Most of you have tried, or at least seen, amber styles of beer. They have become ubiquitous, with many micro- and macro-brewers producing their own various versions. A number of breweries, such as Colorado’s New Belgium, put out a year-round amber ale while many other brewers put out seasonal ambers, often in the fall as an homage to their supposed roots in the German “Oktoberfest” brews, which had an amber color and malty flavor.
Some of the most popular ambers are Mexican imports — Modelo Negra and Dos Equis Amber. While we often think of Mexican beers as being very light, there is actually a tremendous German influence on Mexican brewing, going back to an influx of German immigrants into Mexico in the late 19th century. Those German immigrants brought their beer-making skills and established breweries that still produce beers in a German tradition. Dos Equis Ambar, an Oktoberfest-style lager, was first produced in 1897 at the Moctezuma Brewery in Veracruz, founded in 1890 by German immigrant Wilhelm Hasse. It is light and malty, not very sweet, very much in the tradition of an Oktoberfest lager.
While perhaps rooted in the German tradition, American ambers now encompass a wide variety of tastes, with the distinguishing characteristic being the color as much — if not more — than a distinctive flavor. Ambers now range from beers that taste anywhere from strong lagers to malty pale ales. Most have malt flavors, a small head, medium carbonation and an ABV between 5 percent and 5.5 percent — and, of course, an amber color. Beyond that, the tastes often vary widely.
I recently tried a couple of ambers from outside our area that are available at selected locations around here, including Crazy Mountain Amber Ale, which I found at LoDa Bier Garten. It was nice, but much more hoppy and bitter than most ambers, almost like a pale ale. California’s Anderson Valley Brewing Co.’s Boont Amber Ale, at OK Bicycle Shop, was much more malty, with a very nice flavor. I’d have that one again.
A number of local breweries produce some nice ambers. Madison’s Blue Pants Brewery’s American Amber — produced year round and readily available in our area in cans, bottles and on tap — is a very well-balanced beer, malty without being overpowering. Fairhope Brewing’s I Think Therefore I Amber, which is also available both on tap and in bottles throughout Lower Alabama, is a little lighter in color and taste, not very bitter and very smooth. Louisiana’s Abita Amber is very malty and much sweeter than any of the others I tried, much more like a lager.
If you are looking to try out a new amber, or just some good beer, there are some local events for beer lovers this week. On Thursday, Nov. 9, the Alabama Coastal Foundation will host its annual “Cocktails for the Coast” fundraiser at Five Rivers Delta Resource on the causeway. Tickets are $50 for great food, including fresh oysters, and beer provided by the Fairhope Brewing Co. Come out and support a great organization working to keep our coastal environment clean, while enjoying some great Lower Alabama beer.
Meanwhile, through Dec. 11 at its restaurants across Alabama, Baumhower’s Victory Grille is celebrating its first-ever Alabama Craft Beer Fest by featuring $2.99 pints and $3.99 pilsners from Alabama breweries, including Haint Blue, Trim Tab and Good People. A special small-batch beer will also be featured — Baumhower’s Blackberry Brew, crafted by Bob Baumhower in partnership with Fairhope Brewing, celebrating the state fruit of Alabama.
Photo | Facebook – Madison’s Blue Pants describes its Amber Ale as a “malty character balanced with a light addition of American Centennial to provide a true American style Amber.”