In a recent press release, the Brewers Association (BA) announced that two beer styles have been added to their Beer Style Guidelines, bringing the total number of recognized styles to 142. The two added styles are grätzer, a smoked wheat beer and Adambier, a strong, dark, hoppy, sour ale extensively aged in wood barrels.
In the spirit of American craft beer, brewers are taking up the challenge and brewing these rare beer styles, particularly grätzer.
Choc Beer Co. (CBC) is helping restore fame to the grätzer from their Krebs, Okla. brewery. The traditional Polish grätzer recipe, also known as grodziz or grodziskie, calls for oak-smoked wheat, an ingredient that until recently hadn’t been on the market, a yeast strain that was not available in the U.S. and hops that are no longer grown commercially. Don’t worry, the lack of ingredients didn’t stop the brewers at CBC!
The challenge of finding the ingredients can be a major roadblock in brewing rare or out of production ales, but with a little determination, and help from Shawn Scott, a Polish speaking homebrewer, CBC was able to track down an original grätzer yeast strain from Warsaw.
The biggest struggle for the grätzer was finding smoked wheat malt; but a CBC contact was able to work with Weyermann Specialty Malts to purchase the oak-smoked wheat malt. Weyermann is now selling the special malt, which has prompted a handful of other brewers to begin brewing grätzer.
Original grätzer beers typically used Nowotomyski hops, a cultivar that was developed in the mid-1800s, but is now hard to find. CBC used the Lubliner hop as a substitute, based on its common ancestry and extended lineage.
Several other small U.S. brewers are making grätzer, including Westbrook Brewing Company (WBC) of Mt. Pleasant, S.C. WBC has an knack for brewing defunct commercial beers from Europe. The company also brews a gose, a sour beer made with coriander and salt, and a lichtenhainer, a smoked malt, sour beer similar to a Berliner weiss.
The innovation of American craft brewers and the willingness of Weyermann to revitalize a product has made the grätzer revitalization possible. The formal recognition of these rare and older styles will help further the contributions of American brewing and help restore a style that might have been lost forever.
Andrew Kaczmarek, is the current Craft Beer Program Intern, hop farmer, beer writer for the CU Independent, homebrewer and student at the University of Colorado in his final semester. When not pursuing hoppiness, as a Colorado native, he spends his free time skiing, camping or biking in the Rocky Mountains.