The craft beer industry in America is built on the backs of beers. The first craft breweries offered India Pale Ales, roasted stouts, and hefeweizens with lots of hops to differentiate themselves from the big breweries that dominated the market.
At small breweries in America, the beer is still the focus and usually pays the bills. They can be cooked, fermented and released for several days. The frames, on the other hand, need a few weeks in the tubs to mature properly. They need time to develop the desired flavors and separate the particles that would otherwise mar the appearance.
When the pandemic slowed down production of draft beer, many breweries took the opportunity to use fermentation tanks for beers that would otherwise have been associated with beers with faster turnaround times.
The first to brew lager were satisfied with mild, light American pilsners or European pilsners with a high hop content. They turned to Viennese brewers with mild malt profiles or tried more robust styles like Dunkels. Modern microbreweries are embracing these styles, making low-alcohol lagers and lagers and using adjuncts like corn and rice. Some people don’t bother reminding consumers of these big, established brands.
Ashley Carter, brewer of Beer City Lager in Denver, likes to say that beer has been winning for 150 years. Carter, who produces some of the most popular examples of a craft brewery style in the United States, has a point.
With this latest generation of brewers appearing at a local brewery or on shelves, it looks like the series will continue.
Allen Pils Heater; $15/16oz 4 Pack, 100 points. And the pads are soft and crisp with confidence, with the history, patience and craftsmanship behind this beer. It has a slightly toasted bread character that is balanced by a spicy hop note. It’s subtle and ideally the kind of beer you should be drinking several times a day. It is only when the brain can absorb it as background music that it suddenly becomes clear that this pilsner is really attractive.
Wibby Folk Beer Vienna; 6-pack of 10/12oz, 100 points. With a lush mouthfeel that slowly brings layers of nuts, heated caramel and a delicate spiciness of noble hops, this Viennese beer is of remarkable quality. Often beers in this category are too sweet, but here the recipe brings bitterness into the balance equation. The finish is dry though, with a slight hint of brown sugar.
Dovetail Hell; $11/16oz 4-pack, 99 points. This is a beer of exceptional quality, balancing the sweetness and richness of the malt with subtle spicy and fruity notes from the hops. The nose reveals a lazy character that emerges and quickly fades on the first sip, but the quality of the mineral water remains, along with a cheerful crispness that makes the whole appealing.
Vintage Combine Moonlight; $14/16 oz. in a 4-pack, 99 count. This expertly constructed nursery uses a filling of barley, oats, rye and wheat grains to create a base rich in bread, spices and earthy flavors. The result is a beer that has character but doesn’t demand attention. It shows depth, but does not seek the contemplation of a drunkard.
Notch Salem Lager; $14/16oz 4 Pack, 99 points. There are beers of which you already know at the first sip that you will be drinking another one in the foreseeable future. Still, there’s no reason to rush that first pint. These amazing chanterelles are golden in color, with a slightly hazy filling topped with a creamy head. It is made for relaxation: long afternoons in the shade of the brewery’s trees or under a parasol on the beach. It offers expertly balanced flavors of lightly toasted bread, roasted corn and a hint of spicy hops that rises before a semi-sweet finish.
Zwickel’s Urban Chestnut; $9/16oz 6-pack, 99 points. Pure is a word not overused in beer, because it really refers to something that is perfect and can usually be quantified by science or faith. However, this beer reflects the word. Drinking it is an experience, a revelation in the glass. You get the impression that something special is being recorded, carefully crafted with laser-like precision. Slightly cloudy and deep golden in color, with a long white head that surrounds the glass, this beer has a grassy hop aroma, a malty character and a contemplative character.
Chuckanut Rye Lager; $5/500ml, 98 points. Deep golden in color, with a modest white head that fills the glass, this is a full-bodied, slightly spicy and thoroughly satisfying lager that manages to have both depth and profundity. Brewed with a rye crust, the body is firm but retains its liveliness. Aromas of dried orange peel hops, earthy spices and a slight pine character also emerge.
Green postcard bank; $11/12 oz in 6-pack, 98 points. Some lagers are light and airy, with easily discernible flavors or aromas that indicate a refreshing alcoholic beverage. There are also pilsners like this one, which bear the brewery’s famous respect atop the bar. It has all the characteristics of the classic barrel-aged Pilsner, sweet malt and slightly spicy hops, but in a more subtle form. For relaxing days on holiday or in the garden, when you feel good but don’t want to fall asleep.
KC Beer Pure Pils; $9/12oz 6-pack, 98 points. As the name suggests, this beer is pure from start to finish. It’s wonderfully refreshing, with a rich, warm malt character accentuated by spicy hop notes. The bright but radiant finish and soft texture of the water encourage swallows.
Wayfinder CZAF; $20/16oz 4-pack, 98 points. The malt profile of this beer is soft and robust, with a final quality that feels fresh and inviting. The presence of hops adds spiciness and earthiness and gives just the right amount of pleasant bitterness. That way, the water profile still gets a chance to shine. The stubborn crispness keeps everything in order from the first sip to the last.
Zero Gravity Green State Light; $10/16 oz can, 98 points. Crisp and bright with a pine and citrus profile, this beer is well balanced by a delicate, sweet, grain malt profile. Everyday beer, far from being a single note, evolves with time to be tasted without demanding attention.
New Glarus Two Women; $8/12oz 6-pack, 97 points. In a state where beer drinkers are massively turned off by consumers, Two Women is on a roll. This lager has a medium golden colour and a fluffy white head. The semi-sweet malt content is balanced by earthy and slightly spicy noble hops. With a thirst-quenching quality and a slightly grainy finish, this beer is solid.
Reuben Selector; $12/6-ounce box, 97 points. Light golden yellow with a gentle sweetness and light whispers of tropical fruit and citrus. With an effervescent body and a dry finish, this is a lager that easily fits into any social setting.
Aslan Coastal Primers; $13/ 12 oz 6 pack, 96 points. Crisp and clean, like a mountain stream, but definitely with lots of barley and hops. This pilsner is rooted in the Old World, but with an American hop sensibility. This is a beer to camp out on the beach, enjoy after a hike, or at the local sushi bar.
Raft of the Deep South; 10-12 oz. 6 pieces, 96 points. This is a pleasant, easy-drinking lager that relies slightly on modern hopping techniques to bring out subtle flavors of spice, earth and citrus. With a dry, slightly sweet finish and the taste of dried orange peel, this is a lager made for a lazy summer evening.
Paulaner Salvator; $12/box of 6,375 ml, 96 points. Long a reference in the style, this deep ale is full of aromas of freshly baked bread and raisins, with hints of spice, molasses, warming spices and sweet leather. The full, robust nature of the alcohol is a trademark, but with a sneaky quality, it makes for a quick sip. Liquid bread at its best. It goes well with cinnamon rolls, game, or anytime you’re in the mood for a thoughtful beer.
Perennial Pilsner; $10/16 oz. can, 96 points. With a delicate bouquet of floral hops, this hoppy pilsner lives up to its name. It retains the freshness and vibrancy of the pale ale, while promoting a hop program that includes pine thorns, citrus peels and a funk tropical fruit patina. Start the evening with this beer, and others will soon follow.
Seventh Son Millstone; $11/6-ounce box, 96 points. Sweet malt, spicy hops and sweet water come together in this bright, golden beer that doesn’t tire the palate. At home, alongside a warm pretzel, a burger or a salad. A useful beer player in the best sense of the word.
Blackberry Farm Mountain Lager; $11/16 oz. 4-pack, 95 proof. There are summer evenings with a slight chill in the air, a slight chill that is a promise of the seasons to come. Put on a sweater and get out the beer. It has a caramel malt body and a noble hop character that ends with a nutty, spicy bloom. A treat around the campfire or bonfire.
East Brother Red Light; $13/16 oz in a 4-pack, 95 count. It is a smooth and pleasant pint with a roasted malt profile that offers a toffee, butterscotch and cola aroma. From start to finish it is intriguing and playful, the kind of stout that goes well with a pub lunch on a fall Sunday afternoon, or when a contemplative pour is needed.
Green Bank Kulture Khronicles; $12/16oz 4 Pack, 95 points. With aromas and flavors reminiscent of Rice Krispies, this crisp beer has a fun, airy quality that refreshes the palate and tickles a little sweetness. The hop character is slow to get going, offering a small amount of earthy bitterness and even a bit of wood. There is an unmistakable freshness to this beer that adds clarity to the spirit and flavor. This is a collaboration with Beer Kulture, a non-profit group that promotes diversity and job creation in the beer industry.
Lost Abbey Farmhouse Lager; $13/12oz 6-pack, 95 points. Brewed with a touch of funk, this deep, bright golden ale has an earthy, slightly grassy character. With floral aromas and the sweetness of honey and graham on the finish, a spicy thread weaves the tasting experience. Rustic and pleasant, this is a blonde beer that looks like a reward after a hard day’s work.
Tio Rodrigo Cerveza Clara; $10/12 oz. 6-pack, 95 points. This bright, golden Mexican beer is as refreshing as it is drinkable. It has a delicate grain profile with a slightly lemony hop note on the finish, making it a reward after a long day in the garden, or best served with a lime wedge alongside a taco at the roadside stand.
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Trophy flight trajectory; $9/500ml, 95 points. This high-yield beer is smooth with notes of red fruit jam, maple syrup and grated coconut. Light brown in colour, with a low foam and a full body. Eight months in the barrel before being bottled. As a result, it has acquired some woody, vanilla and toasty characteristics, but retains its liveliness. When heated, more wood is released, resulting in a dry finish.
Trumer Pils; 10/12 oz. 6-pack, 95 points. In the tradition of the classic European lagers, this fresh malt beer has a noble hop character and a soft, dry aftertaste. It’s served in a green bottle and it’s recommended to drink it quickly to avoid a slight note, although a slight hint of that sparse flavor, if it occurs, actually gives it a more authentic feel. However, it is best to avoid them. It’s a classic, multi-layered interpretation of a familiar style that appeals to all generations of beer lovers and demands to be enjoyed in a place where mugs can be dipped to celebrate.
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