If you've been following craft beer news lately, a few trends stand out. You may have noticed more 22 oz. bottles (sometimes called "bombers") for sale at your local beer shop, and you may have noticed that those bottles tend to contain beer with a higher than average alcohol content, often between 7% to 11% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared to 3% to 5.5% ABV from the larger breweries such as Miller.* The high ABV beers pose something of a problem if you work mornings as 22 oz. of a 9% beer can add up. You could share with a friend or family member, or do what I do: cap the bottle with a stop (wine stops are less effective than plastic ones, but will do in a pinch) and come back to it the next day.
The good folks at Harpoon, however, have come up with something else: good beers in bombers with more manageable ABVs under the 100 Barrel Series. Harpoon, I salute you! In particular, I salute the Single Hop ESB, which features, for the first time in a commercially brewed beer, the Delta hop, a hybrid of the British Fuggle and the American Cascade. For a good example of each of these hops, I suggest Shipyard IPA for the Fuggle and Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale for the Cascade. Crossing the two, at least as expressed in the ESB, it appears that the Fuggle won out, as the mouthfeel is a bit earthy, lacking the citrus tang of Cascade. No shame in that, and not a surprise given that the Cascade is itself a Fuggle crossed with an obscure Russian hop. Clocking in at 5.8% ABV, the ESB comes as close to a session beer as you'll find in a bomber, which means you can drink the whole thing in a sitting and not regret it the next morning. In fact, a great many 100 Barrel Series beers clock in at under 7%.
This bottle happens to be the maltiest beer in my house, so I paired it with bratwurst and braised cabbage, treating it like a Marzen. It worked quite nicely. Well done, Harpoon!
* Some may point out that Heineken and malt liquors have come in bombers for some time, but I'm not talking about those, at least not now.