Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Tapping “Beerly Legal Lager” at 21st Amendment in San Francisco

By William Brand
Monday, December 1st, 2008 at 11:08 pm in Uncategorized.

Photos: Top - Shaun O’Sullivan hoists a glass of Beerly Legal Lager. Below: Shaun taps the first keg. At 75 cents a glass, the keg was emptied in an hour. Photos by Jeff Scott.

A merry, if  not overflowing crowd was on hand  shortly after 5 p.m. this evening (Dec.1, 2008)  at 21st Amendment in San Francisco as Shaun  O’Sullivan tapped the first keg of Beerly Legal Lager. marking the beginning of a week-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition.

The beer – in a 10.5 gallon firkin –  sold out in an hour. No wonder. They were selling it for 75 cents a pint. Shaun, who founded the brewpub  with Nico Freccia,  said he researched pre-Prohibition beer and discovered it was light lager. You want to think that our grandparents and great grandparents drank stouter stuff, but nope. The universal beer in America was a light lager, Shaun said.


The 21st beer was indeed light. Shaun said it was 30 percent flaked corn, 70 percent pale barley malt. Hops were Magnum for  bittering, French Strisselspalt for finishing.  Historically, these lagers used Hallertau, but this hop is what was available at a decent cost, Shaun said.  The beer, which will be on tap all week at 21st is 5.5 percent alcohol by volume,  17 International Bitterness Units.

In truth, I liked it. It was a clear, light gold color with a big head of crisp white foam and a mildly malty nose. Taste was  mild. fairly dry with a bone dry finish. There was a faint, lingering bitterness. I give it  Three Stars 1/2.

I remember beers like this from the 1950′s. I was just a kid,  but to me they tasted either sour ( Stroh’s, Hamm’s, Country Club Lager) or so dry (Coors) they had almost no taste. Shaun thought the difference was Beerly Legal is way fresh. “It just came out of the filter four hours ago,” he said.

It’s also not pasteurized and not in a container shipped halfway across America.  At any rate at 75 cents a pint, it was a damn good bargain…

More 21st Amendment news. First. They’re desperately looking for someone who will be 21 on  Dec, 5, the day national Prohibition ended in America in 1933. If you’re that person, there’s $100 cash, the chance to help lead a Repeal Parade from San Francisco City Center on Friday afternoon to 21st and well, a pretty good amount of free beer.

Shaun said they’ve found a woman who will be 75 _ she was born on the day of Repeal, who will be there. “But we really need someone who will just turn 21, he said.  Call the pub: 415-369-0900.

Also, there’s a beer dinner Wednesday evening at the pub. Go to the Web site for info.

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