The two beers on the picnic table could hardly have seemed more different. To my left, as I sat in a beer garden during a recent trip to California, was a bottle of Russian River Brewing’s Blind Pig: piney, citrusy and a popular example of the most popular craft-beer style in America, the India pale ale. On the right was a glass of a style defined largely by its obscurity. Its aromas and flavors were just as mysterious: It smelled of sourdough bread and coriander, and it tasted fruity and tart, like lemons and nectarines with a hint of salinity.
But the beer on the right, Almanac Beer’s Flowering Gose, did have one thing in common with its counterpart. For decades, American brewers have infused foreign beer traditions with boldness and innovation — by reimagining the moderately bitter English IPA as the hop-saturated Titan of the U.S. craft-beer pantheon, for example. Now they’re doing it again with Germany’s little-known sour ales — its goses and Berliner weisses, primarily — reviving their characteristic lemony acidity and often pairing it with other ingredients, from fresh coriander flowers (in Almanac’s case) to passion fruit. The result: low-alcohol beers whose intensity of flavors are matched only by their ability to refresh.