Check out this week’s On Tap column for The Advocate that’s published here.
Paying tribute to American craft beer pioneers
I’ll admit it: I’m one of those people who’s always chasing the latest and greatest thing. Whether it’s the trendy new restaurant or gadget that promises to make my life easier, there are times when I forget about the tried and true in favor of the flavor of the week.
When it comes to craft beer, I’m no different, and there are scores of people just like me. Gone are the days of brand loyalty. We all want something new before we move on to something even newer. It’s easy to forget about the breweries and beers that paved the way for our glut of choices today. Sometimes, it’s nice to revisit those beers and remember why we started drinking better beer in the first place.
Here’s a six-pack of those craft beer pioneers that influenced a generation of beer drinkers. These are still readily available, though sometimes forgotten.
Arguably the original American craft beer, Anchor Brewing got its start in San Francisco in the late 19th century. Steam is the nickname of a style of beer known as a California Common. This is a lighter beer brewed with lager yeast, yet fermented at ale temperatures. The result is an amber colored beer with subtle fruity notes and a crisp finish. Lightly hopped, this 4.9-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) beer is an easy drinker.
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada’s flagship Pale Ale is undoubtedly the most influential beer in American craft beer history. Nothing existed like it in 1980 when founder Ken Grossman turned his garage hobby into the American dream. This bold ale features grapefruit and pine notes of Cascade hops and has inspired countless brewers over the past four decades. If you are a fan of hoppy beers, tip your cap to Sierra Nevada and the O.G. Pale Ale.
Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams first brewed its Boston Lager in 1984. The beer grew in popularity because founder Jim Koch challenged old standby light lagers brewed by Bud, Miller and Coors. This lager is brewed with German hops and weighs in at 5-percent ABV. It may not be the most exciting beer, but it is more complex and has more flavor than your typical fizzy, yellow beer. It’s also easy to find.
New Belgium Fat Tire
Amber ales are a forgotten bunch of beer, but few can forget their first Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewing. For my generation, Fat Tire was one of the beers that we crossed state lines to find. Perhaps it was one of those mystical beers that we liked more than we should have simply because we had to work to track it down. But Fat Tire was also a beer that converted many into craft beer drinkers. This amber ale is malty with a touch of floral hop and fruity yeast flavors that is a timeless classic.
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
When Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione first brewed 90 Minute IPA in 1999, double IPAs weren’t a thing. Heck, IPAs weren’t much of a thing then either. Named due to the continual hopping during a 90-minute boil, this beer also features 90 IBUs (a measure of how bitter a beer is) and 9.0-percent ABV. As one of the original double IPAs, this beer is one of the catalysts that turned many beer drinkers into hop heads.
Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
Sometimes a beer’s influence can be judged not only by the liquid in the glass, but by the glass itself. Or in this case, can. Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues was the first craft beer to be canned, pioneering a new way of bringing beer to the masses. This 6.5-percent ABV pale ale is closer in stature to an IPA. Now when you see some of your favorite craft beers in cans, you can thank Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis for helping start a revolution.