In the world of beer, macro-brewed American light lagers still dominate the market, but craft breweries are quickly gobbling up (or chugging down) market share with the bold flavors of hop-heavy IPAs; dark, chewy stouts; complex Belgian ales; and, more recently, sour beers. While these styles all deserve their hype, here are some underrated, too often overlooked varieties every beer drinker should revisit.
1. Black Lager: This style boasts roasted chocolate malt upfront but has a lighter body, a gentle hop bite and the crisp finish of a lager. Try to get your hands on Uinta’s Baba Black Lager.
2. Wee Heavy/Scotch Ale: “Wee” might be a bit of a misnomer, as these Scotch-style ales tend to have higher alcohol contents due to a longer boil. More time in the kettle results in deep, rich, caramel flavors complemented by fig, plum and raisin notes. AleSmith’s Wee Heavy is a perennial classic, but Dark Horse’s Scotty Karate elevates the entire style.
3. Rye Beer: The addition of rye gives beer a subtle spicy character that's perfect for chilly afternoons. If you’re new to rye beers, Founders’s deep, bready, Red's Rye is a perfect place to start, although Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye will convert even the most loyal IPA drinker.
4. Extra Special Bitter: A toasty, medium-bodied ale of English origin, the ESB is a go-to style for balanced, sessionable drinking. Fuller’s ESB will get you acquainted to the style, but for a slightly darker interpretation, Grand Teton’s Bitch Creek—and its big brother, XX Bitch Creek—are worth seeking out.
5. Pilsner: Before there were session IPAs, there were pilsners. The humble pilsner claims its roots in the Czech Republic, but American brewers have fully embraced it for its balance of bright herbal flavors and its immense drinkability. Victory’s Prima Pils is a classic American interpretation of the German pilsner, and Firestone Walker’s Pivo Hoppy Pils expertly showcases its refreshing, grassy hop profile.
6. Gueuze: A blend of old and young lambics (beer spontaneously fermented by wild yeast), gueuze is a dry, tart and very sour treat to sip. It can be refermented with fruit to make sweeter blends like kriek or peche beers, but in its purest form, you may also pick up grassy or dewy notes. Belgium’s Brasserie Cantillon is synonymous with gueuze, but unfortunately it's both pricey and rare. For an American twist on gueuze’s German cousin, Gose, pick up the Golden Gate Gose from San Francisco’s outstanding new brewery, Almanac.
7. Eisbock: When you think of lagers, you usually don’t think of full-bodied, high-alcohol concoctions, but with eisbock, that’s what you get. Their flavor profiles can vary, and they can evoke everything from licorice to brandy. Eisbocks get their high alcohol content, dense bodies and rich, concentrated flavor by a process of freezing and removing water during the brewing process. At 15.5 percent ABV, Kuhnhenn’s Raspberry Eisbock is a dark, fruity sipper to be savored.