February is a fine time to drink traditional winter beers: barleywines, double bocks, Russian imperial stouts. But it’s also a fine time to watch sports on TV. We’ve got a Super Bowl coming up. NBA and NHL action is getting hot and heavy as teams begin to push for the playoffs. If you like college hoops, there’s a good game on every night. And TV on the tube usually means classic sports-watching food: pizza, wings, nachos, subs. This sort of cuisine calls for a specific kind of adult beverage. Barleywines, double bocks, and Russian imperial stouts just won’t do. A man needs a light, clean beer to wash down his pizza and wings. If you’re a Steelers fan, it’s likely you’ll be spending some quality time with Iron City Beer this Sunday. Packers fans might go with the Miller High Life. Fine choices, indeed. But if none of the above works for you, it’s hard to beat Appalachian’s Mountain Lager.
Overshadowed perhaps by big name area craft breweries like Troegs and Victory, Harrisburg’s Appalachian Brewing Company has quietly become one of the best breweries in Pennsylvania. ABC makes outstanding beer – and lots of it! I can personally vouch for, among others, the Susquehanna Stout, Pennypacker Porter, Water Gap Wheat, Dom Blonde Kolsch, Kipona Fest Marzen, Jolly Scot Scottish Ale, Celtic Knot Irish Red, and Zoigl Star Lager. But the Mountain Lager will always be my ABC go-to beer. When I first got into craft beer, I was kind of bummed that a lot of micro breweries didn’t bother making a pale lager. So Appalachian won me over fast with the Mountain Lager, and it’s remained a favorite of mine ever since. A blonde lager in the Dortmunder export style, the Mountain Lager isn’t nearly as “gourmet” as say, a Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold. But it’s still a terrific beer, and it’s one of the first craft beers I’d give to someone who didn’t ordinarily go for micro brew. It’s kind of like what mainstream beers used to taste like (or so I'm told!) before they watered down their product in the ‘70s. It’s crisp and refreshing without any of the skunky aftertaste of a macro lager, and it’s got just enough hops to make it tasty. Its hop profile achieves a nice blend of grassy notes and citrus flavors, and like all Dortmunder lagers, it adds complexity with biscuit-like malts. All in all, it’s just a really simple beer that goes down clean while packing a lot of flavor. I’m all for “big” beers and adventurous concoctions that challenge the palate, but where a lot of micro breweries fail is in not offering something along the lines of the Mountain Lager. Not every person that walks into a brew pub is going to appreciate an IPA or a Belgian tripel. Sometimes a pale lager has got to be the first step. Try the Mountain Lager, and you might never want to go back to Coors or Bud again.