermentation in the bottle. It helps clean up the flavor of the beer by reducing levels of diacetyl and acetaldehyde. The Old Style brand claims to have returned to the krausening tradition first used by G. Heileman in 1902 when he created the beer.
The best part of this culinary experience? Firing up the grill for the first time this year to set the proper mood for Old Style consumption. Once baseball returns in earnest, life may just reach perfection. Give the new Old Style a chance - it's worth the $3.50 for six tall boys. Or $36, should you be drinking it at the Cubby Bear. Either way, perhaps krausening is the thing that will put the 2009 Cubs over the top. It certainly can't hurt.