Written by George Hummel
First off I hope everyone had a beery Xmas and a hoppy brew year. I wish nothing but the best to you and yours.
Now, however, it’s time to make some commitments for improvements in 2020. Here’s what I propose, and I’d like to invite you to join me in backing up the train.
Let’s drink more beer flavored beers! Now before you say, “OK, boomer,” and you move on to the next click bait, let me pull on your coat for a minute here.
This could be an idea that’s so retro it’s actually radical. It’s time to turn back the taste bud clock and enjoy beer that tastes like beer.
Take your “tropical fruit milkshake IPAs” and “dessert pastry stouts” and flush them down the crapper without a journey through your kidneys!
Do I mean drink Coors Light? Fuck no! In fact, if I drank one, I’d be popping a beer cherry.
Yes over the years I’ve sampled Bud, Miller and Coors (although possibly not during your lifetime!) but I’ve simply never had their Light/Lite beers. I accidentally purchased Amstel Light when it first hit the shelves in the 70s. “It’s not their dark beer,” I thought. Ooops! But I digress…
So, by no means am I suggesting that we revert to sucking down mainstream American swill. (But do research the beers you buy. In this era of consolidation and acquisitions we need to be careful of “wolf in sheep’s clothing” beers that are owned by large multinational conglomerates, but that’s a rant for another day.) Let’s not lose sight of the roots of craft beer. The beers upon whose shoulders is the support of craft beer today.
Recently I was sitting at a bar. A conversation fired up about beer freshness and I related shopping for a case of American Pale Ale and leaving with a case of Sierra Nevada, because it was the freshest beer in stock. Some moron sitting at the bar interjected, “I don’t think SNPA is a very good APA, it’s not hoppy enough.”
“Excuse me! You realize that that’s the beer they invented the APA category to describe??!!” I exclaimed. He didn’t seem to understand what I meant, which is a shame!
I encountered a similar idiot in a conversation about Saison. They claimed Saison DuPont wasn’t a good representation of the style. Seriously! I was gobsmacked. We need to appreciate that these beers are the OG! All other versions owe a debt of gratitude to these trail blazers.
Am I against fruit beers? Am I against sours? No, of course not, but the best examples remain to be those produced in the Lambic region of Belgium. Often lost on domestic sour makers is the concept of blending different vintages for a harmonious flavor profile. Also, these aren’t necessarily the beers I want to drink all day.
But when was the last time you heard someone get excited about trying a new porter, brown ale, or stout? Classic beer styles need to be revisited by more of the craft beer consuming public. When I was a puppy, imported beer in classic Euro styles were the only alternatives to shitty American lagers.
As I started making an annual pilgrimage to the Bay Area for the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s concerts I became aware of pioneering West Coast craft beers (which were called “microbrews” or “boutique beers” at the time). In the late 70’s I had my first Anchor. In the early 80’s, my first Sierra. The idea of American made beer with flavor was almost an alien concept to me.
It was these early craft tastes that led me to homebrewing. Anchor beers were available in Philly but hard to locate and freshness was a gamble. Sierra Nevada just wasn’t available until craft beer visionary Eddie Friedland brought them to Philly in the 90s (after being nudged by me for some time). It may be hard for you young ‘uns to grasp but Philly was once a beer wasteland!
So as much as I am suggesting stepping back to the classic styles of Europe, we need to also revisit classic American craft styles as well. When was the last time someone sang praises of APA, or West Coast Amber or American Brown Ale? Have a SNPA! Have an Anderson Valley Boont Amber! Suck down a Brooklyn Brown! That’s what I’m talking about! Beer that tastes like… beer!
Those of you who’ve caught my act pouring homebrew at events may wonder why I produce some of the weirder stuff that I do. Blood Orange Hefe Weizen IPA? Abby Dubbel with Mole spice? “What’s with this stuff, Mr. Beery Beer?”
OK, I plead guilty of pandering to the craft brew audience in order to get their attention. The reality is, when I brew for me; it’s usually classic beer styles. I do admit that I surprise myself with these off the wall offerings and I do enjoy them. But I get it out of my system in a public forum. I don’t suspect people would leave an event with the thought, “The guy from Home Sweet Homebrew made a perfectly balanced APA.” It’s just not gonna happen!
So, dear readers, I’m not saying don’t try that strange new brew that’s the latest Untapped buzz. But revisit those beers that put craft beer on the map. The retro recipe that follows I recently published in the Mid Atlantic Brew News. Brew it and enjoy it!
George Hummel is the author of “The Complete Homebrew Beer Book” and numerous articles and columns on beer. He’s also co-proprietor of Home Sweet Homebrew, who recently closed their Rittenhouse Square location. Pending the formal announcement of relocation, they continue as a delivery and mail order service. homesweethomebrew.com
As a stroll down Memory Lane continues, here’s the very first homebrew I ever made. Due to changes in products over the years, this is a modern update of the original. Because sometimes you just want a good APA.
- 1lb Munich malt
- 1lb 40L Crystal malt
- 6.6lb Briess Pale
- 10 AAU Northern Brewer hops at 60 min
- 1.5oz Cascade hops at end of boil
- 1 tsp Irish Moss
- 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
- 1 ea Campden Tablet (if using unfiltered municipal water)
- Fermentis S-04
- Heat 6 gallons of water to 170° F.
- Dissolve one Campden tablet in the water, if using unfiltered municipal water.
- Coarsely crack malt and suspend in a cheesecloth bag in the brew kettle.
- Hold for 30 minutes at 150-160 °F.
- Remove the grain bag and discard.
- Heat to a boil; dissolve the malt extract and the bittering hops.
- Return to a boil and boil for 45 minutes.
- Add yeast nutrient and Irish moss.
- Boil 15 more minutes.
- Add aroma hops.
- Prime with 5oz. dextrose or keg and force carbonate.