The second of Joe Stange‘s suggestions is another canned American lager whose blurb hints at pre-prohibition credibility. Joe says:
“I have never had this beer, but I’m fascinated by the idea of an old-fashioned American lager revival. This one’s from San Francisco.”
We bought it from Beers of Europe for £3.99. Its ABV is 5.3% and the can is big by craft beer standards (US 18oz — 473ml) but also, with its bare metallic finish, brings to mind supermarket own-brand beers and energy drinks.
We drank it in the same session as Ruhstaller’s Gilt Edge and our impressions were definitely influence by the proximity.
It looked like, well, lager — not notably paler or darker than the mainstream, more golden than yellow, and clear as morning dew. There was barely any aroma to speak of other than a worrying snatch of vegetal chowderiness.
First impressions on tasting were fairly straightforward: malt. Enhance 224 to 176. The sweeter end of malt rather than the savoury. Enhance. Stop. Honey and nuts. Track right, pull out, stop. The slightly bitter skin of hazelnuts? Gimme a hard copy right there.
There was definitely some lingering impact of Ruhstaller’s brutal bitterness in our perceiving Pt. Bonita as sweet, because it wasn’t. The more we drank, the more its bitterness began to pile up, too. It’s sweet-er, but still more bitter than most other lagers we’ve tasted in recent years. Brilliantly so, in fact.
Can a beer be big but subtle, like John Goodman in a Coen Brothers film?
It’s a nice companion piece to Ruhstaller’s, each fulfilling the role of a different beer on a typical Bavarian beer menu — Pt. Bonita the stronger Märzen type, perilously swiggable, and Gilt Edge a bracing, pernickety pilsner.
It’s another win for Joe’s guesswork (and, to be fair, for the good taste of the company we think imported it, Left Coast), the only stumbling block being the price: £4 is a lot to pay for less than a pint of lager to drink at home, even a very good one. Which leads us to a footnote.
After finishing these two American beers, we went back to a known reference point: Thornbridge Tzara. It’s a Kölsch, yes, but still our favourite packaged British lager beer because our tastebuds don’t care about style guidelines. We can buy that from Thornbridge direct at £2.15 for 500ml — is Pt. Bonita as good, let alone two times better? Well, actually, Tzara did taste a bit watery and short on bitter crunch in this company. Still very good but… lacking.
So, if you don’t think four quid is a lot to spend on a lager, and you’ve been in search of one that’s robust enough to make you sit up and take notice, maybe Pt. Bonita is the beer for you.