The American Brewers Association hit a milestone at the end of April when it registered its 2,000th member in the American craft beer family. This is an achievement, considering membership first hit 1,500 in '99 and then didn't touch so high a mark again until 2008. The American public has spoken, and we want fresh ingredients in all our foods, thankyouverymuch. I hope Gordon Knight is smiling from some other plane of existence right now, because craft beer is in the midst of a boom. Sunday beer sales aren't the only thing to smile about in the Constitution State, either: beers from Clown Shoes, Green Flash and Sixpoint breweries hit the shelves just last weekend.
Clown Shoes beers are brewed by Mercury in Ipswitch, Mass. - also the birthplace of Farmington River beers. Clown Shoes Clementine is a fever dream of a white ale conceived "in the middle of a blistering beatdown of a day" according to its makers. The beer itself is not white, but orange, and very nearly opaque. There is an overwhelming smell of coriander and sweet citrus notes, and a head which melts quickly away unless the beer is almost disrespectfully dumped into the glass. Pour it either way, because the spice is more prevalent, if anything, once the brew hits one's palate. The coriander is kicked up a notch by a handful of Summit hops over a fog bank of smooth wheat malts and clementine sweetness. There is a lot going on here for a contract brew, and it manages to not be heavy in the least.
Gatorade initially made their product sticky sweet in the manner popular during the advent of artificial food science, (think "melted popsicle") but found the sugary taste, while kids on playgrounds everywhere, was repellent to dehydrated 17 year olds at football practice. The formula was retuned to be more dry, with just enough sweetness to be pleasantly refreshing, and the rest is history. Citrus enhanced witbiers are the medieval equivalent; low in alcohol but long on uplifting flavor and nutrients, these were the recovery drinks of the day. The differing profiles - spice, sweetness and hops - sprout up through the flavor as this beer warms. These are dramatic flavors, but they're very well balanced, and one can see how well this one would pair with the meteorological menu the summer has laid before us.
I've never mentioned Sam Adams in this column before this week, but Boston Brewery has a been releasing limited edition beers lately in 22oz. bomber bottles, and I recently took the opportunity to try the Verloren Gose. Another summer beer brewed with coriander, gose is a style of beer from Saxony in upper Germany that had all but vanished until fairly recently; the name "verloren" itself means "lost" and is related to our word "forlorn." The beautiful rendering of a horned owl on the beer's label holds a surprise related to this name if one examines it closely. Now, switch your attention to the foamy amber brew you hold in the other hand. Breathe in the earthy aroma with the slight yeasty tint and the Saaz hops wafting up at you. It's mild, slightly maltier than I expected, and less salty than Leipziger Gose. Yes, I said "salty." gose is brewed with a small amount of salt to act as a mineral counterbalance to the smooth and sweet wheat which makes up the majority of its malt base and gives the beer its cloudy aspect. The coriander flavor makes a fashionably late appearance as the beer warms, and a subtle one. Possessing a very suave mouth feel and a generally mild disposition, Verloren would make a novel yet approachable addition to a summer dinner party or cookout.
The transit of Venus which happened this past Tuesday will not happen again until the year 2117. You would have gone at least partially blind if you had looked directly at the Sun while the transit occurred, which is unusually unsubtle for a heavenly event, at least from Earth's perspective. The green flash phenomenon is quite different. Citizens of countries with a west coast may look out at sunset and see our home star's disc slowly sink into the waves, the atmosphere diffusing and splitting the sunlight until red slides to blue in the final moments, sometimes producing, just for a split second, a green flash before the Sun disappears for the night. Denizens of San Diego, home of Green Flash Brewery, are in the perfect location to witness this event, and the theme is present everywhere from the label, to the cap, to the bottles themselves.
West Coast IPAs are what most people think of when they think of American-style IPAs; "hop forward" in the way Richard Simmons is "personality forward," i.e. flamboyantly so. They're often bitter enough to pucker faces and cause involuntary neck spasms in the unprepared.
Green Flash calls their West Coast IPA "extravagantly hopped," and those hops seems to be used primarily for bittering and flavoring. There are aromatics floating around, but they don't fill up a room the way an IPA like Gandhi Bot does. This California brew is, in a word: delicious. International Bitterness Units are to beer what Scoville Units are to peppers, and in many ways hops and hot peppers are alike: they can make the meal, but they aren't a meal on their own. 95 IBUs give this beer a strong base of bitterness underneath a very "green" hop flavor that is simply everywhere, spread over a strong malt body well up to the task of mellowing the Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade hops in the recipe. Like a good sauce piquante, this beer is prickly, but not face-meltingly so, and the ingredients have emerged in a beautiful blend. It's just a stellar IPA.
Shoppers should start seeing these beers all around Fairfield County fairly soon, but the only place I know for sure carrying them right now is Harry's Wine & Liquor (2094 Post Road, Fairfield, 203 259 4692). I'll be back with updates on another beer from Green Flash and at least one of the new Sixpoint beers soon. Cheers.