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Capital Supper Club Lager: "Not Bad" Indeed

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Rohit Naimpally

Pol Sci, Econ and Cricket geek who loves a good pint

"But I don't like the taste of beer." It's a phrase that one often hears; in the course of my proselytizing mission to convince one and all of the divine qualities of beer, I hear it more often than most. Said offensive phrase ranks right up there with "But I don't like the taste of curry" as a sentiment that is, at the simplest level, faulty on a logical basis. Much as curry is the broad cateogry encapsulating most gravy-based dishes from the Indian subcontinent ("curry" refers to the gravy or sauce), beer is more a crude categorization of a diverse range of beverages that are produced through the fermentation of malted grains, hops, yeast, water and more often than not, a wide range of interesting additive ingredients. It is very difficult to pin down a single flavor that can be classified as "beer" (more after the fold).
That having been said, when most non-beer drinkers refer to "beer", they probably have in mind the ubiquitous mass-market American Pale Lager. Think Miller Lite, Budweiser, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, et al. Yes, these beers and their ilk, beloved to college kids and tailgating sports fans around the country, have given beer a very inflexible role in the popular imagination. While perceptions are fast changing with the craft beer boom, there is no doubt that the American Pale Lager is perhaps the beer stereotype that most people are used to. These are beer that are brewed to exceedingly precise quality-control specifications (a fact that the brewers must be given kudos for), but unfortunately come up decidedly short on the flavor front. A whiff of corn, nary an impression made by the hops and malt, all the way through to a quick finish. These beers have their place, no doubt- I myself enjoy a couple of Miller Lites while watching the Bears (2-0!) play- but the beer aficionado in one may be left unsatisfied.

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So it was a pleasant surprise when a gentleman at Capital Brewery in Middleton, WI contacted me about their own Pale Lager, the Supper Club. Curious to see a purportedly well-executed example of the style, I was delighted when a couple of samples arrived on my doorstep shortly thereafter. The professionalism of the Capital folks definitely made me keen to try the beer even before I had opened up the bottle.

The Supper Club's commercial description reads:
A classic Wisconsin Lager at it's finest. Harking back to an era where Supper Clubs were In Vogue and Wisconsin had numerous regional breweries making their version of American Style Lagers. You know, back when these types of beers exhibited regional soul. And many of these beers were enjoyed during an evening spent at a local Supper Club, visiting with friends and family and having a good dinner. Supper Club is an eminently drinkable version of a true American Lager. Featuring a greater depth of refreshing malt character than the mass marketed versions of the style, Supper Club is clean yet satisfying.
Further, the label proclaims that the beer is "not bad". I can't really fault that assessment- it's a pretty nice brew. It pours a clear golden color, with a thin white lacing that dissipates fairly quickly. The aroma seems to have a sweet pale malt backbone underpinning earthy noble hops. There's a little corn there as well. This beer is lively in the mouth and shows off sweet malt notes, along with a bitterness that I couldn't quite pin down and a delightful hint of salt. Considering that this isn't a style that is meant to blow one away with a kaleidoscope of flavors and aromas, I thought the Supper Club did a good job of working within it's limitations while still showing plenty of character. Think of this as a sessionable beer that would lend itself well to being a dinner beer. In fact, I think it would go quite well with some "curries".

All-in-all, if you're looking for a tongue-scorcher, or even a semi-intense experience, look elsewhere. The Supper Club is not trying to be such a beer, but it does a pretty good job of being a session beer that would push back against (mis)perceptions of what a Pale Lager is. Not bad indeed. Chicagoland folks can find more information on distribution at the Capital website here


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