Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
With SAVOR having come and gone, the beer industry moves straight into American Craft Beer Week, which wraps up this weekend. Speaking from my own personal and professional experience, I’ve seen first-hand the dramatic rise of American beers within every niche and category.
I’m nearly at the point where I’m starting to worry about American beer geeks becoming too myopic, but I also know these things work in cycles, and one of these years German and British beers will once again be in demand. That’s not what this week’s column is about, though — I come to sing the praises of American craft beer, and so I shall.
Over the past few years, what I’ve enjoyed from America’s craft brewers isn’t only the preponderance of great hoppy IPAs and Pale Ales — though new arrivals like Lake Erie Monster from Great Lakes and Against The Grain’s Citra Ass Down always make me happy — it’s the way our breweries are preserving and experimenting with obscure traditional beers styles, as well.
Just this week, we’re seeing the first wave of Anderson Valley’s The Kimmie, The Yink, And The Holy Gose hit Virginia. For those who aren’t yet familiar, Gose is a 1,000-year-old German style of Wheat Ale (traditionally with at least 50 percent of the malt being Wheat, with the balance made up of Barley malt) utilizes coriander and salt to make a beer that is light and refreshing — something of a precursor to the Belgian Witbiers that would come along in the 15th century.
Nearly lost to history, Gose has experienced a resurgence as beer geeks, fond of all things tart and/or sour, started to demand more of it in the market. Today, not only do I occasionally receive shipments of the Leipziger Gose from Germany, but I regularly stock Troublesome Gose by Off Color Brewing in Chicago. Troublesome is a more classic take on the style, while Anderson Valley tweaks the style by dialing back on the coriander and by adding lactic acid before the boil, rather than ferment with lactobacillus along with the brewer’s yeast (“The Brewer’s Yeast” is the name of my Arcade Fire-style hipster band, by the by).
The beauty of the current American beer scene is this combination of reverence for classic styles working alongside a willingness to tinker with them: for every Sly Fox Royal Weisse that brings the banana/clove notes of a textbook Hefeweizen, there’s a Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen or Boulevard 80 Acre willing to alter it with the addition of fruit or more hops. For every Maine Beer Company Peeper that carries the clean, fresh, grassy notes of the English Pale Ales of old, there are the Dale’s Pale Ale and DC Brau Publics of the world with massive hops additions that wouldn’t have been considered 30 years ago.
Great dark beers and barrel aging? Try Hardywood’s Sidamo Coffee Stout, Bourbon Sidamo, or Bourbon Cru; Barrel Aged Scotchtown by Center Of The Universe; Three Brothers Resolute or Rum Barrel Dubbel; Port City Revival Oyster Stout; or Lost Rhino 2200 pounds Of Sin Barleywine — and those are just beer from Virginia! Barrel aging, the comeback of cans, Imperial everything – the world has taken notice, but they all started here in the U.S., where any insane idea can be a successful one if enough people like it.
Belgium historically is the country that has had the reputation of being the place where “anything goes” when it comes to beer — I did title my first column about Belgian beer “Planet Belgium,” after all — but today I’d argue that it’s the United States where brewers are not only encouraged by their fan bases to explore and try new things, but in most cases rewarded by the market for doing so. At the heart of every beer geek is someone who’s looking for the next thing to try; something new, that they’ve never had before, or never thought that someone would even try to make.
No country’s brewers cater to the beer geek quite like ours do, and for all of the oddities produced by America’s craft brewers I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Raise a glass of the most absurd thing you can track down this weekend and toast the joyful madmen and women who make it all possible.
Until next time!