What's the Interest in European-Style Craft Beers?
I understand that there may be an initiative to brew traditional beers in the styles of the various Lambic and other historic beers in the area. I'm a curious observer in the marketplace, and am wondering if that sort of thing exists in the area, and also what sort of interest that might engender.
Strong interesting beer with neat labels which might possibly start a new local religion.....
Am trying my best to understand your inquiry but it's not entirely clear to me. In true CH fashion I will still try to respond ;-)
Boston is pretty craft beer savvy in 2011. There are a number of breweries both tiny (nanobreweries) and larger production brewers producing a pretty broad style range of beers statewide, including Belgian styles and lager beers. A not yet up and running nanobrewery is pursuing the spontaneous fermentation route similar to lambics where natural yeast from the air is used versus cultured brewers yeast. More info can be found on beeradvocate.com regional forum or in the free beer rags available at local liquor stores and bars (Ale Street News and Yankee Brew News).
Pretty Things and Clown Shoes are 2 local brewers who appear to be recent success stories. I think knowledgable beer consumers look past the neat labels/taphandles (and the ugly ones) and focus on what is inside the bottle.
Snarf, a lot of peple drink a lot of different beers. I'd like to add Rapscallion to the list. Omegang in Coperstown makes some of the best Belgian style beer outside Belgium. At a beer dinner the Belgian consulate remarked the only thing not Belgian was the water.
Some homebrewer name Jin Koch decided to take a leap a couple decades ago and changed the beer industry in the US, making all these beers possible.
I'll say what I always say in these situations: While I love that we have so many American made craft breweries doing really unique beers, making Belgian style beers, and making it possible to drink both local and interesting, I really wish just one new brewery would open up and focus on English style lower ABV beers: milds, small beers, bitters, dark milds, and other types of session beers. It's really difficult to find British (either domestic or actual British) brews in stores (for good reason, freshness is paramount in a low ABV beer). Of course, it's great to have another local brewery doing a fantastic IPA or Belgian style Double/Triple etc. but the market is saturated and I'm surprised no one has tried to tackle this market besides breweries doing occasional one-off's (Harpoon session beer, Victory's bitter).
Would anyone else be interested in this?
I didn't like the Notch beers that much, but I'm very keen on Mayflower's Golden Ale (I think it's called that) and especially the BBC Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale, both of which are similar to the slightly hoppy, slightly sweet pale ales popular in the south of England. Another very good local beer in a northern English style is Pretty Things's St. Botolph's Town which is inspired by Theakston's Old Peculier. I haven't paid much attention to the ABVs of these, though I know SBT is just under 6%.
A problem in handling the "session" idea is how bars actually serve the beer. I've often been frustrated by the arbitrary choice of small glassware for easily downable beers in certain Boston bars. The worst offender in my recent experience has been Russell House Tavern, especially after they served me one of the Notch Sessions in a 12oz glass. Come on.
The problem is presumably that Notch is seen as a craft brewer making "specialty" beer and thus it's possible to lump it in with everything else served in small quantities.
I've often felt cask ales in the U.S. differ from British real ales in that they tend to have a heavier mouth feel -- sometimes almost syrupy by comparison -- and they are often murkier in appearance. Whether that's poor handling of the barrel, or a lack of clarification/fining, I don't know. It would be nice to find cask ales that were closer to the British ones, at least in mouth feel. On draft, the BBC Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale achieves this, though it's not cask. I love it.
Notch did a mild on cask, which I didn't get to try:
For me it all comes down to quality (as well as price) - which is usually the result of experience when it comes to craft brewers - but still no guarantee - so it will be interesting to see how all these new proposed startups will fare.
I think Pretty Things Jack D'Or is one of the better quality Belgian styles being made in the US - Dann Paquette really understands the drinkable nature of these beers and their yeast profiles. Many belgian styles made by other brewers in the US end up too sweet and cloying or are one dimensionally phenolic. And Jack D'Or isn't priced so expensively that the average craft beer buyer can't indulge on a somewhat regular basis.
Also of interest to me is euro style lagers - I've heard good reports from the new start up in Framingham - Jack's Abby, but haven't experienced them for myself yet. I would love to see more consistently reliable, fresh lagers at a competitive price made in New England.
As far as spontaneous fermented beers, Allagash is about to release their coolship series beers that were naturally innoculated with local microflora - probably out of my price range though.
You seem to imply that "European-Style" and "Belgian-style" are synonymous--what exactly is you intent?
Many of the relevant brewers have been mentioned already. Cambridge Brewing Company also brews a wide range of Belgian-style beers, including low abv saisons, dubbels, tripels, and sour/funky/aged/blended beers. All are currently pub-only though (bottling is starting this year), so no neat labels yet.
If you include the rest of Europe, you can also include the Germanic lagers from Haverhill Brewing. Lager brewing tends to be more expensive than ale brewing due to longer fermentation times, however, so most small brewers prefer to brew ales. Jack's Abby is a welcome change from this trend.
Cambridge Brewing Company
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02139