Friday, January 18, 2013

Why American Craft Beer is Better Than Ever: A Brewer's Manifesto

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 12:10 PM

click to enlarge Co-founder Jesse Friedman at Almanac Beer Co. - ALMANAC BEER CO.
  • Almanac Beer Co.
  • Co-founder Jesse Friedman at Almanac Beer Co.

When someone says "I don't like beer" my reaction is almost always the same: "Challenge accepted!" It's not that the so-called beer-hater doesn't like beer -- it's that they don't like any of the beers they've had up until now. Chances are, it's been a pretty narrow selection of what's out there.

We're in an American Craft Beer Renaissance: an explosion of new bottles and tap handles, each offering a personal story and a distinct creative point of view. Craft beer-focused bars and restaurants are overrun with new choices, and new craft breweries are edging their way into restaurants and bars that might have once dismissed the idea of a "beer menu." There has never been a better time to be a craft beer lover. If you are someone who cares about trying new flavors and possibilities, the craft beer world's doors are wide open and welcoming.

See also:

- Biere de Chocolate: Almanac and Dandelion's New Blend

- Beer of the Week: Boston Beer Company Revives Historic New Albion Ale

- Hold Onto Your Livers -- SF Beer Week is Coming

Beer offers the widest possible range of flavors for food pairings, and the best opportunities to chase transcendent pairing moments. It easily goes places wine can't by balancing sweet and bitter, malt and hops, yeast and water to offer the best playground for bringing food, pairings, and people together.

The modern American brewing landscape offers unprecedented choice and opportunities. The all powerful, dominant West Coast IPA is a big part of it, offering bright citrus, pine and floral aromas against a backbone of caramel malt, balancing sweetness with a bitter structure, with layers and layers of aroma hops on top. I like to pair them at dessert, pulling the citrus aromas out and using the bitterness to counterbalance a sweet dessert.

click to enlarge SONYA YU/ALMANAC BEER CO.

Brewers are rediscovering almost abandoned lost European styles, and recreating them with gusto and bravado. Track down a "Gose" -- a tart German wheat beer brewed with a touch of salt. The salt adds a touch of savoriness against the wheat beers yeasty character; similar to salt on food, it pulls more savory notes from the brew and makes its flavors pop.

Or try a a spontaneously fermented beer. For those in the wine world, they'd be called "naturally fermented," meaning that local yeast and bacteria in the air are used create a complex, tart, barrel-kissed wild beer. Inspired by (but not beholden to) the great sour beers of Belgium's Lambic region, these sour ales mature for years in wine barrels as the biology works it way through the beer creating deep and soulful flavors.

A personal favorite is a Saison. Originating from the Belgium/French border, this farmhouse ale uses simple ingredients to create complex flavors. Based on a recipe of pale malt, wheat, light hops and a distinctly assertive yeast, these ales have aromas of banana, clove, black pepper, spice, citrus zest, and if you're lucky, a touch of barnyard funk. I brew mine with local honey, ginger and French oak. Pac Brew Labs emphasizes the fruit character with hibiscus. Both beers are Belgian in heritage, but would be unrecognizable in the old country. They are distinctly American creations.

Unshackled from history and tradition, "does it taste delicious?" is the only thing that matters in brewing today. While everyone complains that nothing is made in America anymore, you can go to your local brewery and try something unique that doesn't exist anywhere else. It's pure creativity on tap.

Jesse Friedman is the co-founder and Chief Brewing Officer at Almanac Beer Co. Follow him at @beerandnosh


  • Pin It

About The Author

Jesse Friedman

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.