For the first review I did here at the Brunch Money blog, I talked about the brand-new Sapporo Premium Black lager and what I thought this new beer might mean in terms of where craft beer is going. Only a few days later, I was able to get my hands on Peak Organic Happy Hour, the latest pilsner hot off the canning line from Maine’s Peak Organic Brewing Company. On some level, this feels like kismet. How strange could it be that right after having a Sapporo Premium Black, I’d get my hands on yet another lager— this time, from a craft brewery.
This hearkens back to what I was saying earlier; that the next craft beer trend will be lagers and easy drinkers. (Thanks, Nebraska Craft Brewers Guild, for backing me up). Peak Organic Happy Hour is exactly that, and then some. It’s a light, no-frills pilsner that is as sessionable as it is tasty. Not too hoppy, not too sweet, and not too worried about impressing the beer geek commentariat, either. It appears that craft beer really is looking to win over the craft-averse—and this might be the first of many beers to do so successfully.
Much like your typical teenager, craft brewing has gone bigger and bolder to get attention. But now, the industry is growing up.
But first, to the beer itself. Peak Organic Happy Hour comes in a clean, blue and white can with few (if any) embellishments. I’m usually a fan of a more vibrant can design, but it matches their aesthetic and well, if you’re selling a beer that’s all about simple, refined flavors, you can’t really go too wild on the can (but I still love you, Pipeworks Brewing Co.’s Ninja vs. Unicorn!). You want something that matches the flavor profile, so you’ve got to go simple.
Peak Organic Happy Hour pours a light straw flavor with a respectable, fluffy head that dissipates somewhat rapidly in a Pilsner glass (I went with my favorite glass from Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewery). All told, I was happy to see that this beer had some body before I even took a sip. A regular old pilsner Happy Hour is not.
Now for the most important part—how it tastes. At first whiff, I immediately smelled an old familiar beer, stolen from family barbecues as a teenager and swilled at Labor Day parties ever since. On the nose, this beer smelled exactly like Budweiser (sorry, I meant America). I couldn’t believe how similar they were. Even though so many pilsners share a similar nose, this one was eerily similar.
But the taste of Peak Organic Happy Hour was a totally different story. We’ve gone beyond Bud here, without a doubt. The first sip is immediately refreshing. I understood exactly why they called this beer Happy Hour—it’s nearly impossible to only have one. The hop profile feels distinctly European as well. Nary a single New World hop could be detected from the first sip to the last. All told, this beer didn’t last very long: it’s a crushable, easy sipper that is made for having another.
And that’s what I liked most about it. Sure, it didn’t blow me away with big hops, exotic malt profiles, strange yeast strains, or wacky adjuncts. But that’s the point. Craft brewing is getting older, and as it does, it’s becoming more mature and confident in itself to produce beers that stand on their own two feet as easy sippers that don’t always have to make a statement. Much like your typical teenager, craft brewing has gone bigger and bolder to get attention. And for the last 10 years, the strategy has paid off—it grabbed headlines, market share, and made macro brews “uncool.” But now the industry is growing up and realizing that another way to stand out is by producing tried-and-true beer styles that are simply better than their competitors.
Peak Organic Happy Hour shows to me that my post-Sapporo hunch was right. The next war in the battle for good beer will be fought on the lager battlefront. It will be a subtle competition for refined palates, and we as drinkers may find our next challenge is determining what we don’t taste in a beer, rather than what we do.