Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Bars & Spirits

No need to fear light strike in beer

For years, Bob Sylvester of Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has produced unique, farmhouse-style ales at his Tarpon Springs brewery, inspired by the rustic beers of the Belgian countryside — right down to the green bottles they're generally packaged in.

Pre-World War II, cheap beer was often bottled in clear glass, while premium beer came in brown. A shortage in brown glass during the war led to premium beers being bottled in clear glass, which made them difficult to distinguish from their cheaper competition. Many European breweries switched to green glass as a way to indicate the premium nature of their product, and that tradition is still in common practice today, especially in the case of Belgian saisons and lambics.

What's the first thing you think of when you see green-bottled beer? Chances are it's the famous "skunk" character, a signature found in beers that have been exposed to ultraviolet light. Beer stored in clear or green glass is not as well-protected from UV rays as beer stored in brown glass. When the alpha acids from hops are struck by UV rays, they break down and produce a sulfur compound that is chemically — and olfactorily — very similar to a skunk's spray.

Most of the time, this "light struck" character is regarded as an off flavor, but Sylvester doesn't see it that way.

"It's simply part of the flavor profile," Sylvester said. "Hops bring bitterness, which is an off flavor. Everybody embraces it in beer, but would you drink a soda that had the bitterness equivalent of 65 IBUs? Sourness is an off flavor that is currently in vogue. In nature, sour and bitter are normally signs of poison!"

Sylvester started bottling Saint Somewhere beers in green glass back in 2006, but after two years, he made a switch to brown as a response to market pressure caused by the common prejudice against green-bottled beer. That change lasted only a year or two before he went back to green.

"The beer just wasn't the same," Sylvester noted. "The light strike character works with the earthiness that should be present. It's pretty elusive, and most people associate it with cork or mustiness — in a good way — but it's most definitely light strike."

Last year, Texas' Jester King Brewery started an experiment, packaging a small amount of its Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer in green bottles, taking after Saint Somewhere, as well as Belgian breweries, such as Cantillon, Fantôme and Thiriez. The move to green caught many fans by surprise, which prompted an explanation from head brewer Garrett Crowell on Jester King's website.

"I feel that beer is losing individuality through structure, and the expectation to fulfill guidelines," Crowell wrote. "We allow our beer to pick up 'peripheral' character that deviates from guidelines, whether it's a bit of oak, brettanomyces or lactic acidity. Horse barn, goat sweat and brett character are embraced, yet skunkiness is considered a flaw."

Now, other respected breweries, such as Oklahoma's Prairie Artisan Ales and Pennsylvania's Tired Hands Brewing Co. have taken up green bottles for some of their farmhouse-style ales, adding a traditional — if not yet very popular — layer of additional complexity to these brews.

Although it's true that green glass can sometimes cause a little skunk, that's only part of the picture. The role played by green glass in forming the character of some of the world's most respected beers is slowly finding an appreciation within the domestic brewing scene. As forward-thinking drinkers, I suggest we join them by disregarding our preconceived notions. After all, sour, funky, bitter, fruity, barrel-aged (i.e., oxidized) and heavily flavored beers have all but dominated the beer scene for the last several years; why are we afraid of a little light strike?

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG.

Comments
My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

My husband has been on the ketogenic diet for three months. Here’s how he does it.

This week I wrote about something with which I have become very familiar: the ketogenic diet. If you’re like, "Huh?" you are where I was three months ago, before my husband, Phil, embarked on the weight-loss regimen. The keto diet is a high-fat, low-...
Published: 06/19/18
A perfect pick for dessert

A perfect pick for dessert

America’s Test KitchenIt might seem impossible to improve on a perfect peach, but we decided to try. We wanted a simple, warm dessert that amplified the peaches’ flavor. To achieve tender, flavorful peaches with a lightly sweet glaze, we began by tos...
Published: 06/19/18
Everything you need to know about marinating meat

Everything you need to know about marinating meat

For a lot of home cooks, marinating meat is almost as automatic as cooking the meat itself. Douse the meat in some kind of flavored liquid, pop it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it the next day.Seems straightforward enough, but there are reas...
Published: 06/19/18
Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

Restaurant review: Chile Verde is serving up very solid tacos in an unlikely spot

ST. PETERSBURGThere are a lot of decommissioned gas stations across the country. Some have been reinvented, cleverly made over as upscale restaurants. There’s Big Star in Chicago, Elaia & Olio in St. Louis, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va., even Bi...
Published: 06/18/18
Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

Taste test: Chocolate chip cookies

When we started seeing ads for Nestle Toll House cookies already baked and prepackaged, I knew it was time for our tasters to get involved. They are cookie lovers, and one even has his own cookiemaking business. We found the Nestle brand and had hope...
Published: 06/18/18
From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

From soft serve to ice pops, 12 places to get frozen treats

I know we have three more months or so of hot-as-dog-breath Tampa Bay summer, but let’s start things off on the right foot with some frozen treats. Ice cream is on my mind after a recent visit to Disney Springs, when I found love in a perfect scoop o...
Published: 06/13/18
Downtown St. Petersburg breakfast staple Dome Grill goes out of business

Downtown St. Petersburg breakfast staple Dome Grill goes out of business

ST. PETERSBURG — Longtime downtown breakfast staple Dome Grill has closed its doors.The restaurant, at 561 Central Avenue N, announced the closing on Facebook on June 10 and will not be relocating to a new location."We have nothing but love and respe...
Published: 06/13/18
Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

Five restaurants worth checking out at Disney Springs in Orlando (w/video)

LAKE BUENA VISTA Disney Springs has swiftly become a playground or trial balloon for the country?s celebrity chefs. Art Smith, Masaharu Morimoto, Rick Bayless, Guy Fieri, Tony Mantuano, Wolfgang Puck and others are already on board, with names like ...
Published: 06/13/18
Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

Take grilled potatoes to another level with garlic and rosemary

By AMERICA’S TEST KITCHENGrilled potatoes are a summer classic. We wanted to put a new spin on this dish by adding rosemary and garlic. Unfortunately, we found it was difficult to add enough flavor to plain grilled potatoes. Coating the potatoes with...
Published: 06/13/18
Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Recipe for Stuffed Beef Burgers

Hidden inside these tame-looking burgers is a smoky and spicy blend of bacon, chipotle, cheese and something unexpected: pepperoni. Because the ground beef part of these burgers is patted fairly thin, there’s less of a chance you’ll undercook it. For...
Published: 06/13/18