February is a slow time for breweries in Ontario, I hear. The weather keeps people inside and, after the Super Bowl, there are no beer-is-mandatory occasions until mid-March. That gives breweries a chance to experiment and send their creations to beer writers. We’re in luck because one such invention, made for the Rooted in Place festival, was Left Field’s new smoked black lager, Goldpanner.
On paper, this fits into a German beer style typical of Bamberg. How’s Goldpanner different from the traditional German rauchbier?
Especially right out of the fridge, the smoke carries the show at a medium-to-strong level. But as it warms up, you get more sweet malt flavours that remind me of rustic maple syrup and a bright orange-pine punch of hops. Because they are so much about the smoke, I find rauchbiers need to come in small glasses or with lots of food. Goldpanner is multi-dimensional and exciting enough that I could sip my way through a few glasses in a session.
What to eat Goldpanner with?
Left Field has also provided a pretty sweet food pairing suggestion. Overly general pairing notes might be one of my greatest beer pet peeves. Your beer goes with grilled fish and salad? It matches well with cheese? Chicken is its best friend? These are all utterly useless notes, probably created for the cynical reason that they might help sell beer to a wider audience. Instead, the can notes that Goldpanner goes with pastrami on rye and charbroiled burgers.
I can work with those. And, better yet, I agree with them—in theory, at least, because I don’t have a pastrami sandwich in the fridge. Smoked beers almost always taste like smoked food but in a too-much-of-a-good-thing way the two usually don’t pair well. Instead, it’s the rich, meaty foods that love rauchbiers. Items like gouda and maple ham that could be smoked or (like pastrami) have smoke as a supporting player in an all-star cast of flavours.
Even as their hazy, hop-forward and fruited beers continue to sell well, it’s good to see Left Field experimenting with styles from deep in Ye Olde Book of Beer Styles. Goldpanner is a gem.