Seasonal Quaffing

The beers of summer

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Friday, June 21 marks the beginning of summer and a time when many beer lovers gravitate to lighter and more refreshing beers to match the warmer days.

“Summer beers,” as they’re loosely categorized, include a wide range of beer styles, though they hold the common thread of being light, refreshing, easy to drink and relatively low in alcohol, making them better served for multi-hour barbecues, water activities, outdoor games and sports. Below are some beers to try that are perfectly suited for the season.

If summer could be squeezed into a bottle or a can, Summer Ale by Fremont Brewing Company might be how it tastes. It offers citrusy pops of tangerine, a balanced amount of bitterness and gentle aromas that will make you think you’re standing in a wildflower-filled meadow. For a “SMaSH” beer, which is a single malt and single hop beer, it’s surprisingly complex and flavorful. It’s also easy to quaff.

Kulshan Brewery’s light, crisp, slightly sweet and slightly tart Dude Man Wheat Ale is the quintessential summer ale, but that choice is too easy. Instead (or in addition to Dude Man), you really must try the brewery’s new summer seasonal, Hop Howdy Belgian Blonde. Sure, it has more than 8 percent alcohol by volume, so it’s a tad strong for your typical summer beer, but it’s no less refreshing, and its Belgian yeast esters conjure up images of blooming flowers and sun-soaked farmland. It finishes with a blast of spicy hop flavors and a healthy amount of bitterness. And if that doesn’t sound like your average Belgian ale, it’s not. Though in recent times, a growing number of Belgian brewers—including Achouffe, Het Anker, and De Ranke, to name a few—have begun brewing some rather hop-forward ales imitating American-style IPAs. “Hop Howdy is our take on some Belgian brewers’ take on the American IPA,” Kulshan founder Dave Vitt explains with a laugh.

Boundary Bay Brewery’s Pilsner is the brewery’s highly anticipated summer seasonal. Being a lager, it is fermented longer and cooler than ale, which helps to create smoother, drier and less-fruity flavors. Noble hop additions give it a balanced hop bitterness level as well as delicate hop aromas, and Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna malts contribute to the beer’s light but flavorful malt backbone.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Summerfest is a Czech Pilsner-style lager with a subtle, honey-like sweetness, rich and grainy malt flavors, a floral and peppery hop profile, and a crisp and dry finish. It’s full of flavor, yet incredibly easy to drink.

The Helles style of beer (“hell” means “pale” or “light” in German, and “helles” means “bright”) was Munich’s response to the Czech Pilsner. Compared to Pilsner, Helles is slightly maltier, lower in alcohol and less bitter. Chuckanut Brewery’s Helles Lager is a perfect example of the style, and panels of expert beer judges agree. This year, it won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and the Washington Beer Awards, and a silver medal at the North American Beer Awards.

Some fruit beers are too sticky and sweet. Others lack a noticeable fruitiness. 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer seems to be just right. This American-style wheat beer is brewed with watermelon, which contributes a pinch of sweetness and some pleasantly fruity background aromas.

Rolle Bolle by New Belgium Brewing Company is named after a Belgian yard game that can be conveniently played with a beer in one hand. This summer seasonal has oaty and cracker-like malt flavors, a mild hop bitterness, and a crisp, dry and quenching finish. Adding to its refreshing qualities, Rolle Bolle is brewed with two exotic fruits—monk fruit and soursop—that imbue it with tart, vinous and tropical fruit flavors, plus a pinch of sourness, making it the ideal accoutrement to a hot summer day.

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