Summer beer lists practically write themselves.
Here’s how it’s done: Find a few timely lagers, wheat beers or Hefeweizens, compile them into a Top 10 list and call it a day. Bonus points if they are packaged in bright, pool-friendly cans.
There’s nothing at all wrong with these summer standards, but a list like this is as easily consumed as those very beers themselves. It’s low-hanging fruit, not so much a slap to the reader’s face as a dismissive hand wave. Where’s the challenge, the sense of adventure?
There is a whole new world out there, and it’s filled with Old World styles. Breweries across North Carolina are brewing styles that, until recently, were not available to the modern consumer. You might find some downright odd. It would be easy to dismiss the following salt or smoke-infused beers as novelties if they weren’t so steeped in tradition. And by drinking them, you’re engaging in that tradition – getting a taste of what beer was like in the past, but with a modern touch.
Last year, the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild wanted to create a beer that could represent the state at the Great American Beer Festival. They chose the Gose (pronounced GOES-uh), a sour and salty wheat beer that has experienced a renaissance in the last few years. There’s nothing local about the style itself – it originated in Goslar, Germany, in the 16th century – but it allowed the guild’s brewers to make a beer with entirely local ingredients. The beer, dubbed “North Carolina Gose West,” featured malt from Asheville, hops from across the state, muscadine grapes from Bladen County and sea salt from the Outer Banks.
That one’s long gone, but a few other North Carolina breweries have picked up the torch to brew this trendy style. Steel String Brewery in Carrboro brews Zupfen Gose, and they also have partnered with Haw River Farmouse Ales to brew Picklemania, a Gose brewed with sea salt, peppercorns, allspice and dill. Bottles of Picklemania should be available this weekend.
Charlotte’s NoDa Brewing will bring back its own take on the style next month when What Gose Round comes back around. First brewed last summer, this one saw ginger added to the style’s traditional ingredients of salt and coriander. This year, head brewer Chad Henderson plans to add cranberries and a little more ginger.
Not into sour beers? Don’t worry, Fullsteam Brewery in Durham has its own distinctly Southern take on an Old World style. Low ’n Slow is Fullsteam’s version of a Grätzer (sometimes called Grodziskie), a smoky wheat beer of Polish origin. Fullsteam wrested staves from bourbon barrels and used them to smoke the North Carolina-grown wheat used in this 3.9 percent beer. You can find this one only at the brewery for now.
Completing this alliterative trifecta of Old World styles is Grisette, a close cousin to the Saison. While it tastes nothing like Gose or Grätzer, it too is usually a lower-ABV beer. Haw River’s Rustic Grisette is no longer available, but they plan to brew another Grisette soon. Natty Greene’s recently tapped one at “the bunker,” its production facility in Greensboro, that was brewed with pilsner malt, wheat and buckwheat. As the session beer movement gains traction and people seek out lower-ABV options, expect to see more of these “session saisons” soon.
Daniel Hartis is the author of “Beer Lover’s The Carolinas” and “Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing in the Queen City.” He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @DanielHartis.