Now that summer is here, along with the heat and the humidity, you might be tempted to reach for something light — a white wine spritzer, perhaps? — as you sit poolside or at the beach. Don’t do it! There are plenty of good craft beer summer styles now available that go great in the Alabama heat.
As you probably have noticed, a number of breweries, both large and small, have begun putting out different seasonal beers, and with summer upon us a host of beers is now available with a summertime theme. Many of these beers are on the lighter side, and a number have some type of fruit flavoring.
A seasonal beer that has been put out for a number of years is Summer Shandy by Wisconsin’s Leinenkugel’s brewery. No Johnny-come-lately, Leinenkugel’s was founded in 1867, but only in the past few years has it been distributed outside the Midwest. Its seasonal Summer Shandy is one of its most popular styles, and readily found in our area.
A shandy is traditionally a drink made half with beer and half with some type of juice or soda. Leinenkugel’s recreates the taste of a wheat beer mixed with lemonade, and the lemon flavor is pronounced. It is refreshing, but you’ll have to like lemonade (as I do) to enjoy it. In addition to Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel’s recently came out with grapefruit and watermelon shandys for the summer season as well.
Other brewers have incorporated fruit flavors into their summer beers, but more delicately than in a shandy. Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co., which has long been known for its Blue — an ale with blueberry flavorings — has added a pineapple IPA called Goin’ Coastal and Grass Monkey, a wheat ale with lemongrass favoring. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted lemongrass, so I’m not sure if they got the flavorings right, but it was OK, not too grassy. Much better was the Goin’ Coastal, which was really an excellent light IPA. I didn’t taste too much pineapple, but there was good hop flavor. It’s a nice option for a hot day.
Samuel Adams, best known for its flagship Boston Lager, has put out its Summer Ale more than 20 years now, and it’s another good option for those looking for a lighter-tasting craft beer during the hot months. It tastes like a beer first — a good ale — with just hints of citrus, not overpowering.
Another Boston brewery, Harpoon, has been around almost as long as Sam Adams’ Boston Brewing Co., opening in 1987, but is not nearly as well known and has just recently become available in our area. Its IPA is good, but its summertime brew Camp Winnamango is best left behind — too much mango and not enough hops.
As the overwhelming number of summer styles seem to be lighter and with fruit flavorings, I was surprised when I tasted Philadelphia’s Victory Brewing Co.’s Summer Love ale. While advertised as being a “burst of lemony refreshment,” I found it instead to be a superb, full-bodied blonde ale, in great contrast to so many of the seasonal brews out there. While I am loathe to ever say anything nice about Philadelphia, I am looking forward to trying more of Victory’s beers in the hope they are as good as Summer Love.
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