The craft beer world is bigger and more vibrant today than it has ever been. But while there is no shortage of excellent beer out there, the rise of the all-mighty IPA—which makes up over a quarter of craft beer consumption—has overshadowed many other worthy styles in the last several years. So we talked with Jeff Alworth, who penned the just-released Beer Bible, a tome worthy of its name that dives deep into brewing techniques, beer history and beer styles, for some recommendations on what else we should all be drinking. These are five styles he thinks haven’t yet gotten their due.
In no particular order:
While sour beers have grown in popularity recently, they still remain a relatively niche drinking option, perhaps because of their funky, often complex flavors. But that complexity is exactly what Alworth loves about gueze—a sour style fermented in the open air that blends one, two and three-year old lambics. “Older three year lambics are very dry, two year lambics are very fruity and the very, very young lambics have residual sugar that gives a gueze a Champagne-like effervescence.” In the somewhat unpredictable world of sours, the mix of flavors and textures are among the most approachable.
A brew to start with: Boon Mariage Parfait
Fresh Hop Ales
Like guezes, fresh hop ales are another “terroir specific” beer—that is, they are defined by the location in which they are brewed. While a gueze’s flavor is altered by whatever yeast exists in the air, fresh hop ales rely on the quality and variety of hops in the immediate vicinity of the brewery. Brewers add hops picked, sometimes just an hour before, to enhance the flavor their beers. “Fresh hop ales are deep, green, vivid and wonderful,” says Alworth. “It’s the difference between using fresh basil or dried basil.” The bad news? The window for enjoying them is very small and only during the fall. “You need to drink these at a brewery, on draft and within two weeks of being kegged. Never buy a bottle.” So hop-heads may have a road trip in their future.
A brew to start with: Go to Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, where they have several fresh hop ales on tap during the early fall months. Their Chasin’ Freshies is particularly notable.
Originally brewed in England and shipped to Russia in the 18th century, Baltic porter died out among British brewers before getting resurrected in Poland and Russia, where brewers changed it from an ale to a lager. Baltic porters are boozy—8 to 10 percent alcohol—which should please the high ABV hunters out there, but they are surprisingly easy to drink. “Despite the high alcohol content their very sessionable,” says Alworth. “Lagering (fermenting at colder temperatures) makes them smooth and creamy and conceals the alcohol very well.”
A brew to start with: Żywiec
If there were an endangered species list for beers, grodziskie would be the proboscis monkey—rarely seen in the wild, a bit ugly but beloved by those who care about it. Though the last Polish brewery devoted to making grodziskie shut down sometime in the last few decades, it’s slowly coming back from the dead, appearing on occasional tap lists at small American breweries and European breweries alike. Grodziskie is a wheat ale made with smoked malt. And, like most smoked beers, it’s an acquired taste. But one Alworth thinks is worth acquiring. Although, he says, you’ll probably need to drink a few pints in a row before you really appreciate the flavor.
A brew to start with: It’s hard to say. “These are obscure, but if you’re a good beer hunter, you’ll find some.” And when you do, make sure you order it. Who knows when you’ll see it again.
Because they are aged in wood, Flanders reds take on a complexity of flavor many other styles lack. Showing off notes of jam and dark fruit, Alworth calls this a red wine drinker’s beer style. And when he has a self-professed beer hater over for dinner, Flanders red is often what he serves.
A brew to start with: Rodenbach