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Craft Brewers Are Leading the Flat Beer Trend, In a Good Way

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You can sip these big, bold beers slowly.

Sam Adams Utopias.
Sam Adams Utopias.
Roger H Simpson/FB

Flat beer is trending, at least according to a new report from Bloomberg. Not your typical wounded soldiers found littering the kitchen the morning after a holiday party, "predominantly big and bold" (and expensive) beers are increasingly being packaged without carbonation by craft brewers around the world. There's Sam Adams' annual Utopias, a sweet, rich, $200 concoction whose flavors and alcohol content (which hovers around 28%) are quite brandy-like. Or The End of History from Scotland's BrewDog, which released just 12 bottles of its 55% ABV, $800 ale with "more in common with eau de vie than beer, with big notes of juniper, berries and caramel-apple."

The elevated alcohol content helps preserve these brews as they age and the maltiness works well with the oxidation that eventually affects all beer, a process that can introduce unpleasant notes of wet cardboard in the worst cases or pleasant overtones of sherry, fruit, and other sweet treats in the best cases. Most of these examples come in resealable containers, Bloomberg notes, as this is "beer you can drink and store pretty much like whiskey" without fear of bubbles escaping.

Missing from the Bloomberg feature is the classic exception to the rule of these high-octane beasts: the Belgian Lambic. This low alcohol, wild-fermented, flat, sour style traditionally made near Brussels employs hops that have been aged to minimize their potent flavors and aromas. Typically quite dry and wine- or cider-like, Lambic can be drunk as a standalone product, though it's rarely found in the U.S. (Those sweet Lindemans versions are not a proper representation.) More common is the Gueuze, a blend of multiple Lambic vintages that is then carbonated. Perhaps an increased appreciation for non-fizzy styles will convince more Lambic producers like Cantillon to export the rarity.

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