Beer: Sunbru Brewery: Four Peaks Brewing Co. Style: Kolsch ABV: 5.2 percent
If you people are any part the beer geeks you claim to be, you'll journey outside your homes on Saturday, May 18, into the increasingly balmy summer air and over to the AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival. You'll get to listen to some quality live music. You might play a few drinking games. And you'll get to try some of the best canned craft beers in America -- many of which have never been seen in our state before.
But you won't be the first to have tasted them here.
On March 11, a group of judges met to drink and critique every one of the beers entered in the festival this year to determine winners in nine style categories. With more than 170 beers from 10 states entered, the task was daunting. The lucky few -- 40 in total -- included Beer Judge Certification Program-accredited tasters and Certified Cicerones as well and industry pros and average Joes.
All of this year's winners are listed at www.craftcans.com, and though many of the category champions will be gone for another year after the AmeriCAN festival shuts down, some will still be available on our shelves the next day -- and every day. I'm talking about SunBru, bro. Four Peaks' popular Kolsch won top honors in the "Golds, Blondes, Pilsners and Light Lagers" category, in which Santa Fe Freestyle Pilsner took a silver and Ska's True Blonde Ale won bronze.
It shouldn't be a surprise -- SunBru is already a champion. Last year, along with the silver it claimed in the AmeriCAN festival, the beer also took home gold at the World Beer Cup, beating out 45 entrants in the "German-style Kolsch" category, including many from Cologne, Germany -- the city where the style was invented.
What makes SunBru a champion? It could be that the beer already looks like a gold medal itself -- brilliantly clear, each glass shines as if touched by Midas. More likely, though, it's the aroma and flavor, which in this type of beer are notoriously difficult to get right. Kolsch is what the Brewers Association calls a "hybrid style" -- one that mixes traditional yeast strains and fermentation processes. To make the beer, brewers must utilize ale yeast but ferment the beer long and cool, like a lager. The difficulty comes in keeping the yeast's esters in check while ensuring a crisp finish. The best examples of the style are delicate yet balanced, with soft, clean malts and just a hint of fruit.
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Which is what you get with SunBru. The aroma is subtle, with hard-to-find notes of grain, crackers, sourdough and apples. The flavor is more robust -- blend of apples, apricots, and saltines. Dryness sweeps in after the fruits end their dance, making the finish crisp, with a soft lactic bite and lingering cracker malt flavor. It's a light beer, sure, but thirst-quenching, fairly flavorful for what it is, and good on a hot day -- which, you know, we get a lot of.
Try SunBru and the other champions of this year's crop of canned brews at the AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Fest May 18. They're all pretty -- sorry for this -- cantastic.
Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone, an accredited guide to beer. He works at World of Beer in Tempe and is bad at puns.