Best craft beers to drink this month
Seven years ago, Brian Strumke established Stillwater Artisanal as an “art project” interested in deconstructing traditional European styles with American hops, new world techniques and often unlikely ingredients. Since then, one of the distributor’s most popular creations remains one of its earliest: Cellar Door. A riff on the Belgian witbier, this hazy wheat ale is hopped with herbal Sterling and citrusy Citra varietals then finished with a touch of white sage. The result is a refreshing, refined beer equally suited for pool parties and fine-dining restaurants. The 2017 twist? Strumke has given the classic recipe a “remastering” treatment in the form of a dried body and a new dry-hop—also canning the beer for the very first time, courtesy of a new design by artist Mike Van Hall.
Don’t bother looking for a Quinannan Falls on a map. As the story goes, the name—and an imaginary, pine-speckled vista to match—came to Bell’s Brewery founder Larry Bell in a dream one night. This relatively new quasi-style, referred to as an Indian Pale Lager, marries the extended fermentation and yeast of a lager with an IPA’s dry-hopping schedule. The resulting product is a clean, crisp beer with a big, floral aroma. With Quinannan Falls, Bell’s utilizes Simcoe, an American hop prized for its piney attributes—cracking a can of this straw yellow IPL evokes the smell of camping out in the Michigan forest… or wherever the mythical Quinannan Falls may be.
Omnipollo and Evil Twin are two of the buzziest names in the craft beer industry. Although the former is headquartered in Stockholm and the latter in New York, neither one of the operations owns an actual brewery space. They’re untethered “gypsy brewers,” which means their recipes are executed and packaged at other breweries around the world. To wit, their latest (and fifth!) collaboration, Pink Lemonade IPA, comes courtesy of a Massachusetts brewery. A slightly sweet and slightly sour beer with a blast of citrusy hop aromatics, it’s a sequel of sorts to this year’s Old Fashioned Lemonade. Like the original, Pink Lemonade IPA is brewed with lemon juice, but its tartness is cut by the addition of raspberries. Think of it more as a hoppy—and, at 7%, a sturdily alcoholic—shandy.
As Walter B. Barrows and E.A. Schwarz note in their 1895 ornithological tome The Common Crow of the United States, corvus brachyrhynchos—or the American crow—sure seems to like blackberries, particularly in the summer months. But, really, who doesn’t? Just ask Allagash Brewing Company. This summer, the brewery releases its newest batch of Uncommon Crow, a 7.1% dark wild ale aged on blackberries. Fermented solely with a slow-moving strain of Brettanomyces yeast, the beer spends six months in stainless steel before the fruit is even added. Once in the tank, the blackberries’ familiar flavors swirl and ferment with the subtle roasty, cherry characteristics of the beer’s complex malt bill for another five months. It’s a lengthy process, but uncork a 375 mL bottle and you’ll find a rich, slightly tart liquid that’s worth the wait.
One of the biggest trends in IPAs over the past few years has been the ascendance of the revolving-hop series. The concept is simple: A brewery releases a sequence of IPAs under the same name and, while the malt bill generally remains the same from beer to beer, the hops change each time. The most prominent example of such a series is Firestone Walker’s Luponic Distortion. The collection of light-bodied, moderately boozy IPAs has been wildly successful and, to its credit, quite adventurous. Need proof? Look no further than Revolution No. 006, which spotlights two old school Pacific Northwest hops—Chinook and Crystal—that were cultivated in the up-and-coming growing region of Michigan. In other words, Firestone Walker brewed a West Coast IPA with hops from the Great Lakes state. That’s a first. But it’s about more than novelty: Revolution No. 006 also proves that Michigan’s unique terroir can turn two traditionally piney varietals into something bright and citrusy. It’s an agricultural lesson in a 12oz aluminum container.