Miller High Life’s vintage slogan, “the Champagne of beer,” was at best a deeply optimistic statement. But the new generation of craft brewers are increasingly brewing beers that can rival the fizz and flash of a good bottle of bubbly. Whether it’s method champenoise, Biere de Champagne or Biere Brut, this festive beer which has been found in Italy, Belgium and France for years, is slowly finding a spot in the U.S. market. They are even sometimes found in cork and caged-topped bottles. Some sudsy alternatives to Champagne to consider for your celebrations:
Samuel Adams Infinum: Infinium is a collaboration between America’s largest craft brewer and Germany's famous Weihenstephan Brewery, said to be the oldest in the world. Many a beer geek dreams of merely making pilgrimage to Weihenstephan. So when Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch picked up the phone one day and received a request to create a new beer in collaboration with the iconic brewers, he was "pretty sure that I was being punked by another brewer," he laughs. This year is the second vintage of the collaboration and the beer has been dry hopped with Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, which should give the light effervescent Infinium a more pronounced citrus character.
Brouwerij Liefman’s Cuvee Brut This brew combines the bubbles of a good bubbly with the flavor of a cherry lambic. It pours red, fading to pink bubbles and starts drinking sweet but ends on a tart note.
Brouweij Bosteels DeuS Brut de Flandres This beer is aged in the Champagne region of France and offers up a combination of malt, citrus and spice. It comes in a Dom Perignon-like bottle and opens with a festive pop.
Brothers’ Reserve Lemongrass Wheat Ale from Widmer Brothers Brewing Co in Portland, Oregon may not be particularly bubbly, but concentrated Muscat grape juice is added at the end of the boil and is fermented with a champagne yeast which adds some of the dry, toasty, nutty flavor found in sparkling wines.
Rayon Vert from Green Flash Brewing Co in San Diego is a Belgian-style Pale Ale that is dry and fizzy enough to keep Champagne fans happy and wild, weird and wonderful enough to please hopheads. Because it is bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, the beer’s flavor is meant to be continuously evolving, and can be aged like a fine wine. Put a bottle aside for next New Year's Eve too.