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Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Fortuitous Accident - Derecho Common

It is even more delicious than it looks.

It is macro month on the blog but I'm steadfastly refusing to jump into it. That is what Monday will be for. Instead I'm taking another slight detour. The heat out here refuses to break and the dog days of summer are right around the corner and this calls for another beer that can beat the heat. Fortunately the local brewery has stepped up to the plate again. 

One of the beers that I missed during reviews for summer seasonals was Downright Pilsner, the summer seasonal out of my local, Port City Brewing. It was an excellent pilsner, done in the Bohemian style, with a nice crisp bite,  classic golden color, and very refreshing. All in all, a well done classic pilsner. It was further proof that Port City is continuing to grow as a brewery. 

On Friday, August 4, a new beer entered the picture and this one is a bit more special. Derecho Common is Downright's more elusive strange cousin from the west. If a small disaster hadn't befallen Alexandria then it is very likely that this beer would never have come into being. For local beer drinkers that would have been a tragedy. At the beginning of July we had a derecho roll right over us and knock out power in the midst of a heat wave. Port City Brewery lost power and were in jeopardy of losing a good deal of beer, fortunately a generator was procured in time and the beer was saved. Not everything returned to normal though, one tank of Downright pilsner fermented at a higher temp and a decision was made to turn that brew into a California Common

Before we go any further though here is a little context. We haven't really discussed California Common a.k.a steam beer on the site yet, but for all intents and purposes it is a lager that is fermented at ale temperatures. It came about in the mid/ late 1800s in California when thirst for lager beer was booming but the tools to brew it weren't quite there. Brewers are a resourceful lot though and they created an American style of beer in the vats of necessity. California isn't natural lager country and refrigeration, while in existence, had not made it to San Francisco yet. Enter steam beer, a cheap beer brewed for the working class. It became very popular, though when technology did catch up so did the demand for traditional lagers. Steam beer faded away and almost went extinct but was revived in the very early 1970s. The biggest brewer of and most well known is Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco and they were the brewery that saved the style though at a cost. Steam Beer is their trademark in the United States, all other brewers have to use California Common. Nowadays steam beer is a well appreciated style in the craft brewing world. 

Derecho Common pours a golden sunny color, clear, with a fluffy white head; this beer has a lot of the same visual characteristics as Downright. If you had the opportunity to try Downright you can actually taste the relationship between the two brews. The Derecho Common has a bit more body, and an ale-like fruitiness that comes along with the higher fermentation, this is enhanced by the Amarillo hops used. It does capture that steam beer taste which as I can best describe is a slightly flat fruit-like bitterness. The ties between the two brews become a bit more overt when, on day two of the growler, more earthiness in the aftertaste had started to creep into the brew bringing a nice reminder of Derecho Common's pilsner roots. Like it's cousin,it has a lower ABV and it is a great hot day beer. It is a refreshing, slightly heavier, very smooth drinker. This is a beer to unwind with on a hot day after working in the yard or field. The downside of this is that it is very limited and if you are going to try it you need to get out to Alexandria in the next two weeks. 

The bigger picture of what Derecho Common represents is that Port City Brewery has the brewing competence, ingenuity, and confidence to take a potentially bad situation and turn it into a very rewarding brew. Faced with a crisis they kept their cool and delivered a quality brew that hits all the marks. It would make those old California brewers proud. The bottom line is Derecho Common is a great beer, hopefully Port City will continue to set aside a tank of this annually to celebrate the fact that when you have the skill you can make your own luck. 


  1. Bravo! Great review which echoes my thoughts. Derecho Common really delivers. Amazingly good and refreshing. And I too hope that this becomes a yearly seasonal. It's a great way to "celebrate" (thumb our noses at?) the fickle, unpredictable weather of our region.

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      I'm hoping that there will still be a bit of Derecho Common left when I get back from vacation because I really want another growler or two of it.