Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Steel Reserve 211: The blue collar, working man's high-gravity union-made lager

Miller Brewing Co. so badly wants every-day, unpretentious people to drink Steel Reserve 211 high-gravity lager, it comes in masculine silver cans with tough typography. The "UNION MADE" notification even seems a bit larger than it appears on other beers. See, this high-gravity beer ain't for sissies with British accents -- get it? It's a real man's beer, none of this handcrafted, black-turtleneck stuff.

But wait -- they're not taking the beer snob for granted. The can (I'm holding an empty 24-ounce size) also says "EXTRA MALTED BARLEY & SELECT HOPS FOR EXTRA GRAVITY" and "SLOW BREWED...." What's more, the parent company, Miller Brewing, appears nowhere on the can, as if the marketing and packaging geniuses wanted to leave room for me to believe that it might just be brewed by a ballsy microbrewery or an gutsy small company. Well, it worked. I had hoped.

And now, the meaning of the 211. It's the medieval symbol for steel.

How elemental.

The taste of this beer is well-balanced and targeted at mainstream drinkers, the kinds of folks who like Bud and Coors and MGD but might be persuaded by the 6-percent rating to try something stronger than normal. (I didn't know we called anything above 5 percent "high-gravity;" I mean, with most high-gravity beers in the 7-10 percent range, Steel Reserve 211 only counts as a high-gravity beer in the very technical sense of the definition.) The marketing and packaging folks are eager to boast about the beer with all the strong, manly writing all over the can, but the taste is determined not to offend. Ergo, it is a bit bland, if well-balanced and accessible.

That being said, members of gave it low scores.

I think it's a cool thing, however, to see a high-gravity beer in cans. I drank a 24-ouncer ($1.33), and I've also seen 12-packs ($7.20). Maybe Steel Reserve 211, backed by Miller Brewing Co., will start a new trend of high-gravity canned brews.

Colin Foote Burch

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