24 Beers of Christmas – December 6th: Radical Road Sling Shot

Radical Road Slingshot

Not your run of the mill kind of lager. Toronto-based Radical Road Brewing Co.‘s Sling Shot California Common pays homage to a beer style that was nearly lost to history. The California Common traces its lineage back to the days of the California Gold Rush. During that period the influx of thirsty miners looking to strike it rich caused unprecedented levels of demand for beer, which at that time would have certainly meant lager. Prior to advancements in refrigeration, it would have been exceptionally difficult to produce a European-inspired, golden lager, in a warmer Californian climate. Lagering, after all, is the process of cold conditioning a beer over a certain period of time. As such, local brewers set about trying to reproduce the clean and easy drinking qualities of a lager using strains of bottom-fermenting yeast that are more attenuative at higher temperatures. The beer style earned the name “Steam Beer” which may have been due to the shallow open fermenters that used the fresh sea air, in particular in the San Francisco Bay area, to cool their wort after the boiling process.

These unique lagers fell out of favour over time; certainly with help from improvements in commercial cooling systems. If it wasn’t for the Anchor Brewing of San Francisco this style would have likely have joined the ranks of the many other extinct beer styles from the past. While Anchor had been brewing their Steam Beer continuously since 1896, give or take a few brewery closures, it wasn’t until they started bottling Anchor Steam Beer in 1971 that it began to grow in popularity beyond San Francisco. Anchor Steam Beer became the archetype of the “modern” style California Common, which is typically a light drinking, off-amber coloured beer which is mildly fruity, more malty than a typical American lager and with a much more pronounced hop presence.

Radical Road’s Sling Shot  delivers on the textbook style notes with a nice maltiness and strong floral and grassy hop flavours.

Style: California Common –5 % ABV, 35 IBU, SRM – ?

Food pairings: BBQ Pork Ribs, Feta, Bread Pudding

Availability: LCBO