Reviewed: Folksbier OBL (Old Bavarian Lager)
Product description: An unfiltered Bavarian-style malt-focused lager with a clean refreshing finish. 5% ABV
Folksbier Brauerei – Folksbier OBL (Old Bavarian Lager) – 12oz can served in stemless snifter – 5% ABV
Folksbier was the most impressive brewery I visited in 2018. This small brewery hidden away in the brownstones of Brooklyn, NY serves up German lagers, Berliner Weisse, Belgian farmhouse ales, and even modern American IPAs. Inside their tap room, they had about six house beers on tap. Each one I tried was magnificent. I was blown away by their OBL (Olde Bavarian Lager) as well as their Glow Up fruited Berliner Weisses. It was a Christmas miracle to see they started canning the OBL, so I begged some friends to send some to San Diego.
From a 12oz can with a wrap-around sticker label, OBL is a cloudy pale straw color with meringue foam that lasts for about a minute before collapsing. (Subsequent cans were poured into different glassware with somewhat better aesthetics from a Becher glass.) The aroma is similar to a macro lager with white sugar, corn, and white bread. But then there’s extra depth of bright lime, sourdough, and lemon custard. When I had this on tap, it was much maltier and focused almost entirely on fresh whole grain bread. The tap version was also clearer in opacity with less chill-haze.
Taking a swig, this beer ticks all the boxes for your quintessential pale lager. It’s incredibly approachable for any beer drinker. Sweetness is mid-range at 5/10 while bitterness is dialed back to a 2/10. Flavors of lime seltzer and fresh whole grain bread dance around the palate. There’s excellent play between tart lime and sourdough intermixed with sweet bread rolls and rustic whole grain. The canned version does have a touch of chalkiness that I didn’t pick up in the taproom. But this can is almost two months old at this point and had to be shipped across the U.S. Still, it has held up well for a beer that will see very limited distribution.
Folksbier calls this a German Helles, which is exactly what popped into mind when I had it at the brewery – quenching, silky, and malt-focused. From the can right now, it has more acidity and more creaminess that makes me think American light lager or even cream ale. There’s a building lactic-like acidity in the back of the palate for several minutes, which I adore. I think this acidity is what brings the balance to OBL instead of the grassy hoppiness you may find in pilsners. It reminds me of Molson Old Style Pilsner, my favorite macro beer, which has this acidity and very little bitterness. (I think it is available only in Canada.)
Even though us beer nerds are always looking for the next DDH hazy IPA or coffee imperial stout, remember that we are heavily outnumbered by folks that just want beer for the sake of beer. Even today in fancy craft beer bars like Open Baladin in Rome or AleSmith in San Diego, I overhear customers asking for the lightest beer on tap or the beer closest to Bud Light. I therefore highly encourage American brewers to keep at it – bringing back these pale lagers to diversify their portfolio and clientele. It used to be that making a beer like this was lose-lose. Lagers take up too much time in the fermenters and then people don’t want to drink them as they resemble macro beers. But I think as our craft beer scene matures and catches up to countries like England and Germany, we will find session ales and lighter lagers dominating the scene perhaps because of decades-old palate fatigue, liver health necessity, or maybe because we will want beer for its own sake and not because it is the craziest thing available. When delicious, well-made beer transforms from “fancy craft beer” to just “beer,” you’ll know we’ve hit a milestone. Folksbier has hit a home run with this lager. I hope they keep it as one of their core beers to turn one beer nerd after the next into pale lager heads.
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