Small Is Beautiful
A certain amount of boundary-pushing has come to define American craft beer. We're in the midst of a movement that's extreme with a capital E, driven by an ABV arms race tipping the alcohol content of craft brews ever higher, in an attempt to concoct the most potent beers possible. Exotic ingredients are being tossed into the kettle, and barrel-aging remains one of the most popular trends around.
I'm all for it — most of it, anyway, until it begins to eclipse another genre of beers also classified as "extreme," as in extremely well-crafted, lower-alcohol, everyday brews. They're often of the lager variety, requiring the hand of an artful brewer, since smaller (that is, lower in alcohol) beers are an exercise in balance. Unlike bigger styles, there isn't much to hide behind — you can't simply mask a brewing imperfection with an excessive dose of hops, say. We're already seeing signs that the pendulum is swinging back to these so-called session beers, which are designed to be flavorful and only moderately potent, ideal for drinking over the course of a long night.
Luckily for us, some of these beers are being brewed right in our backyard.
Enter Moonlight Brewing Co. Since 1992, Brian Hunt has run this one-man, draft-only, lager-focused Santa Rosa brewery. When not in the brewhouse, he is likely to be delivering his kegs to better beer establishments throughout the Bay Area.
Perhaps Moonlight's most celebrated beer is Reality Czeck, a Czech-style Pilsner. This crisp, 4.9 percent ABV sipper shows off a harmonious blend of flavors, including grassy hops, biscuity malt, and a touch of lemon and honey. The ratings speak for themselves: Reality Czeck comes in third on RateBeer's listing of Czech Pilsners produced in this country, and the best beer of its style worldwide on BeerAdvocate. And you won't need to camp out in line or brave any crowds to try this gem. It's on tap nearly every day of the year at Toronado, alongside other Moonlight creations.