Beer of the Month : Golden Gate Gose from Almanac Beer

Almanac’s Golden Gate Gose at Liquid Bread.

Beer of the Month for this May comes from Almanac Beer, known mainly for strong barrel-aged ales with unusual organic heirloom ingredients like strawberries and even fennel.  While I’ve enjoyed many of these Almanac creations, the latest that caught my fancy was something enjoyed while whiling away a warm spring afternoon reading a book at Campbell’s Liquid Bread.

It’s Golden Gate Gose, a soft, lovely example of a style rarely brewed in the United States.  The Gose style originates from the Northern Germany town of Goslar.  It’s a top fermented sour beer traditionally brewed with at least 50% wheat malt, coriander, salt.

Golden Gate Gose is a little soapy, salty, and lightly sour and as you can see, has a fluffy, pillowy head.   It’s the uncluttered, balanced, and restrained composition of just a few flavor notes that really makes “triple G” really work.  Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise from Almanac, since for all their wild ingredients and barrel aging, the solid and technically well executed beer underlying all the unique flavors is what makes their beers work so well..

If you ask me, beers embracing simplicity and balance which quietly attract your attention are rare and under appreciated.  So let’s raise a glass to Almanac for celebrating old, nearly forgotten style with quiet fan fare.

The Session #68: When Does Novelty Cease?

For this month’s Session, Tiffany at 99Pours asks us to write about novelty beers.   Here are my riffs on the subject.

In the 50’s, Elvis Presley introduced novel innovations in music to the world.  About the same time, Alvin and the Chipmonks released records using novel recording techniques.  Both Elvis Presley and Alvin and the Chipmonks won multiple Grammy Awards.  Elvis is still Elvis.   Alvin and the Chipmonks are still unlistenable to anyone over the age of seven.  Somewhere between Elvis Presley and Alvin and the Chipmonks lies the interface between timeless innovation and perpetual novelty.

Beer is no different.  Chile beer is one novelty beer that many feel has not only overstayed its welcome, but should never have come over in the first place.  And yes, chile beer is often a stale lager with a jalapeno pepper thoughtlessly dunked into it, a beer gimmick resulting in an overpowering and undrinkable mess.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  One of my favorite beers is Devil’s Canyon’s Hades Habanero, where a deft touch of the habenero’s transforms an earthy underlying amber ale into a lively concoction.  And this year I experienced the pleasure of Green Chile Ale from De La Vega’s Pecan Grill & Brewery in Las Cruces, NM, a beer where local green chiles are carefully put on a pedestal of light malt to be celebrated in all their glory.  I also experienced a beer brewed with fennel of all things, Almanac’s Spring 2012 Bière de Mars, and found it sensational.   Somehow, these beers made with habaneros, green chiles, or fennel  don’t seem like novelty beers, but examples of innovative brewing with unusual and local ingredients.

Of course, there was a time when the ubiquitous IPA was a novelty beer.  Just a few decades ago, an IPA in America was either a rare British import, or was handed to you by a shaggy homebrewer with a devilish glint in his eye.  And as IPA’s caught on and became ordinary, the new novel became uber-hoppy double, triple, and even quadrupal IPA’s, as brewers engaged in a hop-driven arms race.  Until there was nowhere else to go and a few breweries got the bright idea to release Gruits, beers without any hops, but often flavored instead with spices and other exotic additions.  And it was novel.

Well, sort of.  For the first 5,000 years of brewing history, the Gruit ruled, as hops first started showing up in beer around 1400 AD.  Seems like as long as beer is continually reinvented, there will always be novelty beers.  They just may be standard beers from our past, or of the future.

The Session #55: Telling Us What’s Inside

For this month’s Session Curtis Taylor of The HopHeadSaid asks us to write about our favorite beer labels.

The humble beer label must deliver so much. In a split second it has to win our attention from all the other labels fighting for it as our eyes quickly scan the shelf. Once the bottle is discarded, the best labels are easily remembered to do this job even more effectively the next time we glance in their direction. And while creating these impulses, the label must somehow visually convey the taste and feel of the beer in our throats.

I have zero artistic talent and know little about psychology, so don’t have the foggiest notion of how this works.

But I’ll take a stab at it. My favorite labels are not necessarily the most elegant, pleasing, or arresting artistic compositions, but those in their own unique unforgettable style leave me well prepared for what I’m about to drink. Don’t ask me how these labels do it, they just do it. Look at two of my favorite recently released beer labels below. Which bottle do you think contains a celebration of bold aggressive flavors balanced on a razor’s edge, and which holds a subtly complex combination of flavors mingling together from the farms of Sonoma County? It’s obvious from the labels, right?