I love beer. I love talking about it, reading about it, studying the culture around it, brewing it and (most of all) drinking it. That being said, it appears that the warm weather is finally arriving and with it a slew of great seasonal beers. With so many craft breweries popping up it’s difficult to keep track of what’s going on in such a rapidly expanding, diverse industry.
Fear not, beer drinking citizen. I’m here to help!
Spring is a great time of year for beer drinkers of all types. The darker, maltier stouts and porters are still great choices for cool evenings but the warm days open the opportunity to break out some hoppy favorites. Keep an eye out for Amber Ales, Pale Ales and India Pale Ales as well as another variety of beer that’s rapidly gaining popularity: Hopped Session Ales. He’Brew (NY) puts out a great “Genesis Dry Hopped Session Ale”, Otter Creek (VT) has released a new “Hop Session Ale” and Founder’s Brewing (MI) has released their “All Day IPA: A Session IPA”. These beers are geared towards offering hopheads sessionable ale that still delivers intense hop flavors and aromas.
Our friends at Beer Advocate offer the best definition of a sessionable beer: “Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish—a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.”
Local brewers are also getting in on the seasonal action. Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket will be releasing a limited-run Farmhouse Ale called La Ferme Urbaine. They’re describing it as “a beer light in body and color and boasts a strong Belgian yeast flavor and aroma backed by a subtle noble hop profile.” It will weigh in with an ABV at 7.8% and register relatively low on the bitterness scale.
Revival Brewing, out of Providence, will also be releasing a seasonal Spring brew. Zeppelin: An Unfiltered Hefeweizen will be hitting the shelves in a few weeks. Hefeweizen is a wheat beer which originated in Germany. They tend to be unfiltered, giving them a cloudy appearance, and low in alcohol with a crisp, clean finish. Great for a hot day.
One of the quirky aspects of the brewing industry is the release of seasonal beers. Once Spring hits the Summer beers arrive. Don’t ask me for an explanation…it is what it is.
Summer beers are structured for hot weather sessions. Think mowing the lawn, going to a barbecue or sitting by the pool. You don’t want something that’s going to sit in your gut and prevent you from partaking of another hamburger. Lagers, Kölsch, Pilseners and Shandies are standard Summer beer-drinking fare. Light, clean, crisp and a low ABV are the hallmarks of a great Summer brew.
Last Summer, shandies were all the rage in the beer market. Created in Ireland a shandy is half lager, half lemonade (the “Arnold Palmer of Beer”, if you will). If you like fruit-forward beers (a la Sam Adams Cherry Wheat or Newport Storm’s Blueberry Ale) you’ll definitely enjoy a shandy on a hot day. Some popular shandies have been released by Curious Traveler (MA) and Leinenkugel (WI).
As you make your way to the store to chase away the Summer heat keep these seasonal brews in mind: Sam Adams (MA) Summer Ale (brewed with lemon zest & grains of paradise…yes they went to paradise, reaped the grains and made beer with them!), Brooklyn (NY) Summer Ale, Long Trail (VT) Pollenator, Berkshire Brewing (MA) Maibock Lager and Sierra Nevada (CA) Summerfest.
Remember: A great beer not only tastes good, it feels good. Get out there this season and try some brews you’ve never tried before. Your taste buds will thank you for it.
Cheers to Great Beers!
Brian “The Beer Guy” Buongiovanni handles the Craft Beer selection at Brickyard Wine & Spirits in Barrington and organizes the new East Bay Homebrewers Club. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.