While IPAs, especially hazy New England-style brews, continue to dominate tap lists, California breweries are also seeking inspiration from various clean (and clear), light, refreshing beer styles from around the globe.
California craft beer lovers can travel the world from the comfort of their home bars, thanks to the four can releases highlighted below, all of which are readily available from local shops.
From Australia to Japan, the Czech Republic and Mexico, international beer styles provided inspiration for these brews. Each has a unique character highlighting its local agricultural components: The Australian sparkling ale showcases locally grown hop varieties, the Japanese lager is extra light and crisp from the rice that supplements the barley malt, the Czech beer features traditional pilsner malt and Noble hops, and the Mexican lager includes a mild sweetness from flaked corn in the malt bill.
Boom Crash Hopera
Boom Crash Hopera is a collaboration between Long Beach’s Beachwood Brewing and San Diego’s Alesmith Brewing Co. An imperial Australian sparkling ale, this beer includes roughly twice the alcohol and twice the IBUs of Coopers Sparkling Ale, the classic Australian sparkling brew. Brewed with “a bonzer of Summer, Galaxy, & Vic’s Secret hop varietals,” according to the brewers, the beer’s tropical hop aromas of gooseberry, papaya and sweet pineapple leapt out of the glass. Pouring a lightly hazy orange gold with a thick white head, the flavor was reminiscent of an English barleywine, with malty notes of bread crust and honey blended with pear yeast esters and a moderate hop bitterness. Interestingly, the prominent tropical hop character from the aroma was very subdued on the palate. With distinct alcohol heat, this medium-bodied brew with bright carbonation featured a balanced finish that integrated malt sweetness and hop bitterness.
Berryesa Brewing Free Kittens Japanese Rice Lager from Winters showcased an aroma of clean crisp malt with a touch of herbal spiciness from Vanguard hops. The beer was crystal clear, with a very pale straw color and a tall, fluffy white head of foam. The flavor highlighted clean lager character with light sweet floral notes. The beer itself was quite dry and crisp – the suggestion of sweetness did not come from residual malt sugars, but likely from the jasmine rice that made up 25% of the grist (which also contributed to a very light color and body). With a gentle bitterness to provide balance, the brew was light in body and briskly carbonated, and it provided a crisp, dry, bracing, refreshing finish.
Richmond’s East Brother Beer Co. won a silver medal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival for its Bo Pils Bohemian pilsner, a style originating in the region that is currently part of the Czech Republic. Pale straw in color with a substantial moussy eggshell-colored head, the aroma highlighted grainy pilsner malt and grassy, herbal hops, with just a hint of lemon pith. The flavor balance favored a bitter spicy noble hop bite, but clean pilsner malt character was also present and enjoyable. Medium-light in body and brightly carbonated, the beer finished dry and crisp with a pleasant, lingering bitterness.
El Sully Mexican Style Lager from San Leandro’s 21st Amendment Brewery poured a clear pale straw color with a dense white head, and the aroma combined mild sweetness from the flaked maize addition to the mash with light perfumy floral hop aroma from the American Golding hops. The flavor profile was similar – light graininess that also left an impression of corny sweetness paired with mild bitterness and a gentle floral hop flavor. With a medium light body, crisp carbonation and a full, balanced, well-rounded finish, this brew would be a great companion to warm weather, spicy food, or a combination of the two.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.