Sunday, December 18, 2011

2012: The decline of HOPS, the rise of SOUR

After frequenting a popular craft beer establishment in the Kansas City area, creatively named Beer Kitchen No. 1, my friend and I were discussing our predictions for the craft beer market. Right now the hoppy brews are thriving, and in the utmost demand. But how long can this IPA craze sustain itself? Just like any industry, trends in the craft beer world come and go. We believe the least traveled path in the industry right now is sour beer. What the general public does not realize is how hard craft breweries are working to refine their sour beers in anticipation of this coming trend.

My only experience with sour beer was during a tour at the New Belgium Brewery, where I cautiously sipped on a La Folie from the Lips of Faith series. It was an unexpected, bitter, and somewhat pleasant taste.  Growing up I was always a fan of sour candy (Sour Patch Kids), although that most likely has no relevance to sour beer whatsoever. Sour beer is definitely an acquired taste just like a Double IPA or a Belgian Tripel. Currently, I believe this is the time for breweries to make their hop-centric beers more refined and well known before sour beers become the new territory that craft beer lovers want to explore. It is weird to think that IPAs could possibly become the Old World, while Columbus' ships have already started to sail the ocean blue in search of sour beer...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Wonderful Surprises of San Francisco

This past week I traveled to the lovely city of San Francisco for the first time. Being from the Midwest, I was exposed to a plethora of brews that do not make it into the Bible Belt. For the past six months, I have longed for just a sip of anything from Russian River. Finally, I was able to experience my first Pliny the Elder and Damnation. Also, my girlfriend and I stumbled into a wonderful beer bar, Toronado, in the Haight Ashbury district. My indecisiveness immediately took over when having to decide between the rare selection of brews. By the time we left, I had ordered a Russian River Damnation (noted earlier), Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, and Evil Twin Christmas Eve. Toronado was truly a gem because not only were the brews fairly priced, but also it had your typical beer bar bartenders (agitated, restless, and knowledgable).
Furthermore, we visited 21st Amendment Brewery and Restaurant. Although I never heard of this brewery before researching San Francisco's beer scene, I was pleasantly surprised. 21st Amendment's Black IPA (Back in Black) is one of the best out there. Also, its winter brew, Fireside Chat, has a great spiciness that is consistent through each sip. Another exquisite part of the brewpub is the food pairing suggestions. After talking with our server, I learned that 21st Amendment has to can and brew all of its beer offsite in Cold Springs, MN because of its rapid growth. Additionally, it is one of the few breweries that is huge on canning. My personal preference has always been to put beer in bottles, but 21st Amendment makes me rethink the concept of canning craft brews. The mundane look of canned beer is absent at 21st Amendment, and it allows creative artwork and excellent branding to prevail on each can. I cannot wait to see what steps 21st Amendment will take next in its growth strategy!