When I was a kid my uncle had a sign hanging in his garage (above the immaculate tool bench, near the refrigerator). It read "Beer, Not Just for Breakfast Anymore." You know the one, made to look like a street sign only with the word beer printed in a fancy script. This was my first taste of a kind of irony that is everywhere today. My first taste of beer, too, came from his Miller Lite can. You can imagine the contortions on my adolescent face as I tried to reconcile my memory of the morning's Corn Pops with the bitter sting of this afternoon brew. My mouth collapsed. My stomach lurched. I figured beer and me would never get along.
But then over the years I watched my uncle relish his Sunday traditions. Mow the lawn, crack a can, sit for a spell with the both of them. Luckily, by the time I came of age beer had begun to change. Radically. And were my uncle alive today I'd like to think he'd be drinking something craft. Because while beer went through sort of an awkward growth spurt over the last decade or so, that lanky frame is beginning to fill out. There's a reason "lite" beer grew so popular: people who like beer generally like it enough to have another. Enter the trend back toward low-alc brews. And enter the so-called session beer.
Imbibe magazine - $4.95
Joshua Bernstein has a terrific article in the current issue of Imbibe magazine that breaks down the history of the American IPA, from its initial surge to its latest trends.
As America's craft-beer movement enters its fourth decade, the industry and its consumers have matured. While the thrill to sip imperial IPAs remains, there's a growing desire for hop flavor and aroma in a lower-alcohol format.
The proof is in the pint. At Founders, All-Day IPA [at 4.7% ABV and packaged in cans] has sped past Centennial IPA [7.2% ABV] to become the brewery's best-selling beer, and the list of brewers rolling out session IPAs could fill up a hard drive.
Terrapin Beer Co. RecreationAle Session IPA - $17
Speaking of long lists of beers. You'd have to be a teetotaler not to have noticed the glut of beers flowing into Nashville at the moment. In response, we've recently more than doubled our beer selection, which now includes both "low-" and "high-gravity" brews. The expansion is especially focused on the low. And with session beers grabbing so much of the attention these days, we think the July 1 change came not a minute too soon. A couple choice additions: Terrapin's RecreationAle, Caldera's Lawn Mower Lager, Good People Pale and (as soon as it comes in) Founders' All-Day IPA. Add to that the growing acceptance of beer as a foodstuff, something to be paired with lunch and dinner, much like wine. . . As you know, that's kind of our thing.
The Brewmaster's Table by Garrett Oliver - $19.99
If you're looking to get started learning the basics of beer flavors and how they combine with food, look no further than Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table. It's a simple compendium that will have you dining in style from day one. After all, things are changing, people's expectations are shifting, beer is growing up. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe my uncle's sign wasn't quite as ironic as I once thought. Maybe I could learn a thing or two.
In memory of Daniel E. Peer.