When I invited frequent and fabulous contributor Shelby over for a beer, she said “Since when do you drink beer?” Oh my, I love beer! But only the light and sparkling kind absent of anything too full of hops. Thank goodness I have Shelby in my life, for so many reasons that are way too mushy to get into here, but most notably for her great beer advice. She shares her summer favorites below! – Maggie
We are in full summer beer mode right now and I couldn’t be happier. The snow-covered months, when heavy barley wines and cozy coffee stouts are everywhere, are thankfully behind us. Right now is the perfect time to grab a cold, frosty mug and pour yourself something a bit lighter, retreat to your favorite outdoor spot, and put your feet up.
I struck out to do a bit of research this month so that I could be fully prepared for the summer beer season that is now upon us. With a fun group of people at my family’s lake house in Maine, I attempted to have my friends taste different beers and tell me all about them.
It turns out that beer tasting can be tough business. The drinker is easily distracted, whether they wander off, beer in hand, to go flip burgers, or if they disappear to take a nap on the porch. Or you might suddenly find yourself on a boat, with the other beer tasters, talking about every topic but hops and barley. My theory is that it’s because beer is about having fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it certainly has become much more interesting in recent years with the massive growth of very high quality craft brewing companies.
To prepare, I wanted to locate a pretty good spectrum of beers that would drink well in the summer months. We have had access to pretty good “summer” beers here in the Boston area for years with Sam Summer (Sam Adams) and Harpoon Summer, which announce the season to come when they make their debut around Red Sox opening day. I wanted to go deeper though, finding a few other beers that may not have the word “summer” in their names but that are excellent choices for drinking on a warm summer evening.
Disclaimer #1: This is a selection of seasonal beers that are very local to the northeast United States, and even more specifically, these beers are mostly from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. There are excellent seasonal craft beers from across the country, from Abita in Louisiana, to Lagunitas in California, to Ommegang in New York. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to find your favorite local beer and celebrate it – and if you have suggestions for us, from anywhere – please share in the comment section below. I am ALWAYS looking for a great new beer.
Disclaimer #2: I am in no means a real beer reviewer. I just know what I like when I taste it. Here, I try to tell you why I think you might like these as well.
We have tried about ten different beers over the past few weeks, and while I mostly liked them all, I wanted to share a few of my favorites for the summer of 2011 (so far…)
Summer Session Ale from Peak Organic Brewing Company, Portland, ME.
The Summer Session Ale is an American Wheat Pale Ale (a few of my favorite things) that features a pretty low ABV of 5%, which means you can have a few of them and not fall asleep under the picnic table. The beer has a nice hazy, pale color, and is light and a bit citrusy in taste, but still packs some punch in flavor. It is refreshing and quenches thirst, which makes it a perfect beer to drink on a very hot day.
Notch Session Pils from Notch Brewery, Ipswich MA
These guys have become the darlings of session beer brewing in recent months. Like the Summer Session Ale above, this is a low ABV beer, coming in at just 4%, meaning that this is a great beer if you’d like to imbibe a bit in the afternoon, but don’t want to be in bed before the summer sun goes down. A newer offering from Notch, the Session Pils is slightly grassy in flavor that’s very refreshing with a good amount of bubbles (okay, carbonation).
Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewery, Nantucket MA
I haven’t really encountered a beer from this brewing company that I didn’t immediately love. Whale’s Tale, their signature beer, is an English style pale ale that is amber in color and has a bit more going on in the flavor department, as you can really start to taste the breadiness of the yeast, and detect earthy hops. This beer comes in at a slightly heavier 5.6% alcohol, but is still very drinkable during the summertime. This is a great beer to drink when those warm summer days turn into slightly cooler summer nights, or if you are lucky enough to be drinking seaside.
Riptide Red Ale from Casco Bay Brewery, Portland ME
Don’t let that deep red color dissuade you from trying this well-balanced Irish Red Ale. While this medium bodied beer packs in a ton of flavor, it is not super-heavy and is extremely drinkable on a summer night (it clocks in at 5.4% ABV).
One of my favorites of all that I have tried over the past few weeks, the Riptide Red Ale is the signature beer from the Casco Bay Brewing Company, which is now part of the larger Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. This one might be a bit harder to find outside of Maine, but if you do come across it in your summer travels, I recommend snagging a few six packs!