DRAFT PICKS: The season for what kind of beer?
A visitor to the office recently asked what I would be stocking up on as the summer season began slowly but surely better expressing itself.
Well ... I have to admit. The “standards” in the Crees fridge generally don’t change all that much.
I like a good American Brown Ale at just about any time of year.
I usually have a decent selection of brews in the refrigerator or down in the basement. Truth be known, the variety is mostly for visitors. On any given day, I’ll stick with my Moose Drool - a Big Sky Brewing beer out of Missoula, Mont.
Nevertheless, I do shift my purchasing of beer a bit in summer recognizing that most folk go for something a bit lighter and less demanding than they might in winter.
So, if you’re looking for “summery” beers, here’s what I’d suggest you stock up on.
Kölsch (also spelled Koelsch) is a distinctly hoppy beer first brewed as a specialty beer brewed in Germany.
It is hoppier than a lot of German beers, but certainly less hoppy than most India Pale Ales.
Kolsch is a clear beer with a bright, light-golden color hue.
It is not bitter, but rather a touch floral. I find Kolsch beers very, very refreshing.
Kolsch is an excellent on-the-deck beer, but also a wonderfully refreshing I-just-finished-mowing beer.
Most Saison beers are really good for this time of year.
In fine, Saison beers are most often pale ales that are pretty bubbly and generally have some adjunct ingredients such as spices or zests. Traditionally, Saisons are brewed in winter, and uncorked in summer.
The “best” Saisons are French and Belgian, BUT ...there are some wonderful Saisons being brewed in these United States.
There are a wide range of Saison characteristics, so trying to describe one here would be a stretch.
They are great summer beers - as they were meant to be. Cold, crisp and very, very refreshing.
How odd. Lagers?
Well, in very general terms, Lagers are better served during the summer months than are ales (certainly stouts).
I know. It’s all a matter of taste, still ...
Lagers are cold brewed and cold stored, so they just kinda fit better in hot summer months.
And there are all sorts of lagers - including darks. So you needn’t feel deprived of your dark ales in summer months when you have plenty of Dunkel and Schwarzbier available.
In short, Hefeweizen is a wheat beer. The leading varieties include Weissbier and Witbier.
These beers are generally very suitable to summer sessions because they are so much lighter in color and body.
Some of the Hefeweizens are almost Kool-Aid-esque, they are so light and unassuming.
These are great ball game, summer chores and general lounging beers.
Very unpretentious and not at all domineering.
It’s hard to just say one beer is a summer brew and the next is not.
The quest for a favorite beer - even a seasonal quest - is one of individual taste.
Nevertheless, the above noted types of beers are extremely well suited to the summer season both in taste and in body.
Find some, and give them a try.
In the meantime, try a couple of this week’s samplings, (which both are coincidentally Bell’s beers).
Hopslam Bell’s Brewery, inc. Kalamazoo
I may or may not have written about Bell’s Hopslam before. Nonetheless I was gifted a couple bottles of this fine brew and was once again reminded that Bell’s deserves all the honors and accolades they receive.
Hopslam pours a transparent deep gold, almost amber color with about half an inch of head that maintains quite well.
There is a sweet, honey smell up front with a rich maltiness and some strong hints of hoppy pine. The scents are sharp and clean. No secrets here!
Tasting, as is so often the case, follows the nose. There is a strong hops presence right up front and a touch of bitterness toward the last swallow, but there is a pack of flavor throughout. Slightly sweet, a little citrusy, a touch malty in the middle.
This is a crisp, clear, clean and honest brew.
I found it smooth and even a touch creamy.
The name Hopslam might put off some people thinking this was going to be aggressively hoppy.
Don’t be put off. Hopslam is well balanced and delightfully refreshing.
The Oracle Bell’s Brewery, inc. Kalamazoo
Oracle is another Bell’s brew that leans toward the hoppy side of the scale.
This poured a bit hazy and was an inviting golden orange. There is a good amount of off-white foam that lingers long enough to be useful in the scenting.
There is actually quite a bit of lacing in this beer - throughout the session.
The hops presence in Oracle pops out with enthusiasm - quite floral, more than a little bit piney and with a good citrus attitude.
There is a lot of maltiness in this brew.
At first wash, you meet a brew that just doesn’t fool around. There is a little deceit up front - mild maltiness and a touch of sweetness.
Then ... the hoppiness virtually smacks you in the taste buds.
There is a touch of bitterness, but nothing off-putting.
For whatever reason, I was expecting this to be a bit boozy. Maybe because of a hearty, almost medicinal hoppiness. The good thing is - in my opinion - it wasn’t boozy at all.
Lots of aroma. Lots of taste.