• Dining

The Summer Of Kölsch

An easy drinking German beer

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July 26, 2017
By Jeff Gredlein | The Beer Snob

I know in recent weeks I have been trumpeting the horns of many big time beers. Double IPAs, Old Ales, a crazy curry Imperial Stout. There are some wild and wooly and strong beers on the shelves. But I want to again praise the continued trend of the craft beer that’s big on flavor, low on alcohol.

If one were to Google search for low-alcohol beer, a few items pop up. The Wikipedia page for low-alcohol beer offers such versions as light beer, non-alcoholic beer, small beer, small ale, and near-beer. Now small beer and small ale are interesting, and I will be discussing them in weeks to come. The other options, light beer, non-alcoholic, or near beer just are not worth discussing in this column. What you get with light beer — low alcohol and low taste. What you get with near-beer — supposed low-to-no alcohol and ‘beer’ taste. Both options are a waste of time for me.

What we want are great tasting beers on the lower-gravity end of the spectrum. It’s quite rare to find beers below 4 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) and once you get into the upper 5 and more than 6 percent range, you no longer have a sessionable brew on your hands. So we’re looking for the sweet spot of beers that fall into the 4-5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) range.

Most of these beers are comparable to your average American macro light lager in alcohol content (example: Bud Light and Coors Light are both 4.2 percent ABV). But there are quite a few recent introductions to the flavorful low-gravity beer scene. Founder’s All Day IPA is a great one. And you could do much worse than New Belgium’s Shift pale lager.

My recent new favorite is Levitation Ale from Stone Brewing Company. Classified as a red or amber American ale, often called a hoppy red, Levitation is 4.4 percent ABV. From the Stone Brewing website: “We’re best known for brewing aggressive, big-character beers, but we love a great sessionable ale as much as anyone. Most beers at the less-weighty end of the spectrum lack flavor and depth as much as they lack high ABVs, but not Stone Levitation Ale! This deep amber brew has a rich maltiness, big hoppy character, citrus overtones, and an impressively modest alcohol content for a beer with so much flavor packed into it.”

First released in the fall of 2002, Levitation Ale is a 2007 Gold Medal Winner for the American Amber Ale category at the Great American Beer Fest. Checking in at 45 IBUs (International Bitterness Units), this red ale checks in at the upper end of the standard American Pale Ale range, the lower end of that expected for a classic American IPA.

Levitation shows Orange-Amber in the glass, carbonated and not quite cloudy, with an off orange head of creamy foam. The beer is very hop-oriented in the smell, spicy citrus for the most part. Although a nutty note is present as well.

In the mouth, this medium to full-bodied beer offers more hops than nearly any other American amber on the market, especially given the low alcohol. Citrus and orange rind dominates, with a caramel malt backbone holding the bitterness in check. This beer is more hop-flavored and juicy than biting and bitter.

Balanced, hoppy, tasty and delicious-this is what a low gravity American craft beer can and should be. Few beers and this smooth, clean and yummy. Enjoy the brews … Cheers.

Gene’s Haufbrau has at more than 200 beers in bottles or on tap. While they don’t have every beer the Beer Snob writes about, they probably  have most. E-mail the Beer Snob at publisher@westof.net. 

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