Saturday, May 11, 2013

Summer Beers: Do We Have To?

The approaching summer season should be viewed as a great opportunity to enjoy the warm weather and abundant sun, perhaps having a beer or two on a patio with friends and family as sunlight remains past the 8:00 hour.  But summer also means lighter tasting seasonal beers—pilsners, lagers, wheat beers, and fruit beers.  With a few exceptions, I’m mostly disappointed by such offerings.  For most pilsners, lagers, and wheat beers—even those produced by craft breweries—I have trouble finding what makes them more distinct than similar products produced by the macro breweries, which I don’t care for anyway.  Fruitier beers often sound interesting, and who doesn’t like some good fruit flavor, but what passes for fruit flavor in beer—and not accents to hops and malts—often to me tastes artificial and weak. I think, simply put, I just don’t care for the styles of summer beer.

So, even though it’s summer and my palate should be looking for crisp, light, refreshing beers, I still find myself wanting my usual favorites.  IPAs, stouts, Belgian ales.  Other than some seasonals, IPAs and the Belgians are pretty much made year round.  Generally speaking, there are probably more fall/winter seasonal stouts out there, and a dark beer such as a stout can be firmly associated with the cold winter months, but many fine stouts are made year round as well.  Basically, while I’m open to trying something new, I want the dry bitter hops that I find in IPAs and the chocolate and coffee malt flavors that I find in stouts.  I don’t care about what the calendar says.  For me, these are rich, exquisite flavors that should be enjoyed year round.  Don’t look at me funny when it’s 95 degrees, the sun is frying eggs on the asphalt, and I’m pouring a can of oil black Ten FIDY that I’ve been saving since the previous fall.

If you made me drink a beer that had to meet summer beer criteria, I’d probably go with Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, though it’s not a summer seasonal but a world class, year-round offering.  Sam Adams Double Agent IPL wouldn’t be a bad choice either, as it’s a good mix of a maltier lager and hoppier IPA.  The classics--Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and Anchor Steam Beer--hold up well also, as they are relatively light on the palate yet still tasty and reasonably sessionable.

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