Having plumbed the depths of standard beer styles, craft brewers are exploring new tastes by reviving some of the more obscure and unique beer styles in world history.
These beer styles stem from specific regions of Germany and Belgium and came close to extinction, only to come back bigger and perhaps better as part of the craft beer movement across the world including Australia.
Gose is a very hot beer style right now. Born in Goslar, it was popularised in Leipzig, Germany, in the 1800s only to no longer be produced by the 1960s. This style is now popular with craft brewers in the US like Anderson Valley and Australia breweries Nomad, Feral and Drs Orders have also produced interpretations of this historical style.
It is essentially a sour wheat beer with the unique addition of salt. It’s a strange one to taste at first, a beer with salt? But it makes more sense once you drink it, it’s refreshing with a dry salty finish that keeps you wanting more.
The Rauchbier style comes from the town of Bamberg in Germany back as far as the 1500s. This peculiar taste stems from the smoking of beechwood logs in the malting process.
Bamberg smoked malt is often in Australia now and a range of beers with this malt came out over the winter, adding interesting smokey bacon-like flavours to the dark beers.
I recently sampled a Rauchbier at the Napoloeone brewery in the Yarra Valley. A lighter brown colour, it was typically smoky but also one of the smoothest examples of this style I’ve tasted.
Another style that is having its day in the sun this summer it seems. From its namesake, Berlin, it uses wheat malt and the addition of lactic acid to create a light refreshing beer with a tart tangy finish. It’s typically low-alcohol at around 3% abv and sometimes served with syrup.
The Berliner Weisse was once the most popular drink in Berlin and later hardly brewed at all but now is undergoing a revival. In Australia, Mash brewing have produced a range of different Berliner Weisse beers and now have collaborated with up-and-coming Torquay brewery Blackmans. Bridge Road and Drs Order have also come out with their own series of Berliner Weisse style beers.
For more information and extolling of the virtues of Berliner Weisse, see this blog.
I recently enjoyed one of Boatrocker’s Miss Pinky, a berliner weisse, which was perfectly refreshing and had a lovely pink colour to it from the addition of raspberries. Check out Boatrocker’s brand new barrel room, for this beer and their other berliner weisse style beers, Mitte and Orange Sherbet.
Spontaneously fermented beers are all the rage right now. This style, born in Belgium, requires a lot of attention and experimentation from the brewer, inviting in a range of wild yeasts to the brewing process to add funk, sourness and acidity.
This style has become highly sought after amongst craft beer geeks and spontaneous fermentation is gaining popularity as a way to create complex beers.
Brambic from Boatrocker is a tradtional example of this style in Australia. It’s on the expensive side, as it tries as much as possible to replicate the traditional Belgian brewing methods.
Hargreaves Hill, Illawarra brewing, and Tasmanian brewer Two Metres Tall are other Australian breweries dabbling in beers inspired by this style
with spontaneously fermented ales. Most recently, La Sirene, who built a reputation on the popular revived Belgian farmhouse style, Saison, have just released a 100% spontaneously fermented ale, after harvesting microorganisms from their local area near parklands in Melbourne for yeast.
As you can see, craft beer is breathing new life into these traditional styles, spreading them across the globe, and reinventing them into something grander than they ever were. Expect to see more great beers in these styles and to see more traditional styles revived, as brewers look to the past to find the new tastes for today.