El Sully is a freakin’ MIRACLE of a beer – a Lager with flavor, complexity, character and enormous cojones.
I stole this post entry…from myself. Copied and pasted the main part of it directly off my Facebook page for The Pour Fool and make no apologies for it. I said what I had to say about it but then realized that not posting it here would be giving heinously short shrift to one of those quiet little sotto voce masterpieces that slip out into the marketplace, from time to time, and develop cult-like followings but escape most fans of their genre. As with Deschutes (Little Known fact: “Deschutes” is actually a French word meaning “The Chutes”! Did you know that? Of course not because I just made it up) “Cinder Cone” Red, nobody talked too much about it until Deschutes decided not to bottle it and then everybody went, “Hey, just a damned minute, here…!” and eventually got it reissued.
I don’t want that to happen to El Sully. El Sully is, in its own quieter, more subversive way, every bit as great as Cinder Cone. But Cinder Cone is a bona fide craft ale, which is a whole different proposition from a Mexican-style craft lager, which is the cramped, itchy little niche in which El Sully exists. This adjunct-Pilsner style is, after all, the same stylistic groove as those beers we all loathe; the BudMillerCoorsPabst, Pacifico, Corona, Modelo Especial, etc., etc.,etc., upon which we have all now turned our collective backs. To get even half as much notice as a craft ale, a craft lager has to be maybe twice as good.
And, in El Sully, 21st Amendment can legitimately say, “Mission Accomplished“…
EL SULLY…my friend Shaun O’ Sullivan, brewmaster of the astounding 21st Amendment Brewing of San Francisco, has done something I would have sworn was impossible: he’s made me enjoy – nay, love! – a Mexican-style lager. I made a trip to Cabo, last October, and it was easily the worst beer week of my life. I DETEST Mexican lagers; always have. But I found El Sully on tap, last week in Tacoma, at the brilliant Top of Tacoma, and got a fresh pint…WOW!! Gorgeous fruit notes atop silky, light, mellow Pale malts, embroidered sweetly with absolutely lovely floral/citrus hops that do not even try to take center stage. The IBU count is, in fact, a positively wimped-out 19 but it is a 19 IBU that gets the maximum out of its constituent hops, with a fine-grained whisper of resiny bitterness that can take a substantial chilling without disappearing.
So…What’s the magic ingredient in Mexican-style lagers? (Hint: same as the magic ingredient in American pre-Prohibition lagers) Corn, Bubba. And in this lovely stuff, flaked maize, along with Pale and Munich malts, provide the creamy, welcoming texture and a certain heft – call it a gravitas – that is never found in a true Mexi-lager. Hard to explain, I guess, but you do not get the impression, in El Sully, of this being a beer that was brewed by bored guys slingin’ 50# sacks of grain into 10,000 gallon tanks while planning their weekends. This has that aura of having been pampered along the process, loved and slaved over. It’s Serious Beer with a fat, jolly sense of fun.
This was one of the most flat-out refreshing, addictively drinkable beers of ANY type I’ve tasted in a LONG time…and it’s almost defiantly LIGHT. It’s the style of beer – light-bodied, low alcohol, negligible hops, a touch earthy from its corn content – that I normally greet with a shrug, taste for informational purposes, and never think about again. But this is NOT that tossed-off afterthought of a beer; that Unbearable Lightness of Corporate Bean Counters. It is LIGHT YEARS different and better than ANYTHING brewed by the BudMillerCoorses of the world. It actually has LAYERS of flavor, framed by a crisp, bright acidity and a texture like a silk scarf dragged across your tongue. I read, a few months back, that Shaun said this was his favorite of his beers and I thought “Yeah, right. Keep on marketing, Shaun…“. Now, I see what he was saying. El Sully is a freakin’ MIRACLE of a beer – a Lager with flavor, complexity, character and enormous, whoppin‘, stevedore-grade cojones. 98 Points
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