DRAFT PICKS: Summer is coming … really! So are summer beers
I tend to drink beer somewhat seasonally — and with purpose.
Let me explain.
While I know it probably sounds silly, I kinda think there is a time and a reason for drinking specific beers. Some just seem better suited to a season or occasion than do others.
Maybe this is based on some acquired experience or evidence. Or possibly it is just silliness.
I look forward to summer because I tend to drink more wheat beers during the summer than the winter.
In the winter I certainly lean toward the more hefty stouts (which I prefer anyway) and the darker ales. In summer - the lighter, more fruity and refreshing beers (especially when you’ve just finished mowing the lawn or rotor-tilling).
My idea of a great summer beer is one of the wheat beer stylings. There are a few.
Wheat beers are brews that contain a lot more wheat proteins which end up - more often than not - making the beer look a bit cloudy.
The haziness is increased when the beer is chilled properly, or is flat out cold.
Wheat beers, or more correctly some styles of wheat beer, are pretty much direct descendants of the old style European beers. And I mean REALLY old style.
These traditional beers were brewed without hops and used other herbs and vegetables in the “bittering” process.
Some brewers still use these traditional elements (often referred to as gruit) today.
I like what I call summer beers because they often include things such as coriander, orange and types of zest, as an late ingredient in the brewing process. This makes them especially flavorful and refreshing after a long afternoon of gardening.
Now please keep this in mind ... I write about beer and beer styles pretty superficially. There are a bucket load of wheat beer styles, and each is unique in its own right so that writing generally and generically sometimes isn’t as suitable or explanatory for one as it may be for the next.
Just in the wheat beer style of brewing there are such lagers and ales as Witbier, Biere Blanche, Dunkelweiss, Hefeweizen and many more.
The range of wheat beers is huge. One popular variety is the Berliner Weissbier. These brews are generally clearer and crisper in presentation - a pale golden color. Not having the traditional haziness seems to make them more acceptable to American eyes.
The Top 10 sellers of this style, according to our friends at Beer Advocate, include:
- Festina Pêche - Dogfish Head Brewery
- Bell’s Oarsman - Bell’s Brewery, Inc
- Hottenroth Berliner Weisse - The Bruery
- Professor Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse - Professor Fritz Briem
- Thumbprint Berliner Weiss - New Glarus Brewing Company
- Evil Twin Justin Blåbær - Evil Twin Brewing
- Tartare - Bear Republic Brewing Co.
- Lips Of Faith - Yuzu Imperial Berliner Weisse - New Belgium Brewing
- Berliner Style Weisse - Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof
- Ever Weisse - Night Shift Brewing
Please note: A Michigan brewery is No. 2 on this highly competitive list.
Enjoy your soon-to-come summer brews. And in the meantime, try a couple of these offerings.
The folks at Breckenridge are creative and dedicated to their craft. Simply put, they are turning out some exceptional brews.
Ophelia is a lovely, shiny apricot color with a little haziness and a very limited amount of “stuff” floating around in the mix. Don’t be put off. It is what it is, and it’s good!
There wasn’t too much head, and only a little bit of lacing.
There isn’t a strong nose to this beer. If you stick with it, some mild hoppiness is revealed with a touch of citrus smell and a degree of fruitiness. There is an accompanying scent of wheaty yeast. Not much.
The first wash is not unlike the first scent. You simply need to go back for more. There is a defined hops flavoring, but it is very well balanced - a balance I have learned to really appreciate. When there is a balance in the hops flavor, you know the brewer has actually worked hard to achieve that result. There’s none of the “chucking another fistful of hops into the brew” business.
I love balance.
This is a very tasteful and refreshing beer. A touch lemony, but not so fruity as to be annoying.
Ophelia is a great “sitting on the deck” beer.
I can easily see it making the list of regulars in the Crees household. (That list is getting bigger and longer all the time!)
Trippel Belgian Style Ale
New Belgium Brewing
Fort Collins, Colo.
New Belgium has created a scrumptious Tripel that packs a bit of a punch - 7.80 percent ABV.
Trippel pours an inviting medium amber color with quite a bit of carbonation. There is a good amount of foamy head that leaves a lot of lacing which lasts throughout the session.
Trippel is has a rich grainy smell backed by a slap of coriander (read the label!) and a touch of more peppery spices. There is a touch of citrus scenting, and just a tinge of candy-like sweetness.
The spiciness shows up strong at first wash, and the peppery aroma translates well in the tasting.
There is a lot to taste and sense here. Take your time. It really is a joyful experience.
Touches of honey. Short blasts of yeast. Lots of bready character. But all through this trek, there is a sense of smoothness and balance.
Trippel is clean and crisp without the booziness you might expect with the slightly elevated ABV.
I loved this brew - drank it on the deck in one of my first warm-day sessions.
It was simply nice.