Last Monday, I rambled about craft breweries finding commercial success with some of the lighter beer styles. Now the craft brewing revolution would definitely be over if small breweries started pumping out bland and tasteless light ales and lagers chasing the almighty dollar. Thankfully, there’s plenty of great beers on the lighter side from small breweries proving these styles that are still interesting and flavorful when done right.
We’ll start with the weirdly wonderful G&T Gose from Anderson Valley Brewing. The first weirdly wonderful thing about this Gose is that it tastes absolutely nothing like a Gin and Tonic. Sure, there’s a lemon-lime thing going on, with some saltiness, a slight funkiness and a barely noticeable sourness. It’s really more like a Margarita, if anything, than a Gin and Tonic. The thing is, this unexpected combination is fun, refreshing and somehow works. I’ve gone on the record as not particularly liking Gose beers with all sorts of non-traditional additions that would make old world German brewmeisters spin in their graves but I really enjoyed this one.
Next, we go to a beer I discovered last week on vacation in the Chicago area where I grew up. It’s Prairie Path Golden Ale from Two Brothers Brewing. Described as “crafted to remove gluten but not flavor”, I was pleasantly surprised how lively and complex it turned out to be. It’s solid bready malt base with some light yeasty aromatics balanced with an earthy hop bitterness created a very pleasing composition of flavors. Walks the fine line between effortlessly drinkable without being boring.
Finally, there’s is Tooth & Claw Dry Hopped Lager from Chicago’s Off Color Brewing, a beer inspired by Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus-Rex skeleton.in the world Sue is prominently displayed in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History where the wife and I took the kids last week. It’s a cracker crisp Lager with a sharp, grassy T-Rex sized hop bite. In my book, lagers are defined by how well they hit these notes without extraneous and off flavor and Off Color just hits things right on the head with this one. I just loved the well executed simplicity.
Running a marathon, plus lots of work and family commitments have slowed down my beery explorations lately. However, I’ve still had time to sample some new brews to ramble about them in my little corner in the online world. So let’s get to it!
We’ll start with Anchor’s new IPA foray, Go West!. Anchor has an interesting history with IPA’s. Anchor arguably launched the whole IPA thing in America with their Liberty Ale. Even though it was released in the 1970’s, Liberty Ale still holds up today as a strong example of the style. A not so strong example of the IPA in my seldom humble opinion is Anchor’s unnamed IPA, which I find rather timid and underwhelming. There’s no such problem here, Go West! hits all the classic West Coast IPA notes, full of punchy grapefruit and pine flavors, and a slightly resinous finish. Presumably, the marketing folks at Anchor hope an exclamation point does a lot more for this beer than it did for Jeb Bush.
Next up, Le Wolf Biere de Garde from Chicago’s Off Color Brewing. I found this toasty, yeasty, estery concoction just a real pleasure to sip. It’s a little on the sweet side, and at 7.3% abv, offers a real kick. Fruity esters dominate. I picked up some apricot and peach, but it was more one unique flavor not easily broken down into components. A few folks on Beer Advocate noticed pear. It’s one of those beers you can analyze for hours, or one you can enjoy without thinking about it at all.
Last, but hardly least is Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Blueberry. Ho hum, Almanac put out another excellent barrel-aged brew. Almanac first brews their house sour ale, and then racks it to a secondary fermentation in wine barrels filled with Northern California blueberries. There it sits for a few months, picking up the blueberry flavors and a nice purply color. Sipping the result, the blueberries served as a light accent to the wine, oak and moderately strong sourness. It’s balanced, all the flavors playing nicely together rather than popping out on their own. What else can I say, it’s another example of the usual Almanac magic.
For this latest edition of Rambling Reviews, we delve into the unexpectedly wild world of wheat beers. And like the best wheat beers, the reviews are simple and direct. Let’s get right to it.
First up, “Fierce” from Chicago’s Off Color Brewing, a Berliner Weisse. It’s cracker crisp, with a zippy, light lemony sour tang. They use the old “lactobacillus in the kettle overnight” trick for the sour part, but don’t let the “Fierce” name fool you, it’s really not THAT sour. Tastes like a Lemonade Radler, except they don’t use any lemonade. “Fierce” packs a simplicity punch and I enjoyed sipping a few of these on my front porch.
Next up, Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale. That’s right, Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata. After passing this beer sitting in the beer cooler at my local Safeway day after day, always wondering “Exactly how does that taste?” I finally broke down and picked up a six-pack to satisfy this itching curiosity. It tastes like a wheat beer with a little sweetness, a little cinnamon, with some lightness that might come from the long grain rice its brewed with. Yes, I kind of liked it. My wife’s reaction to this was a far less charitable. “Bleech!” OK, cross Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata off my bucket list.
Last, but certainly not least, it’s Pizza Orgasmica’s 4 Grain Hefeweizen. I’m in San Rafael a lot since I have close family there, so we often head on over to Pizza Orgasmica in downtown San Rafael. I’ve grown fond of this Hefeweizer of theirs, which probably sends old world German brewmasters spinning in their graves. Brewed with barley, wheat, oats and rye, it’s grainy, with a thick mouthfeel and lots of underlying clove-like, spicy aromatics, missing the traditional style in a good way. Weird enough to be wonderful and oddly refreshing.