Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

April 7, 2008

Beer Issues:

In Celebration Of Slowly Peeling Off A Skanky Band-Aid

Celebrate—and appreciate—the first step in the repeal of Prohibition by drinking a low-ABV Midwest craft brew … if you can find one.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
Ah, the 18th Amendment to the Consitution of the United States. Also known as Prohibition, a period of great lunacy not only in this country, but around the entire world, where this concept of “temperance” promised a way to solve all the great ills plaguing the world at the time. Basically it was a typical manifestation of humanity’s “quick fix” mentality, wherein we find it easier to blame a single, definable entity as the cause of all our woes instead of making actual deep-seated and most likely painful changes to the very fabric of our society. Plus, it had a whole lot to do with bigotry, religious intolerance, industrialization, and the breaking down of class barriers, just to name a few.

Obviously, all this idiocy didn’t last, at least in it’s most pronounced incarnation. Unlike the proverbial Band-Aid that Prohibition was, however, it didn’t come off in one yelp-inducing rip. It was removed in steps, the first happening to be 75 years ago to this very day (if you are, in fact, reading this on April 7, 2008).

This step was called the Cullen-Harrison Act, which redefined what the 18th Amendment to the Consitution meant by “intoxicating liquors” from any beverage over 0.5 percent alchohol to any beverage over 3.2 percent alcohol. Now here’s the kicker: in 1933, alcohol percentage was measured by weight, not volume. So 3.2 percent alcohol by weight translates to 4 percent ABV. And we all know nobody can get drunk on that.

From here I could go into a rant on how not to take our freedom to drink beer for granted, but, although undeniably important, that is a topic for another day. Instead I’m going to suggest drinking a few Midwest brews, ones that, if they had been produced back in 1933, would have been nice and legal to sell to the slathering hordes like you and me. You know, getting all “retro.” It’s all the rage today.

Unsurprisingly, very few beers are made today that have an ABV of 4 percent or less. Also unsurprisingly, most of them are quite light on the palate. These are brews you would call “session” beers, ones you could sit around and have more than a few of without falling off your stool or doing something even more dangerous, like kissing and perhaps even groping your attractive cousin of the opposite sex. (Something I’ve never done. I’m just bringing it up to make a point. Seriously.)

This concept of session beers has seen a resurgence as of late, most likely in response to the trend of craft brewers to make these giant-ass alcohol monsters that leave you reeling (and, perhaps, kissing and groping) after half a bottle. Needless to say, this trend has yet to really take off, given the fact that my to-try list of beers is pretty damn short.

My first recommendation would be a Sprecher Brewing Co.’s Hefe Weiss, a classic Bavarian wheat that’s about as refreshing as beers can get. Although this is traditionally a summer style, luckily for us Sprecher puts it out year-round. (Actually, this brew is 4.2 percent, but let’s pretend it’s 4 on the head so my list is longer than two beers. Thanks.)

The concept of session beers has seen a resurgence as of late, most likely in response to the trend of craft brewers to make giant-ass alcohol monsters.
Then there’s another light, spritzy beer, Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss. Oh, shit. That brew’s higher than 4 percent, too. Damn.

OK, let’s check before we get any further. New Glarus Brewing’s Raspberry Tart is … 4, that’s four-point-zero, percent ABV. So that’ll work. It’s an authentic framboise (read: real fruit with real Brett) with loads of berry flavor and that tartness in the title to keep things from getting syrupy sweet.

And, uh, that’s it. I couldn’t find any other distributed Midwest beers 4 percent ABV or under. If you know of any, please let me know what they are. Obviously, they’re pretty hard to find, but don’t let that stop you from raising a glass in honor of the 75th anniversary of the loosening of Prohibition’s grip on America. Celebrate—and appreciate. Never take our freedoms for granted.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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