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Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunshine Beer

I have traveled recently to two sunny-weather locales--Arizona and Hawaii. In both cases, I was struck by the local beer styles. In both cases, they were pretty standard-issue American craft beer--essentially English styles put through the West Coast filter (NW hops, assertive flavor). I should note that my references are Oregon and Wisconsin. The Oregon styles you are familiar with, and it's not surprising we take after the Isles, being that we too are gray-weather, green-covered zones. And Wisconsin, settled by a large number of German immigrants, adopted the styles of that country, favoring lagers. Well and good.

So why is it that in sunny climes brewers make the beer invented to slake the thirst of cloud-dwellers? From Arizona, you go South and you find a wonderful array of sun-beer. In Singapore, Fal Allen (erstwhile Northwesterner) has tried to forge a new path with local ingredients. Belgium has wit, Germany has weisse, and the sunbelt has ... pale ale? It's not really the same. English-style pales have a lot more residual sugars so even lighter versions are heavy. When I was in Panama, the light beer was Soberana, the "heavy" beer was Panama. Both were drinkable on a day with temps pushing 95 and high humidity.

Of course, a lot of the hot weather breweries just make light lagers, but it doesn't need to be so. In Belgium, they brew wits; in Germany weisse. Given the variety of yeast strains and the numbers of regional adjuncts available to American craft brewers, why stick with English ales?

My sample size and my knowledge of other regions is limited, so maybe I'm missing something. Does anyone know of regional beers that have experimented to address the heat? Am I missing something? If they are so rare (or nonexistent), why? I don't regularly do open threads, but consider this an invitation to offer your best new sunshine beer in comments. I'll try to think up a winner myself.

2 comments:

Jeff Alworth said...

Oh, come on, surely you have SOME ideas. How about this: brewing a beer with a portion of the mash using malted mesquite (pinole). (This is a Southwest inspiration, obviously.) It is described as having a sweet chocolate/coffee flavor. Put it in a light lager or a wheat ale. Depending on its character, you might experiment with some funky yeasts--a hef strain, say.

Surely that's better than a best bitter, right?

Jeff Alworth said...

Oh yeah:

http://www.desertusa.com/web_cart/db/pages/9105.html

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