"I GET NO RESPECT " - It's not just Rodney Dangerfield's most famous line. It's the elegy bemoaned by many fallen beer styles, or brands that represent those styles. Beer styles have certainly undergone a change since its emergence more than 5,000 years ago in the grasslands of southern Babylonia, obviously. During that time we saw a myriad of styles that were developed based on either cultural influences, geographic factors, agricultural availability, and sometimes technological advances. For example, none of the modern styles would have evolved the way they did without refrigeration and forced carbonation, but that's a separate blog topic. What makes the modern craft beer scene unique is that we don't just develop styles out of necessity. We do it because we simply like the taste and because we see it as a form of artistic and culinary expression, something that has only possible for a short part of beer's history, relatively speaking.
The path from antiquity to modernity, however, is littered with the corpses of styles-past, at least when it comes to the modern craft beer scene in the United States. There are still plenty of places in the world where you can go to drink warm, flat English Bitters and Brown Ales (or even cold carbonated versions if that's your jam) but by and large in the U.S. market, at least, there are some clear front-runners that dominate the beer landscape. Some of them are trendy, like the Cold IPA and Italian Pilsner, while others are being revived from a period down-trend: The Pale Ale and West Coast IPA come to mind. There are also styles that are greatly missed, though, that are still lying unconscious on the side of that path to progress. They are revered by the vocal minority but they often represent storied, classic styles that inspired some of today's most epic beers.
Being the beer-purists that we have all come to know and love, brewers are definitely in the "you shoulda been there when" camp. It's not uncommon to hear murmurs in the break room that go something like, "Man how come we never brew a Dry Irish Stout?" Or, "This weather is too hot for a big IPA. Gimme a 3% Berliner Weisse all day long." We hear similar feedback from customers too, but unfortunately they tend to be the vocal minority. The sales are what tell the true story, but since we hear about it from drinkers all time, we wanted to ask our brewers what they consider to be some of the most underrated styles of beer. To be clear, this isn't a list of their favorite styles. This is a list of beers that deserve more credit in the minds of our beer geek family.
DIRECTOR OF BREWING OPERATIONS
"I have to go with a Rauchbier. Smoke adds a badass counterpoint to sweetness making Rauch versions of Marzens, Scotch Ales, Porters, Stouts, etc. really good. With the massive popularity of Traegers and smoked foods and such, you’d think more people would be open to smoked beers. It will never be a mainstream style but there are some gems everyone should try."
HEAD BREWER - NAMPA
"Also known more commonly as a Black Lager. It's a style with complexity, balance, subtlety and to top it off, benchmark beers of this style are super drinkable. It’s the best of all worlds. Good brewers know how to show restraint and skill when making this style – it's so easy for brewers to go overboard on roasty or astringent qualities or fumble a fermentation. This is a sexy style. In fact, I’m gonna crush a Köstritzer tonight ‘cause now I’m all hot and bothered…"
HEAD BREWER - VISTA
American Pale Ale
"A lot of modern beer styles feel like they go over the top in one way or another. A pale ale not only perfectly demonstrates balance, but it is the sign of a great brewer in my opinion. If you can make a solid Pale Ale, you probably know what you are doing. It's easy to go over the top with alcohol or hop bitterness or sourness or whatever your thing is, but brewing a nice crisp, low ABV brew with just enough malt to carry some choice old-school hops and the perfect amount of bitterness...what's not to love?!"
"A nice crisp Kolsch beer goes great with food and you can have a few without getting too loaded. It has slightly more malt backbone than a European Pilsner but doesn't go over the top like some American Blonde Ales have a tendency to do. It sits in that sweet spot right in between. The yeast character is really what makes it special, though. Plus, the ability to crush a few while smokin' da meats on the BBQ is a plus."
"Give me that clove, banana, and high alcohol 🍻! The yeast characteristics are really what set this style apart and make for a real love it or hate it type of beer. It's harder than people think to get a clean ester/phenol profile, which might be why a lot of folks strugle with Belgian-style yeast, but when done right, a fruity and warming Belgian Tripel is a real thing of beauty."
As you can see by the wide array of styles represented above, there is more to the world of beer than the swath of IPAs that dominate the menu board of you favorite beer bar. Fortunately you don't always have to choose. Get out and try them all!