“I tried different angles to narrow this list down to six,” says Matt Lincecum of Fremont Brewing. “I looked around the world and the beers I’ve been inspired by, from brewers such as Celis, Unibroue, and Chimay. But it actually came down to wanting to focus on almost entirely U.S.-based breweries that are part of this newer wave of the past 10-plus years of craft beer and brewing, rather than going too far back in time.
“This is my Pick 6 for the new wave.”
As a longtime craft drinker and brewer, Lincecum’s respect for the classics runs deep. “I could do another entire Pick 6 on the Pete’s Wicked Ales and Anchor Liberty Ales that inspired a lot of us who are of a certain age and who’ve been brewing for a long time,” he says. But such a list would be more nostalgia than utility, so his focus here is on beers you can seek out and drink today.
Half Acre Daisy Cutter
“This should surprise nobody, but Matt and Gabe have been friends of mine since before we started both of the breweries. We went down when they first got the canning line in place and were canning this beer called Daisy Cutter. We were literally just hanging out as the first cans of Daisy Cutter were coming off the line, and they were trying to get this canning line up and running. We brought back 16 oz cans of Daisy Cutter all on this crazy adventure, running as fast as we could. We fell in love with the beer then—we were all enamored with it—but no one had any idea that it was going to go on and become this crazy hit.
“I love Daisy Cutter because it reminds me of the times when we were all more naïve. It was a bit of a different environment—there were fewer than 2,000 of us, about 1,600 breweries in the United States—and very few were doing production. It felt like it was this fun, cultish thing. You reached the top of the mountain, and you realized there aren’t that many people around, and you asked those who were around, ‘What path did you take?’ We all took different paths to get into the industry.
“Daisy Cutter always brings me back to that. It’s still just an amazing, incredibly refreshing pale ale. And that’s probably my favorite beer style, if I had to choose one. Hopefully we’ll see a collaboration between our two breweries come out this year. We’re finally chatting about it with Matt and Gabe.”
Albert Egger Zwickel Bier
“To me, Zwikel Bier is a reminder of the glory and diversity of yeast—how amazing yeast is, how it affects our beer. In this case, it can take a regular lager-style amber beer and make it something completely unique because the yeast is the dominant characteristic of this beer.
“It’s completely unique from anything anyone produces here in the United States, and I love drinking Zwickel Bier because it always reminds me that—for all the wonderful options we have with hops, and the growing malt revolution we have with heritage grains—really, it’s the yeast that’s going to be the bass note. Yeast is the bass player in the metal band of craft beer.
“If you go there on a Friday, it’s the craziest Old World scene, where everyone’s lining up and you get these wood tokens. You go to what looks like a big slot machine in the wall, put your wood tokens in there, pull the handle, and fill up your mug or growler with Zwickel Bier.
“There’s no real seating—you’re hanging out on a loading dock—but you’re hanging out with all these other people getting their fresh beer and making do, hanging out where they can enjoy a Friday beer.
“But the beer itself, it reminds me of fresh-baked bread with a little bit of banana and a small toasted banana–bread note to it. And honestly, I wouldn’t say ‘malty’ because that throws people off, but I would say ‘yeasty’—like when you take dry yeast and rehydrate it. That smell that you get, that yeast characteristic, is what comes through. Yeast is the driver; let’s always keep our mind on yeast. I love that Zwickel Bier keeps me coming back for a style that normally wouldn’t be what I’m attracted to.”
“I’ll tell you one beer I wanted to pick for this spot. Our friends at Green Cheek out in California make truly one of the best West Coast IPAs out there. Those guys are amazing brewers—kind of a cult thing for brewers—but just beautiful beer, and some of the best IPAs, hands down. We share a love of bitterness and clarity.
“But instead, I’m going to throw out a nod to Dan Kleban at Maine Beer Company. Lunch IPA, to me, is one of those beautiful beers that I could drink for the rest of my life and not get tired of it. There are many reasons why I like Dan and his beers, but overall, what they all have in common is a reminder of the gentleness that we can find in beer and how beautiful that is. Our beers don’t have to be extreme, over the top, filled with peanut butter and Cheerios, to be wonderful. Maine Beer Company makes beer you can keep coming back to over and over.
“I particularly love some of their small beers, such as Peeper. At 5.5 percent, it’s such a brilliant beer. Absolutely gorgeous. The malt character is really well-balanced with the yeast and the light hop touch—Amarillo and Cascade? And that beer keeps my feet grounded in what I truly love about beer—delicate aromas and the interplay between aroma hops and yeast. If you’re a good brewer, you can pull off a really simple beer like this and have it be something you want to enjoy for a long, long time.”
“I’m going to jump to IPA with what I think is one of the finest IPAs, and it’s been made for a long, long time. Breakside’s Ben Edmunds—I’ve had the pleasure to work with him on and off, as our breweries are each 10 years old. He is the most unrecognized and unacknowledged brewer we have in the United States in craft. He’s a brilliant brewer—incredibly creative mind—and this beer… as a lover and brewer of a lot of IPAs, this beer is one I always go back to. No hesitation, no thought, always enjoy it.
“Clean, crisp, refreshing. Just enough bitterness to let you know you’re drinking a craft beer. It’s got that beautiful flower, citrus aroma to keep you coming back. It’s a gorgeous creation.”
pFriem Family Brewers Pilsner
(Hood River, Oregon)
“I hate it, I love it. I hate it because it reminds me of how absolutely beautiful it is. And it’s pFreim Pilsner that every time I drink it, I want to have a second one. And I hate it for that because I usually drink it with Josh Pfriem, and that’s a bad trend to get into. But this beer always invites me to have more. It’s just that essence of absolutely masterful brewing. Beautiful malt expression. Just enough yeast character to let the hops shine through. Your palate is nice and clean and ready for the next sip. Or pair it with any kind of food—I love pairing it with deli sandwiches. It’s a super-refreshing, palate-cleansing beer.
“Again, it’s a good reminder for us these days that quality ingredients in the hand of a highly skilled brewer can yield a delicate beer that entices us to drink much more than the over-the-top beers that we’re all producing today.”
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
(Chico, California, and Mills River, North Carolina)
“I had to find a way to work in Sierra Nevada. Bigfoot is that beer that blew my mind for what a beer could do. I had never had anything that big, that resinous, that piney, that explosive and brash, yet something that was eminently drinkable. You can drink two or three Bigfoots. It’s not great for you, but God, the beer invites you back.
“Bigfoot is the beer that set me off on my exploration of higher-ABV beers and helped inspire the barrel program we built up at Fremont.”
Balancing Personal Taste and Consumer Demand
“We have a lot of low-ABV beers, and we’ve been pushing them forever. We make more saisons than anyone else in the state, and maybe even the Northwest. If I had my way, I would make saison the dominant style that we make and sell. Unfortunately, it’s just not what people buy, and I’ve had to give up on my mass production of saisons for larger-release beers because we just couldn’t find a market out there. My bigger beers are the ones that always sell—higher-ABV, the barrel-aged program. We’re really proud of them, and we love them, but our personal love—and mine, especially—is rooted in delicate beers with carefully crafted malt and hops bills, selective water profiles, and technique—to have a beer that expresses each of those elements in a delicate, not overwhelming way. I like beers that leave your palate nice and clean and refreshed.
“It’s a hard thing to do, but that’s why I love it.”
Illustration: Jamie Bogner