American Bars has been writing about our observations on a wide array of themes in the craft beer world and how the brewers are responding to those continued changes.
If one trend sums up this year in craft beer, it’s that many brewers have embraced crisp, clean and highly quaffable beers. Drinkability is key. It’s no doubt that these brews are absolutely delicious, pair well with food, and make for an “Ahhh…-worthy moment in any time of year.
They can also be difficult to brew and execute based on their longer production timeframes. Perhaps most importantly, the use of clean yeast in these beers and their more subtle nature means they’re THE environment for drinkers to love to inspect and detect unusual flavors.
American Bars’ craft beer fans often use these style preferences when scoping out a new brewery or brewpub. If the brewer can make a beer that is of the subtle and clean yeast variety with no added flavors — and pull off an exceptional product — it’s typically a great indication as to how the rest of their beers are going to fare moving forward.
American Bars hints that drinkers should look for a few key styles and menu phrases when hunting down these crisp and clean beers. They range from terms such as helles, lager, cream ale, and blonde ale to descriptors like cold-conditioned, crushable and gateway beer. Other insiders simply use the phrase “crisp and clean.” Most servers or bartenders can lead patrons in the right direction with those aforementioned phrases.
Here’s a look at how these trends (and others) are playing out across the nation’s craft breweries.
REBIRTH OF TRADITION
These beers are generally found in the Mid West. Since AB is based on the Coast, it seems logical to share the wealth of offerings by focusing on our pals along the Great Lakes. The pilsner, American light lager and similar styles have been prevalent in U.S. drinking culture for quite a few decades, and it’s a comforting notion that craft beer is redefining those categories in its own way.
Take, for example, Quinannan Falls Special Lager Beer from Bell’s Brewery. It still holds the refreshing bitterness of a German pilsner, but now with an American pine-like distinction to change its direction. Pair this beer with a spicy mixed green salad with shaved beets, radish and a dill vinaigrette. Yes, Veggie types — this one is for you!
In Hudsonville, Pike 51 Brewery offers Tall Boy, a version of American light lager, as well as the Pants Cream Ale. Both beers would be absolutely killer with fish dishes since their higher carbonation levels would flush out any grease and fat from the food while refreshing your palate for the next bite, YUM!. And the beer’s light, corn sweetness and flavor resonates with fried breading for fish and chips fans.
Dutton-based Railtown Brewing Co. offers up its Bike Ride Blonde, which can make an excellent pair with lunch staples such as say, a chicken caesar wrap or a turkey club. It has the cutting power carbonation levels, and the grainy malt to resonate with the bread or wrap, yet create another bready base for the salty and savory flavors from either sandwich. designed to soothe and refresh, these varieties are a true staple for many beer imbibers.
BACK TO EUROPEAN ROOTS
Along the lines of crushable beers, AB would like to mention traditional German styles. They seem to be swaggering back into view. Altbiers, märzens, helles and even some rauchbier (which is the true way to the lovers of a German brews’s heart) are appearing more and more on various brewery menus. Hey, they are refreshing, clean beers.
Cedar Springs Brewing Co., Frankenmuth Brewery, and Territorial Brewing Co. are focused on the traditional German styles in their brewhouses, so get to know them. Other non-German based breweries also are getting in on the action. Harmony Brewing Co. with its Debacle Bock Doppelbock, Perrin Brewing’s imperial schwarzbier called the Black Goat, and Muskegon-based Unruly Brewing Co. with its Kick Ass Kölsch. If you are German, you know these well!
On a more minor note, there has been a noticeable resurgence of the Old Polish style known as Grodziskie. It’s a historical sour smoked wheat ale made with oak-smoked wheat malt. Although the style has been slow to make inroads into the Michigan craft beer scene, it appears that Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale has already jumped on the bandwagon.
If you encounter it, remember that this is supposed to be a smoky smelling and tasting beer. It can be absolutely lovely with a classic BLT, grilled fish, or when used in a smoked beer and cheddar soup.