Magical Mystery Pour #6: Headlands Pt. Bonita Rustic Lager

Pt. Bonita lager can with Ruhstaller's in the background.

Magical Mystery Pour logo.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.

Ruhstallers lager in a can; Headlands Pt Bonita in background.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.

4 thoughts on “Magical Mystery Pour #6: Headlands Pt. Bonita Rustic Lager”

  1. Any lager review with Blade Runner references hidden within gets my vote. Couldn’t agree more re: price. Hard to not sound like a tight Yorkshireman (which I am) but I would immediately think along the same lines as you’ve done: It’s probably not worth the price.

  2. I think a third beer to complete this series would be Anchor’s California Lager, which is certainly based on a 19th century recipe (all-malt, and probably all-Cluster hops or something as credible). Given Anchor’s penetration in Europe, it should be available hopefully in England now, or soon. It is similar in character to what you describe, the “honey nuts” denotes all-malt with a reasonable final attenuation (not too low – familiarizing myself with draft Heineken recently, I’m reminded it is a fairly dry beer).

    The Anchor is pasteurized, but this is a plus in this case for export. Your reference to a vegetable taste sounds to me like slight oxidation.

    Didn’t you guys get some beers from the San Francisco area earlier this year? I can’t recall that you reviewed them. It was a representative sample, you had solicited suggestions of what to ask for.

    Gary

    1. Gary — we’d forgotten about those! We don’t actually have them yet — they’re at my brother’s house. We’re seeing him soon and will pick them up then.

      1. Okay great (Gillman thinking, how could these guys forget?? Then too with all that great cask beer in England, even exotic bottles/canned imports are rear guard troops). 🙂

        Gary

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