August 11th, 2010

The First Sip: Beers for the Dog Days

The First Sip is a virtual beer flight written by Brian Royo, the brewer out at No Label Brewing Company. He will select a beer style, pick a few craft or micro brews that he’s been sampling, and discuss what he likes about them. For the beer connoisseurs, it’ll be a unique chance to hear a local brewer’s thoughts on what makes these beers great. For the novices and aspiring beer knurds, he’ll walk you through what you should be looking for in a good beer and offer some suggestions on quality suds for you palette.

Between working my day job and trying to open up a brewery, I have little time to kick back and really enjoy some beers. The last article I had mentioned we would look at craft seasonal summer beers. So, a few weeks ago I went to our local liquor store and purchased whatever summer beers they had. I waited for a day that not only was extremely hot but one where I had sometime to really enjoy the beers. Finally, a couple of Sunday’s ago, I had the opportunity to sit outside, smoke a cigar and enjoy some beers with my wife.

To me a summer beer is a beer that you are going to enjoy during the dog days. A beer that you will enjoy outside when it is 100 degrees and 80% humidity. I am not wanting a beer that is thick and heavy. In the craft beer industry these beers are typically seasonal Ales or Lagers available only during the summer months of June through August. The alcohol content can range from roughly 4%-6%ABV. Many are lagers and will contain citrus such as lemon or orange as well as other spices. Similar to Witbiers or Hefeweizen. Wits and Hefe’s could be considered summer beers but they are usually offered year round.

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Summer beers are meant to be enjoyed when it is hotter than hell outside, floating down the river, or during that backyard BBQ. Although summer beers are easily drinkable, they still are chalk full of flavor. So, don’t confuse the drinkability of these with the drinkability of the big three. Not the same thing.

Here is what I look for in a summer beer:
1) It’s cold
2) Its easily drinkable
3) It is flavor full
4) It is light and refreshing
5) It doesn’t fill me up and it makes me want another.

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The first beer we tried was Samuel Adams Summer Ale. This is a wheat Ale with hints of lemon and a little something called “Grains of Paradise”. I am sure you have heard the commercials. So, what the heck is Grains of Paradise? Grains of Paradise is a peppery spice from West Africa. This spice can be used just like pepper. It’s a mix between ginger, pepper and cardamon. This beer has an ABV of 5.3%. There was definitely a hint of lemon and spice which I found refreshing considering we were sitting in almost 100 degree weather. I did not pick up a strong wheat flavor. The spicy hops added to the lemon flavor but were not over powering. This was a very good beer in my opinion. I definitely wanted another…and I did have another.

The next beer we tried was Magic Hats Wacko Summer Seasonal. The interesting thing about this beer was the color…pinkish red. The bottle says “A Beer with beet juice color.” It definitely has a different color. I though this beer to be ok. What it had in color lacked in flavor. This was slightly sweet and fruity. Lightly carbonated. The ABV of this beer is about 4.5%. I didn’t find it as refreshing as Samuel Adams. Although the beer was good, it didn’t make me want to have another.

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The final beer we had was Saint Arnold’s Summer Pils. From the picture, you can notice the clarity of the beer right away. I have to admit I am not a huge Pilsner fan but I do find this one to be a damn good summer beer. This is a bohemian style pilsner with an ABV of 4.9%. This beer has a crisp sweet flower aroma. Well balanced between hops and malt. Crisp and refreshing…like it should be. I didn’t find it to have as much flavor as the Sam Adams but it had enough flavor to please me. This one left me wanting more…and yes, I drank more of it. Good beer!

So during this last brutal month of Summer, go out and try these summer beers or any other while they last. I know Saint Arnold is no longer brewing the summer pils but you can still find it in some stores. It won’t be long before all the Oktoberfest and fall beers start rolling out. So get them while you can and enjoy.

Cheers from No Label Brewing Co.,

— Brian Royo

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