Back before July 4 was known as Independence Day, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams could often be found in Philadelphia’s City Tavern, commiserating over pints of locally-made beer, trying to figure out how they could lower their taxes. “Maybe we should form our own country...a more perfect union. Tom, grab a quill and get this down.” The United States, like many of the world’s greatest ideas, was hatched by beer drinkers.
Which makes drinking beer one of the most appropriate ways to celebrate this brave experiment in democracy that continues to change the world. What follows is a list of the tastiest, most patriotic beers available to us locals. What makes them patriotic? They’re all American craft beers. And what makes them the tastiest? Each example of a common style below is highly rated by the continually updated democratic votes on RateBeer.com
Premium Lager – Fort George's 1811 Lager
Two centuries ago, on the site of what is now Oregon’s Fort George Brewery block, fur magnate John Jacob Astor’s expedition built a trading post they called Astoria—the first US settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. Many west coast brewers in the 19th century had no ice, so they improvised an effervescent beer by brewing lager yeasts at higher-than-normal temperatures. Fort George’s 1811 is more flavorful than you might expect from a lager, in part because of this higher fermentation temperature but also due to the abundance of citrusy northwest hops.
American Pale Ale – Russian River's Row 2/Hill 56
This straightforward ale from Santa Rosa’s Russian River uses all Simcoe hops. It has the trademark Simcoe nose: citrus and pine, finishing with a pleasant juicy bite. It’s a seasonal draft, so get it while you can.
Wheat Ale – Modern Times' Fortunate Islands
If you haven’t heard much about Modern Times Brewery in San Diego, don’t be surprised; they just celebrated their one-year anniversary. Their focus is on brewing complex and flavorful session beers. Fortunate Islands is made with 60% wheat malt and a massive dose of Citra and Amarillo hops to generate tropical hop aromatics like mango, tangerine, and passion fruit.
IPA - AleSmith's IPA
This big but tidy American-style IPA from San Diego’s AleSmith Brewery has plenty of caramely malt to balance out its resiny hops, finishing with hints of plum, black cherry, and vanilla. The 7.25% abv will keep you warm on our foggy summer afternoons.
Amber Ale – Bear Republic's Red Rocket Ale
While a popular style, ambers can at times be too cloying. Cloverdale’s Bear Republic packs enough Centennial and Cascade hops into their Red Rocket Ale to brighten the toffee flavor like…well, like the rocket’s red glare. Ahem.
Stout – Firestone Walker’s Velvet Merkin
Firestone Walker, out of Paso Robles, avoided using the name merkin for several years because….well, look it up. This is the bourbon barrel-aged version of their oatmeal stout, and with a RateBeer score of 100, it’s the perfect sipper. A sinfully smooth beery blend of milk chocolate, dark cherry, vanilla, coconut, and bourbon.
Note: If you haven’t yet purchased your tickets to this year’s Breastfest get on it soon. This premier charity beer event is Saturday, July 12 from 2-6 p.m. in the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center. There will be over 70 breweries represented, as well as food and music. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit low-income women who have breast cancer. Advance tickets are $55 and will be $65 at the event. Check out thebreastfest.org for details and ticket info.