Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
New Bohemia’s craft lagers include a Santa Cruz take on pilsner.

New Bohemia Brewing Co. opened in Santa Cruz in 2015, and co-founder and brewmaster Dan Satterthwaite’s education (Siebel Institute) and experience (brewing at Trumer Brewery and Gordon Biersch after honing his skills at a small family-owned brewery in Germany) led him down the path of brewing craft lagers years before those styles gained the popularity they enjoy today.

In addition to traditional German styles, New Bohemia produces a wide variety of creative takes on IPA and dark beers, often integrating unique ingredients. Japanese white peach hazy session IPA, pineapple hefeweizen and peanut butter and jelly imperial porter are a few recent examples.

The addition of a kitchen that includes tasty beer-friendly fare such as sausages, pretzels and barbecue – including vegan options – a few years ago has made it easier for New Bohemia to remain open through many of the pandemic public health orders, but like all other breweries, it still needs customer support to survive right now. Following are a few brews that will make a drive down to Santa Cruz worth your while.

HelleSexy

Adding chocolate to dark beers lends an additional richness and complexity but can sometimes be lost amid the other sweet, roasty characteristics of stouts and porters. To really showcase chocolate flavors in beer, New Bohemia collaborated with Bay Area beer maven Pete Slosberg (of Pete’s Wicked Ale fame) on HelleSexy, an easy-drinking (4.7% alcohol by volume, 27 International Bitterness Units) German-style Helles lager that incorporates roasted TCHO Ghanaian cocoa beans along with the traditional ingredients of Pilsner malt and Mandarina hops.

Bright golden in color with a subtle reddish tinge and a low white head, HelleSexy highlights cocoa on the aroma, with notes of bright cherry and sweet nuttiness, reminiscent of a Cadbury Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut candy bar. While the soft sweetness of pilsner malt is more dominant on the palate, the cocoa contributes some additional nutty complexity, and the smooth malty finish is brought into balance with just the right amount of hop bitterness.

Pilsner Soquel

Pilsner Soquel pours a bright, clear pale straw color with a moderate fluffy white head, and the beer’s aroma highlights crisp, fresh, herbal noble hops with a light background of crackery pilsner malt. On the palate, bright, spicy hop bitterness (45 IBU) lasts from the initial impression all the way through the crisp, dry finish, with subtle hints of pilsner malt sweetness midpalate. With a light body and spritzy carbonation, the hop character shines, making this 5.4% ABV pilsner refreshing and crushable.

Monkey Business

Monkey Business Dunkelweizen is a cloudy amber beer with golden highlights and a creamy eggshell-colored head. With a moderately sweet aroma of banana yeast esters and toasted, caramelized malt, it tastes drier than it smells. However, the balance of banana and maltiness remains on the palate, creating a distinctive banana bread character. Weighing in at 5.4% ABV, it has light carbonation, a creamy texture and a wheaty, fluffy body. Delicate hints of hop bitterness (18 IBU) contribute to the complex, semi-dry, malty finish.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness Hazy Double IPA is a murky pale gold color in the glass, with a low white head. Hop aromas of juicy sweet orange, pineapple and ripe mango from massive late hop additions give way to a much danker hop flavor in this medium-bodied brew with moderate carbonation. With a touch of herbal bitterness up front (16 IBU), tangy green mango hop flavors persist into a pungent, diesely finish with a hint of sweetness and a bit of an alcohol burn from the 8.7% ABV.

Cherry Bomb!

Thick and black with ruby highlights and a low tan head that dissipates quickly, Cherry Bomb! Imperial Stout with honey offers an aroma of dark coffee-like roast with a touch of cherry tartness. On the palate, tangy cherry notes and dark roasted malts combine to create an earthy, wood-aged flavor profile. Despite the 37 IBU, hops take a back seat, and any honey character is overwhelmed by the chocolate malt and the fruit in this 8.2% ABV brew. Medium bodied, with medium-low carbonation, the beer’s viscous, mouth-coating finish continues to showcase roast and tart fruitiness.

Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.