Winter is in full swing on the shores of Lake Michigan, and while we tuck in with big imperial stouts and aged barley wines from our cellars to keep us warm, we are left dreaming of sunny skies and warm breezes. Luckily, there is a beer out there to cure those winter blues, the bright Gose. Little over a year a go, only the most dedicated beer scholars would have been able to tell you about the nearly extinct wheat brew. Now craft breweries far and wide are taking a crack at the tart and salty brew.
For this edition of The Style Guide, I was inspired by our November Beer of the Month, Aquanaut's The Search ESB. Look for a medium amber to light brown ale with a prevalent malt profile and above average bitterness, but usually from European hops, think earthy and spicy instead of citrus and piney. Balance is key. More and more breweries are adding Bitters and ESBs to their portfolio, so grab a few pints during your next session at the local pub.
Full disclosure - we here at The Hop Review are not fans of "Pumpkin" beers. When the weather begins to cool we tend to reach for brown ales and porters. Yet, every year come Fall (and now it seems to be creeping into late summer), your local bottle shop or grocery store's beer aisle ends up looking like a highway construction zone. Decked out in bright orange cans and six packs, they celebrate the arrival of these often overly spiced ales.
Summer is flying by, and with the cooler than average temperatures we have been experiencing here in Chicago (except for the last couple weeks), some might argue if it ever arrived at all. Yet I am not ready to turn in my Session IPAs and Hefeweissens for Browns and Porters. So, for this edition of The Style Guide we are going to explore Saisons, also know as the Farmhouse Ale. A beer historically brewed for summer farm laborers, the Saison is still bright and crisp as a summer beer should be, but brings a lot more complexity than some of the other season staples.
As I sit here on this sandy Chicago beach, staring out into Lake Michigan, secretly sipping a Six Point Crisp, I've found inspiration for the next edition of The Style Guide, "session beers." The thing is, "sessions" are not a designated style at all, at least not according to the BJCP. Session beers are more the product of marketing; breweries trying to sell more beer and make certain craft styles more approachable by advertising their "drinkability". And yet, I don't care, it's the perfect beer for the summer season, so we are gonna talk sessions anyway.
Today the term 'sour beer' is almost as broad a term as 'ale' or 'lager.' The scope of styles includes the 1000-year-old styles in Belgium like Lambic, Gueuze, and Flanders Red. Or the refreshingly tart German Berliner Weisse and Gose. And then there are the American sour, sometimes referred to as wild ales, that took traditional styles and made them their own. Regardless of where your beer is coming from, sour beers are becoming part of many breweries' portfolios, and there are even a few breweries popping up in the States solely dedicated to the puckering drafts.
It is no secret that the IPA is the poster child for the American craft beer renaissance. Nearly every craft brewery and brew pub has an IPA in its core lineup, many have a couple more. The IPA is the macro beer drinkers gateway into the full flavored world of craft beer.
While it was originally created by the British to survive the long sea voyages to India (the additional hops were added as a preservative to combat the less than favorable storage conditions of the ships hulls), it has been American craft brewers that have claimed the IPA as its own, and made it the most popular craft style. Then in good ol' American fashion they took something that was already great and pushed it to its bigger and stronger.
For this third edition of THR Style Guide, we are going to look at the beer style that has achieved cult status across the country. A style that has revelers traveling hundred of miles, only for a chance of getting their hands on some of these most sought after beers in the world. A style that has festivals dedicated solely to it...a style that continues to dominate the 'best beers in the world' lists. That style? The stout.
For the first edition of THR Style Guide we looked at the Marzen, a beer as rich in history as it is in flavor. With episode two we dig into another style with a story to tell, the Porter. Along with the styles history, we will also examine the many different styles within the style, and offer you a few suggestions to help you the next time you are in your local bottle shop. And perhaps by looking at the Porter in so many different ways we will finally be able to tell the difference between a Stout and a Porter.
The Hop Review loves all beer, from pale ales and IPAs to stouts and porters. But what about Schwarzbier, Gose and Scotch Ales? There are countless styles that are little known, misconstrued, or in the very least worth exploring. And that is exactly what we are going to do. With each post we will explore a style's unique history, characteristics and vitals; not to mention offer a few suggestions for each style – from old world classics to new world interpretations. First up: Oktoberfest.