Brew Chronicles: Lighten Up, Man

beerby Blanton Webb

There’s a definite trend in North Texas beer this season. Brewers are making a point to address the need for light, clean styles largely neglected in the craft world due to their domination by national macro-brews. What’s more interesting from my side of the bar though is the growing demand for more sessionable craft brewed beers, not only by existing craft beer aficionados, but by long time macro-beer drinkers interested in DFW’s local brewing explosion.

It’s no surprise, Texas’ climate, cuisine, and culture lend themselves to being complimented by something light and refreshing. At the beginning of our new wave of craft brewing, those of us who already had a taste for craft ales gravitated toward the huge flavors popular in other regions that we’d been exposed to in the past. Bitter West Coast inspired IPA’s, boozy Belgians, and malty stouts immediately became (and for many remain) some of the most sought after releases from the emerging brew houses. As a result, craft beer of any origin has become associated with a certain lack of accessibility to those who are used to the popular national brands.  

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In addition to that, I’ve recently seen an increasing number of advertisements where the big brewers go so far as to tout the specific superiority of easy drinking macro-brewed beer over craft. These ads unfailingly represent the beers themselves with swirling snifters of thick, dark imperials and imply that craft beer consists of only the boldest, strangest possible flavor profiles. The fact is flavors found in micro-brewed beer run the gamut from those sticky, abyss-black stouts to the lighter-than-light tartness of the increasingly popular sour styles.

Truth be told, the majority of these beers consumed on a daily basis fall well between the two, among the smooth ambers and goldens or dry, clean pale ales. Most local operations have had lighter styles in their stables for some time now, but many have previously been overshadowed by the popularity of the heavier, more complex specialty styles they offer.

Rahr’s Blonde has been a long time staple around town, but it has always been easier to find their signature black lager, Ugly Pug. Franconia’s Koelsch, Deep Ellum’s Dallas Blonde, Lakewood Lager, and Revolver’s High Brass were among some of the first releases from their respective breweries, though in many bars their taps pour a more robust selection from their lineup. Recently, some exceptional light lagers have hit the scene that showcase the delicate balance of flavor craft brewing can achieve in the category big brewing hangs its hat on.

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Cedar Creek’s newest release is Patio Pounder, a Dortmunder Lager which has a light, but satisfyingly bready body and a pleasantly dry finish.  I really enjoy it, and would love to see it hit shelves in pint cans for my fridge’s sake this summer. In addition, Audacity brewing’s flagship Sunset is a Vienna Lager that despite being atypically light in color, retains a subtle malt sweetness that finishes extremely smooth. Add to these the various new summer wheats and session IPAs that have been released in the last few months and you’ll find there’s huge variety of unique flavors that are easy to love this summer.

Craft beer is the original beer. Light, clean lagers were being brewed long before refrigeration ever existed. Golden and blonde ales before that. More often than not, when I meet someone at the bar that says outright, “I don’t really drink this stuff,” the sentence ends with, “I don’t like dark beer.” Many people are taken aback when I slide them a Golden Opportunity, or Modano’s 561 and find that it has the light body and clean finish they enjoy, with the depth of flavor (and strength) of a craft ale.

It’s always a highlight of my day when someone sits down at the bar disappointed that I don’t have their go-to national brand, and leaves with a growler full of local craft brew, excited about a new favorite to share with friends. In the end, I feel like the tide is shifting toward a craft beer market where there’s something for everyone, whether you call beer a hobby, or just a cold drink.

Blanton Webb suggests you stop macro-managing your beer selection and stop by for a visit at LUCK in Trinity Groves where he is keeping a seat waiting for you tonight.

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