The Brew Site

The Session #129: Missing Local Beer Styles

This 129th edition of The Session for this first Friday of November is hosted by the Brussels Beer City blog, and the topic brings it home, in a manner of speaking: Missing Local Beer Styles.

In 2017 it might seem odd to think that there are beer styles missing from our local markets. We seem to be living in an era of almost ubiquitous choice – where almost every style of beer is available to us either in bars or online, and where new styles quickly break out from their local markets to be brewed by craft or independent breweries around the world.

And outside of large metropolitan areas, areas with a large craft beer culture, or regions without recourse to online shopping the spread of different or new styles can remain limited. That’s not even to mention the local or regional styles that disappeared in the last 50 years. And that’s why the theme of this month is styles missing from your local brewing scene’s canon. And you can take local as a relative concept, depending on your context – your town or municipality, county, region, even country if you really are isolated. And local also means brewed locally, not just available locally. Essentially: what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed?

Here in the Pacific Northwest, and Oregon and my hometown of Bend in particular, we’re pretty fortunate in that nearly every style of beer is available, either brewed locally or through our excellent taprooms and bottleshops. So I feel like I could cheat and say, “Nope, we’re covered!” But that’s no fun.

Essentially I see this topic breaking down into two different discussions: one about beer styles, particularly local (meaning “indigenous”) styles, and one about the quality of your local beer scene.

Per the latter discussion, and answering BBC’s question about what beer would I like to see (more of) brewed, my answer would of course be “pumpkin beer.” (Which really should be no surprise to anyone at this point.) If I’m considering, for instance, BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines, then I would likely point out that I don’t recall ever seeing a Kentucky Common brewed or generally available locally. And I’d say pre-Prohibition styles are underserved, as are cask ales. Perhaps some Sahti. But in general, I look over those styles and I believe we are pretty well covered where I live.

As to the former part of that breakdown—does Oregon actually have any indigenous beer styles? I don’t believe that from an historical standpoint there are any styles that originated locally, like a California or Kentucky Common, or a cream ale. But in the modern era, breweries like De Garde Brewing and The Ale Apothecary would be the contenders. Both are relying on (mostly) spontaneous fermentation initiated by the flora of their native regions, which is about as “local” an expression of beer as you can get. The Ale Apothecary goes even further by using locally-grown malts as well.

They each fill a niche, so really there’s nothing “missing” in that regard. I suppose if anything is missing, it’s a truly indigenous, local-to-Oregon style that really hasn’t been developed yet. It’s a big state, too, with a wide variety of climates and ecology, from temperate coast to mountain ranges, wetlands and forests to desert and grasslands. So there’s some opportunity there, possibly following in the footsteps of a De Garde or Ale Apothecary.

Maybe someday! Until then, we don’t know what we’re missing…