2009, the Year in Beer: Brian Yaeger Makes Makes Sense of Last Year's Suds
In 2009, craft beers and ales were big news in San Francisco and beyond, with upscale restaurants turning to cicerones (beer sommeliers) to design menus. Brian Yaeger, the San Francisco author of Red, White, and Brew, put on beer goggles for SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi to examine the year that was: barrel aging, the local ingredients trend, even sour beers. ―J. Birdsall
Barrel fever: According to Yaeger, barrel-aging of beers ballooned in 2009 and looks poised to give drinkers exciting new ways to slip into inebriation in the coming year. While creative brewers may have aged their beers in bourbon barrels in the past, Yaeger noticed scotch barrels, brandy barrels, rum barrels, and both red and white wine barrels being used last year. What's more, instead of just imperial stouts going into the barrels, brewers tried IPAs or even saisons.
Locavore beers: "Brewers experimenting with local ingredients was one of my favorite things to see" in 2009, Yaeger noted. His favorites include a guava saison from a Tampa-area brewery and the jaw-dropping Rubidus Red from Santa Cruz' Uncommon Brewers ― featuring the candy cap mushroom. "It's the only mushroom beer I know of," Yaeger said, "and it tastes like maple syrup."
Sour-patch beers: Yaeger has noticed more and more brewers featuring "sour beers" ― which really are just what they sound like. We could get into the chemistry, but let it suffice to say that yeasts other than the traditional sort are used, giving the resulting brew a vinegar-like flavor. It ain't for everyone.
Let's put on a beer!: In 2009, certain beers were crafted by groups of two, three, or, in one case, 11 ostensibly competing breweries. "You would never see a running shoe produced by Nike and Adidas," Yaeger noted. But you will see beers brewed by Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head.
What's up for 2010:
Follow your nose: Brewers will continue coming up with counter-intuitive ingredients for their beers. Yaeger has heard of beers in the works featuring persimmons, grits, and even sweet potatoes (but not all three together). ―Joe Eskenazi