Are you a fan of IPAs? How about Porters? Pilsners? Have you ever thought about how your favorite style of beer came to be? Most beer styles were developed out of necessity based on the local water supply and available local ingredients. The town of Pilsen in the Czech Republic was able to brew light colored, clear, and assertively hopped beers because the local water supply was nearly void of any mineral or salt content. Other great brewing cities in Europe were not able to duplicate the Pilsner style since their local water supply was much harder. Without getting into the water chemistry details, pale beers and hard water do not always produce a very good beer. Brewers in cities with harder water were forced to come up with recipes that took advantage of the local water supplies. Brewers in Munich came up the Dunkel style – a dark and malty lager. English brewers discovered the delights of brewing with darker malts that balanced out the hard water in their region to produce Porters and Stouts.
In today’s brewing world, brewers are no longer limited by their local water or the availability of local ingredients. Any malt or hop variety can be delivered to the brewery in a day or two. Water chemistry can be adjusted to fit the style of beer the brewer wants to make. As a result of modern technology, any brewer can brew any style from any location. This is great news for beer drinkers since they can get brewery fresh examples of classic styles from their local breweries. The downside to all this technology is that some of the art of brewing based on available resources has been lost. Brewing, which has always been a wonderful blending of art and science, has been decidedly skewed to the science side of the scale in recent years.
Luckily for craft beer fans, some breweries are beginning to swing the pendulum back to the artistic side of the brewing spectrum by utilizing local ingredients to make some truly unique beers. One example is the Local Fields series of beers from Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, California. There are currently seven beers in the Local Fields portfolio, all of which use some type of local ingredient in the recipe. Most of the Local Fields series are seasonal brews based on the availability of the ingredients which range from blood oranges to spruce tips. Currently, Hangar 24 is serving two of the Local Fields beers in their tasting room – Essence and Polycot. Essence is a Double IPA infused with three different types of citrus. Polycot is a wheat beer that contains fresh, locally grown apricots. These beers are also available in limited quantities at local stores and restaurants. Seek them out before they are all gone until next year’s harvest.