- Mike Riedel
As I keep my eyes on the newest beers, some of the older tried-and-true brews tend to get pushed out of the spotlight. There are good reasons they're still around, though; high drinkability and solid craftsmanship make examples like these transcend generations. If you're a beer nerd like me who is constantly on the hunt for fresh sips, consider looking to the past for something new. You might be surprised by what you'll find.
Squatters Full Suspension: A Squatters classic, this bright copper/amber-colored beer pours with two fingers of white foam that recede rapidly, while leaving a persistent pattern of lacing on the sides of the glass. The nicely balanced aromas include caramel complemented by tangerine and pine from the hops. The flavors are much as expected from the nose, highlighting the pine needles and grapefruit as well as a noticeable caramel sweetness from the malt backbone. Malt and sweetness are balanced with bitterness—neither conceals the other and they keep each other from becoming unpleasant. In the mouth, you get a medium/light body that's a bit prickly from the moderate carbonation. The fairly long finish begins as the caramel sweetness briefly allows the pine and grapefruit to become more prominent, even as they all slowly fade. The malt sweetness, fruity citrus and piney bitterness from the hops are present throughout the finish to the clean, crisp semi-dry lingering end.
Overall: This O.G. offering from Squatters is a very drinkable beer with a well-balanced interplay between the not overly complicated hops and malt. If you're looking for beer that's big on drinkability and not too fussy, consider this perennial 4 percent pale ale. It's available at most grocery stores around the state.
Desert Edge Pop Tire Porter: Autumn must really be creeping in. When it's warm outside, I rarely look to porters to satisfy my cravings. I'm glad I started with this one, because its 4 percent ABV is the perfect transitional medium. Poured from a freshly filled growler, a foamy khaki head rises over a dark brown body with soft garnet highlights. The nose features moderately roasted barley, pale and toasted toffee malts with a medium sweetness. Hints of earthy coffee and chocolate round out the aroma, and the hop profile is subtly earthy with a modest bitterness.
The taste bookends with roasted malt notes, generating subtle degrees of coffee bean and bittersweet chocolate, finishing on assertively toasted malts with a subtle drag of licorice spice well after the last sip. Sweetness is moderate, but there is enough earthy bitterness from the specialty malts and roast to effectively balance out this 4-percent beer.
Overall: Desert Edge's take on the porter style plays it simple, but effectively, with most of the flavor and depth originating from the roasted flavors of kilned barley malts. Head brewer Chad Krusell keeps this beer about as close to a textbook example of an American porter as he possibly can. The flavor range generates an impressive scope for such a highly drinkable body, which plays light yet smooth, as is characteristic of the style.
These are two very good examples of beers that paved the way for the low-alcohol "session style" taking hold around the country—and they were in your backyard the whole time. As always, cheers!