By Nick Anderson - Rick's Wine
Though the weather here in the D.C. area may not have been showing it this past weekend, summer is on its way in. This means barbeques, outdoor hang-outs with friends and the low point of my sports-fandom; after the basketball and hockey playoffs end and I’m stuck with nothing but baseball until football pre-season starts (Beermonger fact: I find regular season baseball as exciting as watch grass grow).
Summer also means the release of summer-seasonal beers from all of our favorite breweries. No matter what your preferences are, there are many great beers to choose from when the weather warms up. This week I’ll be taking a look at some of the best summer beers that are available now, as well as looking a couple months down the road at upcoming releases.
Five Brews to Try This Summer:
- Bell’s Oberon: The undisputed King of Summer last year. Brewed from March through October every year, Oberon from Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery is of a relatively new style of beer known as American Wheat Ale. Crisper and cleaner than the German Hefeweizen style, Oberon gives you all the classic wheat beer notes of lemon and grain without being overly yeasty or citrusy. A true beer of the people; full-bodied enough for the Beer Geek but accessible for those of us just looking for a nice drink, Oberon will not only be available in 12 oz. bottles this year but in 5L mini-kegs as well. Need something refreshing for that next cookout? Oberon should take care of that well. Then again, you could try…
- Southern Tier Hop Sun: The newcomer for this summer. Southern Tier Brewery in New York became available to us in the area early this year. With a reputation for great seasonal offerings and special yearly brews I was happy to see their stuff arrive. So far, this has been the only American Wheat Ale I’ve had that’s managed to stand up to Oberon. Filtered clean, Hop Sun has a very crisp, almost Pilsner-like feel to it and a hit of piney citrus on the back palate thanks to it having been dry-hopped. It doesn’t seem like much of the Hop Sun is going to make its way down here, so if you see it jump on it quick.
- Lagunitas Sirius: Petaluma, California’s Lagunitas Brewery is a favorite of the customers of Rick’s Wine & Gourmet and a favorite of mine as well. They specialize in having great beer, a better attitude and from what I hear they throw a great party. Last year we were fortunate enough to get Sirius, a seasonal ‘High-Gravity Cream Ale’. Clocking in at 7.6% ABV, Sirius may not be everyone’s idea of a session beer, but it is refreshing nonetheless with hints of hoppy citrus, sourdough bread and a smooth mouthfeel. Expect to see Sirius back in the area sometime mid to late June.
- Weihenstephaner Kristall Weizen: Ok, now that I’ve just crushed my spell check; this is actually a year-round beer but one that I think deserves a little more attention as a great summer beer. Kristall Weizen is essentially a filtered Hefeweizen, with the filtering giving it a cleaner feel with more subtle flavors. This is a great food beer with lighter fare; I can easily see this on a table covered in newspaper with a couple bushels of crabs, some melted butter and Old Bay all over the place.
- Victory Prima Pils: Another year-round offering, this time from Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewery. An all-time favorite at Rick’s, in my house and I believe the standard for non-traditional Pilsner. Details Magazine named it one of the Ten Best Summer Beers, Men's Journal named it Top Lager Worldwide and it was Grand Champion Pilsner at the United States Beer Tasting Championships from 2002 through 2005. Using a large amount of hops, Victory gives the traditional crisp light-bodied lager a hit of herbs and resin. Full-flavored without being too harsh or too heavy.
A couple more to look out for this season: Stone’s 12th Anniversary (the decidedly non-summer Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout) in July and Vertical Epic 08.08.08 (a hopped-up take on Belgian Triple) to be released August 4th. Dogfish Head will have a new historic series beer called Theobroma scheduled for an August release. Theobroma is based on recent discoveries of pottery fragments in Honduras that revealed the oldest alcoholic chocolate beverage found to date. Also, keep an eye out for the excellent Brooklyn Brewery/Schneider collaboration Hopfenweisse (there goes the spell check again) in stores now. This beer is what happens when German Hefeweizen meets American style IPA.
As always, if you have any questions post them to the forum here at Local Kicks, catch me at my blog www.beermonger.net or give me a call at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet. If you’re in the neighborhood this Saturday, come by from 12-5 PM for my weekly beer tasting.
Until next week.
Nick Anderson, the Beermonger