You will no doubt recognize it as a particular variety of ale from across the pond, but the English Pale was also an area of land in Ireland under English control during the late Middle Ages. From this comes the phrase “beyond the pale”, which refers to an idea or action that goes beyond accepted boundaries. Applied to modern craft breweries it could indicate a willingness to explore beyond the relative safety of say a run-of-the-mill pale ale, and into the uncharted waters of styles previously unfamiliar to those in the craft beer community.
Over the past few months, Texas brewers have embraced this approach by introducing a number of unique and interesting products to the marketplace. Historically based style variants like grisette, sticke, and roggenbier represent types of beer most have never even heard of, much less had a chance to enjoy.
Grisette is a traditional Belgian beer hailing from the Hainaut province in the Walloon Region of Belgium. A sort of cross between a well-rounded witbier and a farmhouse ale, it finds its way to Texas in Southern Star Walloon. This lightly sweet brew combines bready wheat with layers of fruit and a distinctive Belgian yeast character. Brought together, these ingredients make for a wonderfully refreshing brew, one that some are calling Texas’ go-to summer beer.
Roggenbier, which translates directly as “rye beer”, is a German specialty beer more precisely described as a rye-based dunkelweizen. Available now in the form of Live Oak Roggenbier, this beer is so easy to drink that I barely had time to finish my notes before noticing my glass running on empty. Crackery malted rye gives this brew a kind of mealy mouthfeel, while the yeast contributes to a soft, spicy finish backed by just a touch of bitterness. With the right pairing, this brew could give new meaning to an afternoon snack of cheese and crackers.
Sticke, also of German origin, is essentially a stronger version of a Dusseldorf Altbier. Rahr’s Gravel Road is just such an example, it being a rich, malty brew with elements of fresh baked bread, light roast, and a hint of spice. This last component, which comes across as peppery at first, evolves into something vaguely rye-like once you reach the light, but crisply bitter finish. It’s a fairly strong brew offered as a late summer seasonal, but should it stay true it would make a great beer with which to celebrate the coming of an early fall.
All these brews rate high on the drinkability factor, though Gravel Road’s higher ABV puts the brakes on its potential as a session beer. As for the others, both come in right around 5% ABV and make for great summer refreshers.
Availability: Live Oak Roggenbier and Southern Star Walloon are draught-only and available for a limited time at better tap accounts around town. Rahr Gravel Road can also be found on-tap as well as in 6-packs of 12oz bottles at a variety of craft beer retailers.
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