The season is fast approaching where we trade in our sweaters for swimsuits, our bowls of chili for plates of BBQ, and our warm mugs of hot chocolate for a frosty bottle of suds. As winter winds down and spring comes to a head, you’ll find that you have more time to spend outdoors. Sporting events, tailgating, picnics, beach-side bonfires and get-togethers of all kind all share a common element: beer.
Adjunct lagers are the straw yellow colored, lightly flavored, low alcohol lagers popularized by the large macro breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and, in the United States, they reign supreme. Their goal is to be refreshing and easily consumed in great quantity – qualities they have mastered. The downside of this are the sacrifices made to reach that goal; cheaper grains such as rice and corn are used in the brewing process because mass production and mass appeal is prioritized over rich flavor. Established after prohibition, macro-brewing has been a competition of who can make a beer to appeal to the most people. While the bold flavor may not be there, the other side of the coin is the huge customer base that spans generations, tax brackets and even international borders.
In the last twenty years we have seen a huge explosion in microbreweries; breweries that produce craft beer, or microbrews, with a more focused purpose. Founder of Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston, Brock Wagner, thinks,
“If you ask a 21 year old today what their favorite beer is, chances are they will tell you a style of beer. If you asked that same question to a 21 year old 25 years ago, the question meant ‘Do you drink Bud, Miller or Coors.'” The surge of new breweries (2,538 in June of 2013 compared to 44 in 1979) breeds a healthy competition and a large array of choices. It’s a battle fought with weapons forged in barly and hops and, thankfully, there are no losers.
And we have an assortment of “weapons” to choose from: stouts, porters, brown ales, india pale ales, saisons, sours, Belgian strong ales, Russian Imperial Stouts, the list is almost endless. With the recent influx of microbreweries all carving out shelf space in stores across the country, all making their interpretations of the various styles, it is much easier to find one to fit your taste.
Suggested microbrews that bridge the gap between refreshing/easy to drink and flavorful are as follows:
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Kellerweis
Sierra Nevada walks the line between macro and micro ales. This is nice because of the introductory price point compared with other niche beers. The pale ale has a slight hop bite (hops being the bittering ingredient used in beer) but is still very simple and refreshing. The Kellerweis is an even lighter beer, but with a completely different flavor. It’s Sierra Nevada’s interpretation of a style of beer, hefeweizen, a German style that uses heavy amounts of wheat and a particular type of yeast. This is a great example of the style, as the yeast used gives a tart edge with slight flavors of banana and spicy clove.
- Rogue Dead Guy Ale
With an 89-96 rating on Beeradvocate, it’s hard to go wrong with Dead Guy Ale. At 6.5% ABV, a few percentages higher than Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale and Kellerweis, Dead guy hits you with stronger flavor. More hops, more body, more alcohol… also more money per six pack, but I suppose that’s par for the course for a quicker buzz.
- Dogfish Head Piercing Pils
Alright, so you had the other three suggestions on the list. You liked them. You liked that you could taste what you were drinking. You understand that you get what you pay for is a concept that also applies to alcohol and you’re thinking “give me something that’s going to wow me”. Once you’re ready to splurge a little bit now you can meet Dogfish Head Piercing Pils. You’re not going to find this in a 24 pack. Pilsners in general I’d suggest you stay away from just because they always seem a little flat (then again, I’m an IPA guy), but Piercing Pils is true to its name while staying true to the pilser style at heart. Crisp, clean, with a pilsner flavor from the yeast used. Its slight hint of sweet and quality of hops distances it from its peers.
Gary Morgan is currently living in Houston. He has been published via writing farms and is a fan of rap, beer, scotch, horror movies, hiking and bbq.
You can reach Gary via email at firstname.lastname@example.org