Now that the days are good and long and our guests are enjoying the patio dining, warm temps and lighter dining options, it’s time to put aside the Porters and Stouts and enjoy some of the refreshing beer options for summer. But what are summer beers? Is there a definitive “summer brew” style like the all-powerful IPA style? The answer, like all things in the beverage world, is a bit yes and a bit no.
Summer Beers are part of the large array of ‘seasonals’ produced by American brewers and we probably have Sam Adams to thank for making the seasonal “craft” brew category what it is today (Sam Adams Summer Ale is currently in rotation on draft at many Max locations, including Max’s Tavern in Springfield). 20 years ago there were really not many options for brewery specific summer beers, you just moved to a lighter style of beer, often by another brewer. Now we have loads of options and the breweries do what ever they can t get you to stay with their brand, but are all summer beers made the same? Doubtful.
Kölsch, Wheats and Fruited beers are probably the closest to true or classic warm weather styles, although there are many folks that would add other styles to this mix. But let’s focus on these, as they can represent some of the best beer drinking during the warm months.
KÖLSCH – this style of beer comes from Koln, Germany, and is traditionally served icy cold in smaller, 8oz glasses to keep it cold-to-the-last-drop. American brewers are recreating this style that is essentially an ale that has been lagered (cold stored to create a smooth, creamy texture). Look for Flying Dog Tire Biter, Harpoon Summer (currently on draft at Max A Mia in Avon), Cpt Lawrence Kölsch, or for an authentic German style get the Reisdorff Kölsch (Max Burger Longmeadow).
WHEAT BEERS – a widely used grain, especially in southern Belgium and Germany, where the lightness and freshness of these beers, as well as their affinity for fruit, make them delightful for warm weather. Arguably the best are the Hefeweizen styles from Germany, such as Schneider (Trumbull Kitchen) and Weihenstephaner (Max Burger Longmeadow), but great American examples can be found as well, such as Allagash (Max’s Oyster Bar), Victory Summer Love (in rotation at Max Burger West Hartford), Harpoon UFO (Max Downtown), and Southern Tier Hop Sun Wheat.
FRUITED BEERS – maybe not everybody’s cup of tea (so to speak) but fruit beers are very popular and sell like crazy this time of year. The tradition comes down from Europe, especially Belgium, where many ingredients, not just fruit were added to beer to mask what was probably poor quality. Over time these techniques and styles were perfected so the best are the Lambic styles from Belgium. American brewers have been making delicious fruit beers in a variety of style for years, as well. Look for Magic Hat #9, Hooker Watermelon, or Harpoon’s UFO Raspberry and 21st Amendment Watermelon (in the can at Max Burger Longmeadow). Traditional Lambic from Lindemans are still popular, as well.
A side category to the fruited beers is the Shandy, which is a mix of beer and lemonade – usually 50/50. This is a light, refreshing style that is low alcohol and easy to drink in the warm weather. Pale Ales (such as Brewtus Maximus) are great here. You can also add Ginger Beer to the mix instead of lemonade. This is called a Gaff, or Shandy-Gaff, and is quite tasty if you like ginger. Each of these beer drinks are available at any Max location, year round.