Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hunting for Finesse: The Exceptions Are Still the Exceptions.

So I've been in America for some weeks and, to be honest, not much has changed here lately -- not on the beer front, anyway. Oh, there are more and more breweries and more and more beer specialist bars with more and more taps, and there are more and more regular bars and restaurants with growing lists populated by small and regional brewers. But the products are basically the same: resinously bitter and/or highly alcoholic. When not overly bitter they tend to be overly spiced, as with the caricatures of Belgian ale that seem to be flourishing.

So much for the sweeping generalizations. There are some highly drinkable options out there, beers full of flavor and finesse. But it takes some hunting. It falls to us to share tips on what and where to hunt. Anyway, there ought to be more.

A few we've found along the road:

A true "session" took place last night at Meridian Pint in D.C., where five of its taps have been pouring beers of 4.5% or 4.6% strength. It wasn't a special event or anything like that; it just appears to be a priority for the landlord. A highlight for me was the Caledonia from Williamsburg Alewerks, a orange-amber "session IPA" full of herbal, floral hop flavor. Afterward I walked home in a straight line, more or less.

Back in St. Louis, the Civil Life (pictured) is filling dimpled mugs full of stuff that most geeks would find boring. Good. Let the regular drinkers and seasoned pros mingle without the whale-hunters. The Rye Pale and Brown were the popular girls, but I fell for the wallflower Bitter, dry and golden, full of floral Goldings with just a touch of fruity Centennial.

Also in St. Louis, Perennial is making some oddities but seduced me with its simpler saisons. The Hommel Bier has compelling character, matching American hops with what I think is the Dupont yeast strain. In my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, I found the Saison de Lis on draft in Patton Alley and couldn't seem to stop asking them to refill the glass. Its chamomile is understated and adds depth. If you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't know it was there.

Now for breweries with numbers in their names. On the acidic end: 4 Hands put out a Berliner Weisse named Prussia that wields a refreshing lactic tartness. It's difficult to put down and weighs in at a whopping 3.5% abv. And at 2nd Shift in New Haven I tasted a barrel-aged half-wild ale named Katy, a "Brett beer" for lack of better title. Pale, lightly tart, lightly tannic, heavily addictive at 5% strength. A future star, I think.

The hunt continues. I look forward to a day when the exceptions can no longer be called that.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you liked Williamsburg Alewerks, it's from my hometown!