One new one that I know just arrived is Tallgrass Brewing out of Kansas. They’ve only been around since 2007 so they don’t have quite the name recognition as someone like Oskar Blues, but like Dale and the gang at Oskar, the Tallgrass guys are packaging their beer exclusively in cans. I’ve already touted the benefits of cans in this column, but my first-hand experience indicates that not all retailers and consumers are embracing cans as a legitimate way to package craft beer, which is unfortunate.
Craft brewers spent many years trying to tout their exclusive use of bottles as a point of distinction between their products and the pale lagers made by Budweiser, Miller and Coors. Now the craft brewers who have decided to use cans for all the benefits they offer are paying a price in the form of slow adoption among some quarters in the craft community. Let me reiterate here that there is nothing inherently inferior about beer that comes in a can instead of a bottle (thus Birmingham’s own Good People’s decision to go the can route). So drink up and enjoy cans, especially in all the places where glass is forbidden.
Like dozens of others before them, the Tallgrass guys have jumped right into the world of aluminum and are canning everything they brew. First to arrive in Alabama are Oasis, IPA, Tallgrass Ale, Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat and Buffalo Sweat.
For all intents and purposes, both IPA and Oasis should be considered India pale ales. Obviously, any beer called “IPA” by the brewer is an IPA. And although Tallgrass calls Oasis a “double ESB,” there’s no such thing. Beer Advocate oddly puts it in the double IPA category, and that’s definitely not right. It’s somewhat unclassifiable, but you’d do best to approach it as another take on an IPA. Expect it to be a tad darker and maltier than some IPAs, but with a huge hop punch.
Tallgrass Ale, thankfully, is a promising new session beer for Birmingham. It’s an easy drinking brown ale with just 4.4 percent ABV, so you can sip on a few. It doesn’t have the bold roasty and hoppy flavors of many American browns, but that’s by design. The more intense the flavor, the less sessionable a beer is. This one’s lightly malty with some bready sweetness. As for the Halcyon, frankly, I’m not one to get excited about the American pale wheat category, but they are pretty popular with some folks and they have their place.
They are meant to be light and refreshing, a sort of beery equivalent to lemonade. Great for summer.
And finally, Buffalo Sweat is now one of a tiny handful of milk stouts you’ll find in Birmingham. As I have previously explained in Hopped Up, milk stouts aren’t brewed with milk, but they have lactose (milk sugar) added to make them sweeter and creamier than most other stouts. I’m not aware of any other milk stout in the country that’s available in cans. There certainly isn’t another one in Alabama. These are just now starting to pop up in bars and retailers, so be on the lookout.
Changing gears, I would like to mention here that the home brewing legalization bill has failed this year. I don’t expect any more action on this issue until 2012. And it’s infuriating to hear that the reason it failed was fear-mongering and misinformation among legislators, even ones that should have known better. Apparently paranoid ideas surfaced among some legislators that legalizing home brewing would lead to shady characters making “moonshine” beer in the ghetto and selling it to kids. I don’t have room here to explain all the reasons why these fears are idiotic, but it should suffice to say that home brewing is legal in 48 other states and they don’t have any such problems. I guess it would have been too much work for our state legislators to do a little research on whether their dystopian vision of lives being destroyed by illicit, poorly-made home brew existed in any of the 96 percent of U.S. states where home brewing is not a crime.
Let that be a lesson to you that you need to communicate with your elected representatives in the legislature to educate them on these issues. They are clueless. You now have the rest of the year to hammer home the message before the next session begins.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com