New year, new beer

Here’s some of the cool, new stuff to look for in 2017.

Bavaria comes to Philly

Imported German beer is often a dicey proposition because so many of the nation’s traditional styles – especially pils and Helles lager – are quick to deteriorate before they hit American shelves.

However, Liquid Projects, a new Brooklyn-based company, is giving it a try – and the first batch it brought to Philly is mighty impressive. The company has put together a collection of styles from five separate German breweries under one brand name, Reinheits Boten, which translates roughly as “purity delivery.”

The samples I tried last week at Brauhaus Schmitz, the excellent German bar on South Street, were all quite fresh and included some unusual styles. Among them:

Zoller Hof Zwickel, an unfiltered lager whose smooth body and malty sweetness make it the perfect complement to those big Bavarian soft pretzels on the Schmitz menu.

Friedenfelser Zoiglbier, an old and rarely seen type of unfiltered lager whose roasted malt gives the beer an amber color. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve tasted zoigl, which takes its name from the German word for the sign of a star (one which had a very similar look to the Star of David, actually) that medieval farmers and brewers would hang on doors when they had beer for sale.

Riedenburger Organic Emmer Beer, made with a type of spelt that historians and archeologists believe is the first grain cultivated for beer and bread. It has a nutty, rustic character that is unique among German beer.

I recommend all of these beers, especially for those who are looking for something other than hopped-out IPAs. These styles emphasize malt, whose character is particularly overlooked in American craft beer circles. But I wonder how long they’ll survive. As I mentioned previously, artisan German beers – especially unpasteurized varieties like these – don’t always travel well.

Liquid Projects owner Lars Dahlhaus told me the beers are transported across the Atlantic in temperature-controlled containers, and that they’re pre-sold, which in theory means they move through distribution channels faster. The larger challenge, he said, was bringing competing breweries under the single Reinheits Boten brand together.

If his business plan works, look for other new collaborations throughout the year.

New destinations

A couple months ago, I mentioned more than a dozen new breweries were headed to the city. Unsurprisingly, the opening of many of them has been delayed for the usual issues: licensing, inspections, balky equipment, etc.

But several are now open, including:

Brewery ARS, 1927 W. Passyunk Ave, South Philly. It opened the week before Christmas with limited hours, so check out Brewery ARS’ Facebook page or website before heading down Broad Street. It’s pouring two saisons and a porter (bring your growlers) and serves up some pretty good BBQ.

Wissahickon Brewery, 3705 W. Schoolhouse Lane, East Falls. It held a couple holiday open houses and doesn’t yet have regular hours, so consult its Facebook page for details. This is a production brewery; don’t expect typical brewpub ambiance (or food), just yet.

Flying Fish Crafthouse, 1363 N. 31st St., Brewerytown. This spot opened with little fanfare just before the holidays. Located nearby the old Red Bell plant (nee F.A. Poth Brewery), it’s not actually a brewery. Instead, all of its beers are made over in Jersey by Garden State craft brewery. Among ales made exclusively for the taphouse: LoveFish, an abbey dubbel infused with cherries; and Duffified Ale, an English-style amber ale named after Brian Duffy of the cable TV show “Bar Rescue,” who also runs the kitchen.

New beers

It’s impossible to keep up with the hundreds of new beers hit the shelves every week. But here’s three that recently caught my attention:

Conshohocken Brewing Ghost Bear. Say it quickly: Ghost Bear…GhostBear…Gostisbehere. This new golden ale, smartly packaged in a black-and-orange can, has had Flyers fans lining up for cases since its debut in December. Oh, and no, it has not been endorsed by the Flyers’ young defenseman sensation, Shayne Gostisbehere.
Shmaltz Pastrami Pils. Yes, a pastrami-flavored pilsner. It’s a collaboration with Barcade, the fun Fishtown beer-and-arcade bar, available on draft only.

Levante Brewing Gran Gianduiotto. An imperial hazelnut mocha stout made by the Levante Brewing of West Chester with beans from Center City’s Gran Caffe L’Aquila coffee bar.

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