How West Coast Beers Deliver in Spring and Summer

Great Notion Brewing | Photo Credit: Brian Murphy

By Brian Murphy, Foodable Industry Expert

The growth of craft beer is old news, yet it continues to unfold and grow. Acquisitions from “big beer” are a testament to the fact that beer drinkers are demanding a different brew. They are demanding a local brew, and while parts of the West Coast don’t see much in the way of seasons, guests are either open to the education or are already looking for something different mid-spring and into summer.

Hazy West Coast IPA

Think “location," not “style.” Chances are, you already have at least one super-hoppy IPA on the tap line, and guests embrace it, but they are looking for something new. The West Coast is bulging with various styles of IPAs, and is now adopting some practices from New England styles, offering hazy IPAs. Breweries like Great Notion Brewing in Portland, Ore., are offering IPAs that offer a fruit-forward beer that is approachable for someone new to IPAs but with enough bitterness on the finish to let your guests know they are drinking an IPA.

Beers like Great Notion’s Ripe IPA deviate from the usual use of American yeast strains that usually gobble up the sugar, leaving beers largely on the bitter side. Finding a hazy IPA to add to the tap line provides a new experience to many of your guests. Invest in some taster glassware for the guests who scrunch up their nose at the suggestion of an IPA, and let them discover something new. Educating guests and building a relationship will help your sales — whether the guest orders the hazy IPA or not.

The look of hazy IPAs is attractive, and there is something intriguing to guests who are used to wheat beers being cloudy. The melon and citrus aromas and flavors that are prevalent in a hazy IPA will hook them. Talk to a rep about finding a local brewery that offers a half keg or a five-gallon keg to try it out. Discuss the quality, as some breweries are jumping on the bandwagon and brewing with starches to purposely make their IPAs hazy, while some are backing off on quality and filtration because it’s a desired result right now. Do your homework, and offer your guests quality.

Great Notion Brewing | Photo Credit: Brian Murphy

Sour Session

Brews begging for springtime and the easy days of summer include some of the most flavorful and complex. All that without the bitterness and high octane, and you have beers that can even please guests who swore they couldn’t stand beer. Sour beers continue to rise in popularity, as oenophiles and non-beer drinkers jump on board. Still, there is plenty of room to educate. Know that strategy will need to play a significant role because sours have a vast range in pricing. Guests could experience some sticker shock.

The flavors coaxed out of sours vary widely, as well. A Berliner Weisse will offer guests a cloudy sour with ABV levels hovering around 3 percent. Easy drinking for the warmer months. These brews are often flavored with a lot of fruit, making them a beautiful sight as they leave the bar. Mikkeller Brewing in San Diego experimented with a variety of Berliner Weiss brews that contained everything from blueberries to cucumbers. These beers are interesting, offer a pleasant, champagne-like carbonation, and the sour associated with summer beverages like lemonade.

Sours range in styles like wild ales, where brewers roll the dice and allow wild yeast to enter batches, to farmhouse saisons that mimic Belgian-style ales. These beers complement food in a big way as they are delicate, yet flavors can be quite complex. The tartness can provide relief from a rich dish and complement a lighter one. While not all brewers treat farmhouse ales in the traditional sense as far as ABV goes, breweries like Upright Brewing in Portland, Ore., keep some of theirs in the “session” — perfect for brunch or summer days.

Keep guests coming back for more with a variety of session brews. Show non-beer drinkers the light with some offerings that don’t necessarily taste like “beer.” Find some fruit-forward beers from a brewery near you and don’t be afraid to pour guests a sample. A special keg sitting for weeks with no action is taking up precious real estate on your tap line, so train the staff to sell it, and bring your guests some of the exciting developments in the evolution of West Coast Beers.