Home Beer Trending: 10 retro American beers

Trending: 10 retro American beers

Classic, American-born beer styles that originated as early as the late 18th century are back with craft spins.


10 BEERS --- Ed Rudolph

Photo by Ed Rudolph

It’s true of fashion, cars and music, and it’s true of beer as well: What’s old is new again. Classic, American-born beer styles that originated as early as the late 18th century are back with craft spins. Pre-Prohibition porters, cream ales, Kentucky commons and their compatriots are easy-drinking and approachable, exactly the kind of brew you’d stock by the six-pack. While some breweries hew close to the original recipes, others can’t resist a 2016 remix.

Bold City Killer Whale Cream Ale 
This Jacksonville, Florida-brewed cream ale provides a dose of year-round sunshine, with a corn husk and soft hay aroma that foreshadows the flavorful, corn-and-lemon sip. If you’re always a lager drinker, this could add variety to your routine.

Yuengling Porter
If you’ve only tried the lager from America’s oldest brewery, you’re missing out on Yuengling’s smooth pre-Prohibition-style porter. It’s distinguished from modern porters by the absence of roast; instead, rustic hops temper cola and molasses sweetness before a dry finish wraps up the swallow.

New Glarus Spotted Cow
Every Wisconsinite knows this beer (it might just be the unofficial state beverage). This cream ale displays less corn sweetness than others; instead, grainy malt flavor with light pome fruit notes washes across the tongue, punctuated by soft bubbles. Naturally, it would be a match for a mild cheddar or Butterkase cheese.

Lucky Bucket Lager
Before Prohibition, American pilsners packed more flavor than decades later when light beers became the norm. In that spirit, this Nebraska-brewed lager dials up the malt backbone with bready flavors reminiscent of a sourdough loaf, studded with woody, rustic American hops.

St. Florian’s California Common
This GABF bronze-winning California common marries the hallmarks of the style perfectly: Earthy, lightly floral hops meet mellow, toasted malts for a cohesive sip that ends with a clean, pleasantly bitter full stop.

Little Harpeth Chicken Scratch
This pre-Prohibition-style pilsner from Nashville’s Little Harpeth recently debuted in cans, a natural package for the crushable lager. It’s packed with sweet, grainy malt flavor as well as a perceptible corn savoriness balanced by floral Cluster hops, a variety native to the U.S.

Upstate Common Sense
The Kentucky common, a beer style born in the Louisville area after the Civil War, is often mistakenly brewed as a sour beer; it was more likely a dark-colored, sessionable ale. Upstate’s is caramel-forward, with low hop bitterness and a lightly mineral finish to keep it refreshing. Surprisingly, it’s brewed in Elmira, New York, 650-plus miles from Louisville.

Mother Earth Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Cream Ale
Here’s a 21st-century twist on a cream ale: This beer’s corn sweetness meets with vanilla additions to give the impression of a cream soda. It’s not overly sweet—light hop bitterness sweeps in midsip to remind you that this isn’t a kid’s beverage.

Rio Grande Outlaw Lager
Anchor Brewing invented the California common in 1896; other brewers have since picked up the style. There’s plenty of malt depth to savor in this New Mexico-brewed version: Earthy hops accent robust cereal grains in a totally even sip.

Fullsteam El Toro
Fullsteam brews El Toro with North Carolina-grown barley and corn, lending a soft mouthfeel to the crisp, bright beer. You’ll find light lemony tartness midway through the approachable sip, just the thing to whisk away winter blues.


Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.

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