So now that this Double IPA trend has peaked, what's next craft beer trend? I'm thinking there's a backlash in the form of session beers. This is a backlash I can handle since it means that I don't need to get drunk in order to be trendy. I like the availability of Full Sail's Session Beers. And it says it right on the label so that when I spot it in a bar, I'm reminded that it's time to take the ABV down a bit every once in a while.
Last week, I enjoyed this Full Sail Session Black Lager. Coincidentally, my friend had texted me looking for "a Guinness flavored lager ...light, bubbly and refreshing but nice and malty". This one fitted the bill for him. Other favorite session beers of mine include 21st Amendment Bitter American, 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon, and Lost Coast Downtown Brown. These are all full-flavored and lower alcohol so you can have more than one.
Meeting Sour Beers Half Way
The other growing trend is sour beers. It's starting to take up significantly more space on restaurant beer lists and store shelves. This still surprises me because sour is not a prominent flavor in American cuisine so it does not seem to be something that would take off in the American market. This is not a trend that I am whole-heartedly embracing and seems a bit difficult for the average American beer drinker to swallow. A few weeks ago, I went to a friend's house for lunch. My gracious hosts, knowing that I like beer, had a Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale chilled for me. As I sipped on the beer, they even asked me, "Do you enjoy the sourness?...it's not really my kind of drink." It was a hot summer day so I found the cold sourness refreshing, although I was pouring myself small servings from the bottle. Sour ale is not something that I reach for regularly, but sometimes it is a nice change of pace for the pallate.
For me, the middle ground is found with the fruity Belgian lambic ales. I've always enjoyed the Lindemans beers, however they use a fruit syrup for flavoring so I've been looking for more natural flavors lately.
Recently, I picked up Six Rivers Brewery Rasberry Lambic Ale. It's made with 500 pounds of raspberries. As I was buying this, Evan at The Jugshop said that this is his current favorite beer. When the shop first received this beer four months ago, it was really sweet. They put the beer in the back for a few months. When a few bottles exploded, they decided to try it again. It's dry, tart, yet sweet and fruity. It's not quite a sour beer, but I can see why The Jugshop was selling it on the shelf next the sour beers. If you don't like fruity beers, this one is not for you. I love fresh, fruity beers so this one is a keeper in its current bottle-aged state. It's best served chilled. As the beer comes up to ambiant temperature, the sourness becomes more prominent, which flattened the fruit flavors.
The Almanac Summer 2010 is another good ale with 250 pounds of berries to create a distinctly fresh sweet blackberry flavor. However, I'm still confused about the consistency of the product. When I initially tried this beer at the SF Beer Week Opening Gala, the beer was sweet and fruity and not tart or sour. When I tried this beer out of a bottle at the launch party at Shotwell's, the beer was clearly sour. Since this beer was barrel-aged, the varying amounts of brettanomyces in each barrel changed the sourness throughout this batch. You can read in Almanac's blog about how they Almanac found an astounding variance in the batch so they carefully measured the product of each barrel for a final blend. This variance from bottle to bottle naturally tests your sense of adventure when tasting this beer so I'd be weary of ordering this beer to pair with a meal since what you are served could be sweet or sour. Still, this is a very enjoyable beer while hanging out with friends.