RALEIGH, NC, May 15, 2013 ― Although daily temperatures lately wouldn’t exactly bring across thoughts of sunrays, cookouts and carefree weekends, we are not too far off from another summer solstice. It has been quite some time since I have delved into the beer countdowns. The last one was in honor of pumpkin ales, so we’re going to raise the thermometer this time around and take a look at some summer beers.
Many craft breweries put out seasonal offerings that are devoted to the summer season. Although “summer ale” is the name given to many of these beers, there is no actual style of beer called summer ale. The label identifies more with the seasonal offering, and the style can range from wheat ales to pilsners to blonde ales.
While the styles might range, the theme and purpose behind the summer ale is uniform: a crisp, low-alcohol beer that complements the hot weather.
This list provides five summer beers that are generally accessible in multiple markets throughout the United States. This list is presented in no particular order.
1. Sum’r Ale – Uinta Brewing Company
It’s pretty common for me to bring up Salt Lake City, Utah’s Uinta Brewing Company in my lists of exemplary beers, and for good reason. Having been recognized for operating their brewery with 100% solar and wind energy, Uinta also recently started canning their beers.
Uinta’s Sum’r summer ale is a 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) blonde ale that uses sorachi hops, a lemony variety that isn’t commonly found in readily available beers. Expect a big punch of grassy, citrus notes on the palate with a finish that will allow you to have a few. Sum’r has been added to the canning line of the brewery. It’s currently available in boxed six packs until July.
2. Fleur de Houblon – Brewery Ommegang
The masters of Belgian-inspired ales out of Cooperstown, NY have a new summer offering released this May called Fleur de Houblon, or “Hop Flowers.” This Belgian pale ale uses whole cone Bravo hops for a beer that provides summer spices and fruit essence, such as tangerine, banana and more. At 6.8% ABV, it’s a little bit higher than most summer offerings, but the taste and appearance makes for an appropriate outdoor experience.
Let the herbal/spicy characteristics of Fleur de Houblon complement your next barbeque. While IPAs tend to take charge of cookout partners, the subtle floral notes of Ommegang’s summer beer makes for just as strong of a contender.
3. Sunshine Pils – Troegs Brewing Company
Hershey, Pennsylvania’s Troegs Brewing turns the heads of beer geeks everywhere with their celebrated Nugget Nectar imperial amber ale, but their Sunshine Pils German Pilsner deserves the same amount of recognition for its incredible control of European hop character that makes it one of the ideal summer Pilsner beers.
Expect a noticeable level of spiciness that some might find uncharacteristic of a Pilsner, quickly followed by a crisp punch to follow. At 4.5% ABV, it’s an easy one to enjoy throughout the day, and even better to share.
4. Summer Weizen – Smuttynose Brewing Company
Even if you’re not a beer drinker, you have to admit that hearing about a beer brewed with chamomile would make you curious. That is precisely what Smuttynose Brewing Company out of Portsmouth, NH does with their Summer Weizen seasonal ale.
For a free cheap lesson in German, “weizen” translates to wheat, but don’t look for typical banana/clove characteristics that you would find in a hefeweizen with a Summer Smutty. This beer is much more pale, yet maintains a noticeable wheat bite right at the front. The use of chamomile and Belgian yeast brings an enjoyable level of sweet Summer taste. 5.46% ABV.
5. Oberon – Bell’s Brewery
In keeping with the wheat beers, the final mention on this list comes from Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. Their Oberon wheat ale is a fantastic seasonal ale that delivers a silky feel from the use of Bell’s house ale yeast.
If you’re trying to get away from the hops for a while, Oberon could be one of the ideal subs. The wheat base and yeast brings flavors of orange and other sweet citrus on the tongue without the cutting smack of hops. To say there is no hop character at all would simply not be true though. But the balance of Oberon provides one of the best of the season.
While I wish I could cover dozens of summer seasonals, I encourage readers to discuss some that are coming out of their own local breweries. Share your thoughts and experiences below.
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