Let’s agree: 2016 was awful. But 2017 can be better, at least in the diverse cornucopia that is the craft beer world. Our pick for the biggest beer trend for the new year: the farm returning to the table.
I don’t mean breweries using organic ingredients or the farm-freshest materials (some do the former and most do the latter). But what I mean is a return back to the farm, itself. The place where beer was made for the first time (by accident), the place where farmers, when the workload was light, would toss ingredients together in a boil to make a grainy, barn-fresh tea-like concoction, ferment it and call it beer. It was beer. It is beer. Today, that style is often called a Saison (named after the seasonal farm workers). But other forms are known as sours (maybe the world’s first beers given the yeasts floating in the air in ancient Samaria) and ciders, pressed with apples that may have been planted by a Mr. Appleseed, himself.
We’re at an interesting time for craft beer. The product has crossed all geographic and social lines — hell, everyone knows what an IPA is. And most know what an Imperial IPA is, too. By extension, pale ales, pilsners, even brown ales, porters and stouts are in our collective lexicon. So in some ways, craft beer is ubiquitous. But in others, it’s still mysterious and very new.
But the world is about to find out the secrets craft brewers have known and been sharing with each other for years and years. Want a dark, malty wheat beer? That’s a Dunkelweizen. Want an effervescent, centerless beer with enormous flittering flavor? Yup, you guessed it, that’s your Saison. Want a puckery beer that tastes like equal parts candy and love potion? Keep reading…
There are brews with even more mystery and flavor and some breweries, like Portland’s Cascade Brewing Barrel House, are completely devoted to sour ales. These are the beers that make your entire mouth pucker. Cascade makes Blueberry sours, Apricot and Elderberry. Beers that make you feel like you’re drinking part booze and part probiotic. But there’s something about them that hooks you, reminiscent of a time long ago when human physiology was just forming. When your DNA was coalescing.
And ciders, too. The world will take a giant step forward in 2017 when it comes to ciders. When we were first introduced nationally to ciders they were thick, syrupy, cloying things. Now they are rich and deep and nuanced. Cideries like Finnriver in Chimacum, WA, whose black current and lavender cider are nectars from the happy gods.
So, dear reader, as you prepare yourself for another year (post-2016’s dumpster fire), keep your eye out for brews fresh from the farm that taste just so. It’s a return to the roots of beverage production. A much needed restart as we collectively cheers, “Onward!” and those beers, beyond our love for IPA’s and Stouts, are Saisons, Sours and flavored apple ciders.