The can: Fort Point Beer Co.’s Manzanita, $11.99 for a six-pack

The back story: Call this a marriage of craft brewing and a campfire, with a woodsy California twist. Fort Point, a San Francisco beer maker with an eclectic array of offerings, is one of the few American breweries to have introduced a rauchbier, a German style of smoked beer. In the German tradition, the drink gets that flavor of the fire through drying malted barley, a key ingredient in beer, over an open flame.

When the Fort Point team came up with its recipe for rauchbier, working in partnership with a German beer expert, it decided to use beechwood-smoked malt. But it also added some wood from the manzanita, a type of shrub that grows widely in California. And in this case, they put the charred manzanita logs directly into the beer-making kettle. As soon as they did so, the brewing area “was filled with this amazingly sweet campfire aroma,” says Fort Point head brewer Mike Schnebeck.

Manzanita has become a popular Fort Point seasonal offering, available in the fall and winter. And Fort Point itself is another example of a craft brewer finding its niche, even as the market becomes ever more crowded.

From 2012 to 2017, the number of such breweries in the U.S. nearly tripled to 6,266, according to the Brewers Association. Fort Point, which was started in 2014 and distributes only in California at the present time, has seen its sales skyrocket of late: The company’s projected revenue for 2018 was $15 million, up 57% from the previous year.

What we think about it: We’re big fans of the rauchbier style, though it’s definitely not your everyday sip. Fort Point delivers a great version — just smoky enough, but not over the top. Schnebeck says his goal was to make an “accessible” rauchbier.

How to enjoy it: The Fort Point team suggests pairing Manzanita with savory meat dishes, including ones in the smoky vein (as in barbecue). But it also goes great with pizza, they say.

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