By Lew Bryson
Mae West famously said, “Too much of a good thing is… wonderful.” But for some, abundance in this boozy utopia of ours, can be a bit – overwhelming. Lew Bryson “distilled” all the options and came up with a “neat” list of stuff you won’t want to miss.
Let’s get one thing straight: IPA is still the king.
But you knew that already. We’ll all be waiting to see what’s coming down the hop boulevard next, but why not expand your horizons? If not for yourself, then maybe for friends and family who might happen by – looking for your company – and into your refrigerator.
The best breweries and cideries in the country love to experiment. They are tweaking time-honored techniques, using wine barrels, and wine for that matter, to make really good drinks – a lot of them. So, I’ve organized the tastiest options into categories and given you my recommendations.
Hybrids Aren’t Just Cars
Take two styles and mix the best attributes of both. The most visible example is probably Sam ‘76, Boston Beer’s smooth-drinking ale/lager hybrid. Think of an IPL, a lager zestily-hopped like an IPA; pop open a Stone Tropic of Thunder and see what it’s like. Or, take a pale ale down a double-dry-hopped IPA route for a real zippy drinker, like Heavy Seas AmeriCannon. You’ll soon understand what farmers mean by “hybrid vigor.”
0.0 – Nothing but Flavor
Non-alcs are huge in Europe, and they make sense here, too: usually lower in calories, you can enjoy them and still drive, and they taste great with food. The brand-new and innovative Heineken 0.0 has only 69 calories per 11.2 oz. bottle! It’s light golden in color, with a fruity, subtle malt aroma and a perfectly balanced taste, with fruity notes & a soft, malty body. Try it. It might surprise you.
A Rosé by Any Other Name
You’ll find this wine crossover term – and flavor – in cider, beer and seltzers. Dry but fruity, light and easy-drinking, and of course, reddish-pink: pour some Angry Orchard Rosé in a champagne flute, and there you are. It’s a fun bit of relaxed elegance that pairs well with shellfish, chicken and cheese. Rosé is such a hit that we’re seeing rosé beers hit the market, like 21st Amendment’s Sparkale and Firestone Walker’s highly anticipated Rosalie.
We’ve known about this for years here in the Philadelphia area; thanks, Dick Yuengling! But now, great craft lagers are coming in from other places. I’m drinking a Firestone Walker Lager right now; they definitely get it. Plus, keep an eye out for a lager from Lagunitas this spring, as well as Sierra Nevada’s Mexican-inspired Sierraveza. Welcome to the party guys!
Blondes Have More Fun
In the 1960s, a catchy jingle asked: is it true that blondes have more fun? Evil Genius #ICantEven or a crisp can of Sierra Nevada BFD: light but tasty golden beers are bringing together craft lovers – who sometimes want a little less – and mainstream drinkers – who sometimes want a little more. These beers are blowing up in California, and the right one is going to grab you this year.
Hard Jun Kombucha
Now you can have your cocktail and drink it too.
Available in several mouth-watering flavors, Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha is a delicious & healthy-ish alternative to traditional adult beverages. Low in calories and light on alcohol, Wild Tonic stands on its own as a delicious cocktail (there’s no need to add vodka, unless you want to) that happens to be packed with good-for-you ingredients.
Fermented green tea and honey provide probiotics, prebiotics and amino acids, making your tummy happy, while soothing your state of mind. Made with certified organic fruit, herbs & botanicals, Wild Tonic is unmatched in flavor, and it’s gluten free!
Think of Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha as an exotic elixir available in sophisticated flavor combinations like Blueberry Basil, Raspberry Goji Rose, Mango Ginger & Hoppy Buzz, with delicate hints of apple & pear.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
There’s a small surge in porter sales, the first time in years, which is awesome! How could you drink a Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and not love it? Stouts encompass beers as diverse as Guinness, 2SP The Russian and Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. Make it a mission to find your favorite.
Sours are growing fast, and for some folks it’s sour or nothing. But some people can’t get past the word sour. And that’s too bad. Weyerbacher Sexy MotherPucker, for instance, or a quick splash of Dogfish Head SeaQuench. Yes, we know that brett beers aren’t sour beers! Don’t over think this. Just appreciate these for what they are and spread the word. These beers are uniquely refreshing, finding a wider audience every month (spring one on your wine-loving friends).
Dry Cider Isn’t an Oxymoron
If you like a light, sweet cider, you’re covered. But if you’re looking for something drier, or more robust, or more varied, well, you’ve been heard. Cider is seeing the variety that craft beer thrives on. Angry Orchard Stone Dry or local Jack’s Hard Cider put a dry edge on your apples. You can get pear cider from Jack’s as well, and Woodchuck has a new Tank Series of experimentals.
I saved it for last. It’s no surprise that IPA is still the beer we all love. Beer fans are sure to have noticed the wave of Brut IPAs flooding Philadelphia. These champagne-like beers are a runaway hit, so make sure to grab the current standard bearers of the style by Sierra Nevada and Ballast Point.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got a small stash of Sierra Nevada Celebration deep in the back of my fridge that needs my attention. Hops know no season!