Winter is in full swing on the shores of Lake Michigan, and while we tuck in with big imperial stouts and aged barley wines from our cellars to keep us warm, we are left dreaming of sunny skies and warm breezes. Luckily, there is a beer out there to cure those winter blues, the bright Gose. Little over a year a go, only the most dedicated beer scholars would have been able to tell you about the nearly extinct wheat brew. Now craft breweries far and wide are taking a crack at the tart and salty brew.
For this edition of The Style Guide, I was inspired by our November Beer of the Month, Aquanaut's The Search ESB. Look for a medium amber to light brown ale with a prevalent malt profile and above average bitterness, but usually from European hops, think earthy and spicy instead of citrus and piney. Balance is key. More and more breweries are adding Bitters and ESBs to their portfolio, so grab a few pints during your next session at the local pub.
Full disclosure - we here at The Hop Review are not fans of "Pumpkin" beers. When the weather begins to cool we tend to reach for brown ales and porters. Yet, every year come Fall (and now it seems to be creeping into late summer), your local bottle shop or grocery store's beer aisle ends up looking like a highway construction zone. Decked out in bright orange cans and six packs, they celebrate the arrival of these often overly spiced ales.
Summer is flying by, and with the cooler than average temperatures we have been experiencing here in Chicago (except for the last couple weeks), some might argue if it ever arrived at all. Yet I am not ready to turn in my Session IPAs and Hefeweissens for Browns and Porters. So, for this edition of The Style Guide we are going to explore Saisons, also know as the Farmhouse Ale. A beer historically brewed for summer farm laborers, the Saison is still bright and crisp as a summer beer should be, but brings a lot more complexity than some of the other season staples.
As I sit here on this sandy Chicago beach, staring out into Lake Michigan, secretly sipping a Six Point Crisp, I've found inspiration for the next edition of The Style Guide, "session beers." The thing is, "sessions" are not a designated style at all, at least not according to the BJCP. Session beers are more the product of marketing; breweries trying to sell more beer and make certain craft styles more approachable by advertising their "drinkability". And yet, I don't care, it's the perfect beer for the summer season, so we are gonna talk sessions anyway.
Today the term 'sour beer' is almost as broad a term as 'ale' or 'lager.' The scope of styles includes the 1000-year-old styles in Belgium like Lambic, Gueuze, and Flanders Red. Or the refreshingly tart German Berliner Weisse and Gose. And then there are the American sour, sometimes referred to as wild ales, that took traditional styles and made them their own. Regardless of where your beer is coming from, sour beers are becoming part of many breweries' portfolios, and there are even a few breweries popping up in the States solely dedicated to the puckering drafts.