June 15th, 2010
Of Mead and Men: Inside the Beers of Summer
We’ve got a new treat for you. Everybody loves their beer columns, so we have commissioned a master homebrewer to take on the weeks opposite of Mr. Royo’s The First Sip. Hopefully, you like Of Mead and Men (title under consideration) and find it just as helpful as we of The Loop Scoop staff do. Jeff is a member of the Cane Island Alers and promises he will one day show me the ropes of brewing. Until then, I’m just going to have to take his beer advice below.
Summertime is just around the corner. June 21st, to be exact. Sure, you can bemoan the triple digit temperatures, curse the bolstered electric bill or become annoyed by the amount of school-free kids invading all the places you used to enjoy during the day, but try to find the good in summer. There’s lazy days of lounging in the pool, women’s summer wardrobe (less is more), baseball season (though not such a thrill for Houston, this year) and, as a tried and true beer geek, one of my favorite parts of summer… craft breweries releasing their summer seasonal beers!
For the beer savvy out there, the four seasons (yes, Houstonians, technically there are four) are each exciting because they bring a bounty of seasonal beers to the market. Usually these beers are tailored to their season. During the summertime, this usually means easy drinking, crisp, clean beers that are ideal for their warm weather drinkability with a light refreshing flavor.
So, without further adieu, here’s a list of summer seasonals you can find here in Houston:
Saint Arnold Brewing – Summer Pils (Bohemian-Style Pilsner)
You know that feeling when it’s a sweltering hot summer day and you take that first plunge into a nice cool pool and all the bad things about summer just go away… Summer Pils is kinda like that. In your mouth. It’s a crisp, clean yellow lager with a subtle sweetness and a perfectly balanced hop background with the kind of flavor that makes you say “ahhhh” after every sip! Perfect for that next pool party!
Real Ale Brewing – Devil’s Backbone (Belgian Tripel)
This is the first year this beer (or any Real Ale seasonals) has been bottled and showing up on Houston shelves, so consider yourself lucky. This Belgian tripel has all the characteristics of a nice clean yellow beer, with a delicious Belgian spiciness derived from the yeast. Careful with this one… at 8% alcohol, it’s as sneaky as it is refreshing.
Harpoon Brewery – Summer Beer (Kolsch-Style)
The Kolsch-style originates in Cologne, Germany, and carries with it some great tradition. This is a straw colored, mildly flavored beer that finishes dry, making it a refreshing style at your next barbecue.
Magic Hat Brewing – Wacko Ale (No real style, specifically)
Magic Hat is an interesting little brewery that makes some great beers. Wacko is no exception. Oddly, it’s made with some beet sugar, so this beer looks pink in the glass. Get past that, though, and you have a nice beer with a subtle hop presence and some mild sweetness in the flavor.
Sierra Nevada – Summerfest (Pilsner)
This was my beer of choice during last Memorial Day’s barbecue. This yellow beer is simple, yet exceptional. It’s clean, very refreshing and easy to drink (especially poolside) with a very smooth hop flavor that doesn’t overpower your palate.
Sam Adams – Summer Beer (American Wheat Ale with Spices)
Here’s an interesting take on a summer beer. The brewers at Sam Adams took your traditional American Wheat style and added lemon zest and Grains of Paradise (a rare African pepper). The result? A thirst quenching wheat beer with a tangy and spicy flair!
Brooklyn Brewery – Summer Ale (Light English Ale)
This New York brewery decided to keep things a little more English (damn Yankees). This beer is modeled after English light dinner ales which were made to be lighter bodied and more refreshing with a slightly bready flavor. This particular beer also has a charge of American hops to add a nice soft rounded bitterness to make it crisp and flavorful.
Dogfish Head – Festina Peche (Berliner Weisse)
Dogfish Head is well known for their “off-centered ales for off-centered people”, so Festina makes perfect sense. Berliner weisse is a wheat beer style accentuated by extreme tartness (some call it sour). This particular weisse is also brewed with peach concentrate, giving you a sweet follow up to the puckering tartness. It’ll cost you a bit more than your normal craft beer, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Breckenridge Brewery – Summerbright (American Wheat Ale)
I can’t say I’ve had this one and the reviews don’t look so great. But I’ll let you be the judge. It’s a wheat beer made with a fairly generous amount of hops. Reviews mention hints of lemon in the flavor, but I’d bet that’s citrus flavors from the hopping.
New Belgium Brewing – Skinny Dip (Light Blonde Ale)
This is a summer beer from the guys that brought you Fat Tire. Skinny Dip was brewed to be a lower calorie, sessionable summer beer. As such, is quite light bodied making it almost watery. It is brewed with a hint of lime, but nothing very pungent. It’s a light beer with a little kick.Enjoy it as such.
Kona Brewing – Wailua Wheat (Wheat Beer with Fruit)
Technically, Kona calls this their spring beer, but its season runs through summer… so why split hairs. A tropical treat, Wailua takes your traditional American wheat beer and infuses it with passion fruit. This is another one I haven’t tried, and can’t vouch for, but it sounds tasty.
Deschutes Brewery – Twilight Ale (American Pale Ale)
Twilight is brewed like your regular American Pale Ale, but just take down the body a notch and mix in some citrusy hops that add fruitlike characteristics to the bitterness and you’ve got yourself a nice little summer beer.
Blue Moon Brewing – Honey Moon (American Honey Wheat with Spices)
Not too much to say about this one. Take a wheat beer, add honey (honey ferments out completely leaving a lighter bodied beer) and orange peel and you’ve got Honey Moon.
Widmer Brothers Brewing – Sunburn (Blonde Ale)
Here’s a fairly simple blonde ale. The brewers over at Widmer created a blonde beer that was light bodied but kept full flavor from the use of a new hop variety called Citra, which is known for it’s strong citrus characteristics. This gives you a summer beer that is full of flavor without being too filling.
Enjoy your summer beers! Only a few more months until Fall seasonals!