You know how it’s suggested in chaos theory how a butterfly flaps its wings on one side of the globe and you get a monsoon on the other because of it? I came across a little bit of beer history recently that I found interesting. Cause and effect. In this instance, World War II changed beer as we know it.
While reading up on the demise of the Stroh’s Brewing empire, the author mentioned how, due to war-time grain shortages, brewers were forced to make their beer with less than their usual amount of ingredients. This led to Americans becoming used to weaker beer. Once we were victorious and no longer had to send our rations “over, over there,” breweries in the country maintained a watered-down version of their traditional Czech- and German-styled lager and pilsner as this was now what the population preferred.
The country was booming. Industry and prosperity were everything. Rather than risk marginalizing their customers, brewers maintained the status quo instead of going back to original recipes and reminding beer drinkers of what they had been missing. The manifest destiny of beer in America was set for the next 40-or-so years. Eventually, we really bottomed out. One year after I was born, “Light” beer was unleashed upon the masses.
Thankfully, a couple of guys out in California decided that they’d had enough and started making old, almost-forgotten recipes at home. This led to them sensing a niche market and, eventually, launching the craft brewing industry. Problem was the damage had been done. Keep it in mind that it took Anchor and Sierra Nevada from 1979 until the mid- to late-90s to finally see craft brewing become a thing!
Now that craft beer has firmly planted itself upon the palates of 11% of the market share and climbing, a sort of reversal has occurred. Those who claim themselves “beer snobs” fall all over each other scrambling for the last barrel-aged double-whatever with citrus rind peeled by the Olympic gods. “Common-place” beer – read: lager/pilsner – just doesn’t cut it anymore. Call it the child rebelling against the boring and stodgy ways of the parents.
To quote Malcolm X, “You can’t hate the root without hating the fruit.” More credence should be given to the lager family. Unless you’re going macro, the cold-fermenting beer being produced by reputable breweries follows close to the recipes of yesteryear. Case in point is Sierra Nevada’s Nooner Pils. This German-style beer is clear straw-yellow with a medium head that recedes to a bubbly cap. A perfectly perfumy nose of wet grain, fresh grass and peppery hops greets your senses first. The crisp body delivers refined flavors of biscuit, hay, pine and a hint of honey in the finish.
Tastes exactly as a “beer” should. A modern classic and a smile-inducing reminder that everything old is new again.