We Asked 11 Brewers: What Classic Craft Beer Are You Drinking Right Now?
With the majority of the world under varying degrees of lockdown as governments attempt to combat the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus and subsequent Covid-19 pandemic, many beer drinkers are seeking comfort, relaxation, and familiarity in their beer choices.
Whether it takes the form of drinking your cellar, raiding the stash of bottles squirreled away for a rainy day, or returning to old, familiar classics, brewers and beer consumers alike are looking for the liquid form of pulling on your favorite sweatpants, but in a pint glass, bottle, or can.
From the OG Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, to beloved Belgian stalwart Orval, here’s what 11 brewers around the world are reaching for during this scary time.
“I’ve been getting down with some Ska Brewing True Blonde Ale. Crisp and delicious, this low-ABV classic American blonde is perfect for an all-day drinking session, especially with the weather in Denver warming up. It has also been helping in quarantine to help feel connected to some of my favorite homies. Ska has been one of my favorite breweries for the last 13 years and the people there are some of the nicest and most modest in the industry. Cracking this beer brings me back to anniversary parties of years past, skanking in the parking lot to some legendary ska bands, celebrating with friends that are more like family. I can’t wait for the day when I can make the trek back down to Durango to dance, hug, and crack a cold one with all of the rude boys and girls of the ska fam.” — Bess Dougherty, Head Brewer, Grateful Gnome Sandwich Shoppe and Brewery, Denver
“The classic craft beer I’m currently drinking is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The quality, consistency, and deliciousness is undeniable. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited both of their beautiful, awe-inspiring campuses over the past few years and to say the experiences are life-changing for a small brewer is an understatement. Each sip takes me back and renews my gratitude to be a part of this industry and community.” — Joel Kodner, Head Brewer, West Palm Brewery, West Palm Beach, Fla.
“These days, I find myself drawn by session beers in general. Currently I am drinking Verdant Brewing Co.’s Lightbulb. I think this beer is one of the true bridge builders between modern and postmodern beer. It embodies many of the fruity elements that the NEIPAs have come to symbolize but with a remarkably low ABV for the style, and body enough to keep you interested.” — Søren Parker Wagner, Founder, Dry & Bitter Brewing Company, Copenhagen, Denmark
“Recently I have been getting reacquainted with Adnams, and in particular, Broadside. It’s autumn down here, and lockdown means time to cook up hearty dishes that scream out for this fruity malty masterpiece. I’m not sure I get the whiff of the salty sea air that Roger Protz once romantically tasted in the Adnams beers, but it does taste like Christmas cake, and spiked prunes. Delicious.” — Kieran Haslett-Moore, Head Brewer, North End Brewery, Waikanae, New Zealand
“During quarantine, I’ve mainly been supporting local breweries but I recently bought four bottles of Orval, and it reminded me why it’s always on lists like these. It’s appropriate for any mood or occasion. I had one right out of the bottle while grilling in my backyard and I served it in flutes on my wedding anniversary because I didn’t have any Champagne handy. It was perfect both times. Like a Pixar movie, Orval can be enjoyed on multiple levels. On the surface, it’s a simple, balanced beer that you don’t have to think about to enjoy. But, if you do feel like thinking about it, there’s so much to appreciate. It’s one of the few beers to truly showcase each ingredient — water, malt, hops, yeast. They are all there in perfect balance, but somehow each stands out on their own. It’s all elevated by a prickly carbonation from the secondary fermentation in the bottle, which also gives it a nearly unlimited shelf life. A perfect beer for any occasion that lasts forever — what else could you ask for in a quarantine beer?” — Michael Graham, Co-Founder, Austin Beer Works, Austin, Texas
“The lockdown situation has made us anxious to linger in the supermarkets perusing the craft beers on offer (usually Scottish or behemoth, no in-between) and with no local speciality shops, we’ve been enjoying ordering from similar-size breweries. So rather than relying on classics we’re delving head first into trying completely new things. The communal hashtag #CraftBeerHour has introduced us to so many small breweries all over the place and we’ve been loving having weekly care packages arriving. Most recently, Simon was sent a case of Belgian goodies from his family including his all-time fave Orval and my all-time fave Tripel Karmeliet, which are undeniable classics… but I’ve been getting stuck into everything I can get my hands on, from The Wild Beer Co. and Brass Castle. Next on the wish list is The Kernel. It’s a pain living hours away from any real beer scene, but we’re hoping things are changing and everyone is really pulling together at the moment and which we’ll truly applaud. Slàinte!” — Freja MacDougall, Co-founder, Ben Nevis Brewery, Glenfinnan, Scotland
“Jaipur is one of my favorite beers. It’s always been a safe port in a storm and one of the beers that really changed the game for me. Back in my Marble Brewery days, myself and fellow brewer Dom Driscoll spent quite a lot of time hanging out with Kelly Ryan, who was head brewer at Thornbridge at the time, and I remember them trialing early keg batches when everything around us was in cask, it felt like a giant step for both the beer and the U.K. scene… But the cask will always be my love. The body, honey notes, bitterness, and citrus notes all present in exact amounts for perfect balance to occur. There are a lot of happy memories in that beer and I’m sure there will be many more.” — Colin Stronge, Head Brewer, SALT Beer Factory, Saltaire, U.K.
“In the midst of all the new breweries and beers hitting the market these days, looking back at classic craft brews is not a bad idea. The first De Dolle Brouwers (DDB) beer I had was the revered Stille Nacht (around 2005). However, my favorites of theirs are probably Arabier and Oerbier. But, it is springtime, so I’ll go for the Arabier today. Arabier pours a beautiful pale orange with a frothing, white foam. The nose is estery, herbal, citrusy, floral, and messy in that beautiful DDB way. Tripel meets a strong Belgian pale, you could say. Well attenuated (but certainly not anorectic) and perfectly carbonated (high!). I love the integration of light fruity notes, herbal/grapefruit hoppy goodness, and a firm, rounded bitterness that coats my entire mouth. This beer represents what is so great about Belgian brewing: Brewers do whatever they want (I am sure there is a Flemish word for “f*ck rigid beer style guidelines”). I was lucky enough to visit DDB for the first time earlier this year, fell in love with the 100-plus-year-old brewhouse, and can’t wait to go back. Kris and Els are running a magical and uniquely personal place. But please don’t tell anyone — we want to keep it that way!” — Rune Lindgreen, Beer Developer & Ambassador, People Like Us, Copenhagen, Denmark
“One of my favorite breweries is Pizza Port. I grew up down in Orange County [Calif.] and was introduced to them when I came down to San Diego for a marathon in 1999. I loved the pizza and brewery vibe in Solana Beach and have been a fan ever since. In more recent years, I have been fortunate to pour beers at the same festivals, connect with their brewers and sales staff (hi, Jill!) and visit their San Clemente spot a few times a year while visiting friends and meeting with our sales team and distributors down there. My go-to Pizza Port beer is Swami’s IPA. It’s a classic West Coast IPA that instantly brings me back to beach town vibes. Swami’s is vacation mode in glass. I was fortunate enough to secure a sixtel for my home kegerator just as we were entering this new normal of sheltering in place. Suffice to say it did not last long, and I’m once again longing for my next pint of Swami’s IPA!” — Phil Cutti, Co-founder & Brewer, Headlands Brewing Co., San Francisco
“Right now I’ve got a triple-decocted Czech Pils from Notch in my glass and it’s absolutely gorgeous. When I’m brewing something similar, I try to seek out fresh (local) versions of the style. I love trying what my peers are putting out and learning from it, especially when it’s clean, crisp, and delightfully nuanced like this Pils!” — Gordon Whelpley, Head Brewer, Twelve Percent Beer Project, North Haven, Conn.
“To be honest, I have been drinking a lot of lagers that fall out of the craft category, or some by craft breweries as they try to introduce more of the style into their portfolios, but as one-offs do not fit into the classic category, either. However, if we were to discuss craft classics, there is one I always have in my cellar, and that is Orval. Orval is like the Kinder Egg of beers, because every bottle you open is a surprise. For each pour it feels like a different and exciting experience, and I can never figure out the precise age in which I prefer it, though I can definitely appreciate it fresh with the DH being present as well as an older, more Brett-forward version. And regardless, it is always delicious and will always warm my heart, quench my thirst, and bring a big smile to my face. When in doubt, Orval <3.” — Mariana Schneider, Brewer, Amager Bryghus, Copenhagen, Denmark
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