21st Amendment Brewery seems to get it, on a few levels. For one, they can their beers rather than bottle it. Retro? Yes. Eye-catching? Yes. But also, better for the environment (aluminum recycles more efficiently than does glass, plus its easier to ship) and better for you (zero light exposure means no skunkyness, no capping means less chance of oxidation).
But 21st Amendment doesn’t just understand the nuts and bolts of beer, it gets the context, too. The brewery was opened eleven years ago in a town just adopting the craft beer scene, San Francisco. Its founders, two homebrewers, sought to take San Fran back to a time before prohibition, where brewpubs were as ubiquitous as today’s coffee shops and served the same role as third place to the community.
Judge for yourself if one of the city’s biggest breweries – with international distribution – is accomplishing that goal of hyper-local beer, but the fact remains that their stuff is good. I found out just how good it was the other day, when I first tried what has instantly become one of my favorite beers.
That beer is the Bitter American. Maybe it’s because I’m worn out from a long winter of super-big beers, maybe its because the floral nose points towards spring, maybe it’s because I love the astronaut-monkey illustration on the can, but this session pale ale really scratches where I itch. Categorizing Bitter American is a bit tricky… it’s predominantly hoppy, yet lower in alcohol than IPAs or even Pale Ales. What’s easier is to describe the taste –richly aromatic with warm hops, crisp grassiness and a dry, light body. So drinkable, so delicious, and so well-composed, it makes drinking any other Lite Beer unthinkable. To me, at least.
Sometimes I want my beer to drink like a 4 course meal – savored, slowly. But Bitter American is a different thing altogether. It’s for those times when you need a friend, not a teacher. It’s for sitting back, turning your mind off, and enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures.