Beer Guy: July August 2018

Not big on beer? Let’s talk about it.

by Will Bailey

There’s always been a bit of a point of contention in my otherwise happy family. My mom does not like beer.

Now in most families, this wouldn’t be much of a talking point, but given that my dad, Peter Bailey, is the regular Tomato Beer Guy, the fact she dislikes beer can create some happy-hour tensions. My dad has practically given up on getting her to like beer, so when she asked for a sip of his beer at a late fall backyard patio party last year, he expected her to quickly pass it back, exclaiming, as she always does, “yup, tastes like beer.” Much to his surprise, she did not immediately pass the glass back as predicted. In fact, she continued to sip quietly away, quickly finishing her first beer in family memory. The beer was a cherry sour from Calgary’s Dandy Brewing.

This single beer (thanks Dandy!), has twisted my mom’s perception of beer. Not that one sip of cherry sour made her into a double-IPA hop bomb devourer, but the door into the world of craft beer has been cracked open with a few sips of the right beer.

Now I recognize that not everyone has to like beer. The biggest complaint I hear from my non-beer drinking friends is that beer is too beer-y. While this vague definition doesn’t tell us much of anything, I think we can define beer-yness as either overly malty or overly bitter. Think 24-pack macro lagers, sweet sticky ambers and old-school, dry-out-your-mouth bitter IPAs. While these traditional beers have legions of loyal imbibers, I suspect that just as many folks would much rather grab a crisp apple cider, a punchy Merlot, or a well-crafted whiskey sour. And who would blame them!

But as often discussed in this column, the world of beer is much different these days. New styles of beer using non-standard ingredients such as wheat, fruit, salt and oats, are re-shaping ideas of how a beer should and can taste.

The funny thing is that while these new emerging beer styles appear as though they’ve been hashed up by today’s brewmasters, brewers tend to be history buffs. Rarely is a new style concocted out of thin air. Instead, beer styles rise and fall in popularity. Today we are seeing the re-emergence of beer styles from the European Industrial Revolution, when beer was a source of refreshment and electrolytes after a long day in the mines, fields and factories. Styles like Gose, Grisette and Saison were all brewed with the intent of refreshing these weary workers. Conveniently, for today’s non-beer drinkers, these same beers are easy drinking, low alcohol and approachable.

Take Gose as an example. Brewed with 50/50 wheat to traditional barley and salted during the brewing process, Gose is a super refreshing and unique beer style with subtle cider-like sourness. Dating back to the 16th century, it was an extremely popular beer style in the city of Leipzig up through the 19th century before dying off during the wars. Nowadays, Gose is a popular style for craft breweries looking to make a low alcohol summer beer that appeals to a wider drinking audience, mainly due to its similarity to cider and juice.

Blessed with modern brewing equipment and an ever expanding catalog of new hop and yeast strains, today’s craft brewers are armed with the tools to expand upon these historical beer styles and blow the door open on how we define beer-yness. Malty and bitter are no longer the only flavour profile; beer today can be fruity, sour, salty, roasty, smokey, sparkling or cloudy. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of beer, there is no better time than this summer to give beer another shot.

A six pack for the non-beer lover

Beer lovers, don’t fret, these beers are also perfect for you this summer. Low alcohol and refreshing, these brews are tailor-made for the patio, lake and accidental beaches everywhere. Available at brewery tap rooms and better beer stores in Edmonton.

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Berry Raspberry Wheat Ale
Berry Raspberry Wheat Ale

Dog Island Dibs Berry Raspberry Wheat Ale

Craft beer north of Red Deer is quickly becoming a small town’s game. Lacombe, Ponoka, Edson and Sylvan Lake (x2!) are just a few of the small northern Alberta towns sporting their own craft breweries. With Dog Island Brewing, Slave Lake joins the craft brewery club. This delicious raspberry wheat ale is creamy, smooth and pours a lovely pale cloudy pink.

Situation WTF Raspberry Ginger Gose
Switching it up for summer 2018, Edmonton’s Situation Brewing has changed their ever-popular Gose recipe. Gone is the Blood Orange and in comes Raspberry Ginger. Playing with the salty-sour Gose style, Situation nailed it with this one. There’s sweetness from the berries, sourness from the lactobacillus and salt from the ginger. Perfectly sessionable at 3.5% alcohol.
Tropical Tart Ale
Tropical Tart Ale

Steamworks Tropical Tart Ale
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Formed in 1995 in Vancouver’s Gastown, Steamworks Brewpub stood pat while British Columbia’s craft brew scene exploded. But that changed in 2013. They opened a new production brewery, hired one of the best brewmasters around, Julia Hanlon, and started brewing innovative beers. Their Tropical Tart Ale is a margarita in a beer can, best enjoyed near a body of water.

Town Square Megawatt NEIPA
IPA?! I thought you said this was for non-beer drinkers! This isn’t your old school, piney, overly bitter high-alcohol IPA. New England IPA (NEIPA) is one of the hottest styles in beer today and for good reason: they are so darn drinkable. Wheat is added to the grain bill and juicy modern hops are added later in the brew, meaning less bitterness and more hop aroma. The result is a cloudy tropical beer that is almost closer to orange juice than IPA.

Dandy Brewing Company Grisette
Unfortunately, my mom’s Cherry Sour was a limited run from Dandy Brewing and not currently available. Luckily, Dandy also makes this Grisette, a light table beer originally brewed to quench the thirst of coal miners in 19th century Belgium. Expect a low alcohol brew (4 per cent) with light saison spice, a sparkling texture and pouring a pale blonde-grey in colour.

Tart Cherry Ale
Tart Cherry Ale

Medicine Hat Tart Cherry Ale
Just in time for summer, Medicine Hat Brewing Company has launched their “Patio Series” of beers. First in the lineup is this Tart Cherry Ale. Based on their blonde ale, this beer is heavily fruited with Oregon cherry purée. Beyond the obvious cherry forward flavour, notes of cinnamon add a nice complexity to this perfect patio companion.

Will Bailey is the son of the Beer Guy.