The official first day won't come until June 21, but between the rising temperatures, school letting out and Omaha looming, summer is basically here, far as I'm concerned.
That means cookouts, barbecues, grillin' what have you. And for a lot of people it means alcohol consumption of the lighter nature. Clear liquors and light beer.
Everybody has their own tastes, but there's no denying that a lighter, crisper beer can be more refreshing on a hot, sweaty day than a thick, rich stout.
For those of you of the beach persuasion, a beer with a little bit of a fruit flavor might make for a little more easier sippin' than a daiquiri, margarita or mojito.
Everything in good time, my friends. And on that note, here are a couple of summertime brews for your enjoyment.
We'll start with our cover shot. This is a very light answer to Abita's Purple Haze from Georgia's Sweetwater Brewing:
Always the funky favorite at any outdoor beer festival, SweetWater Blue is a unique light-bodied ale with a hint of fresh blueberries. It begins with an appealing blueberry aroma and finishes as a surprisingly thirst-quenching ale.
This one runs 4.9 percent alcohol-by-volume and can be found on tap or in six-pack bottles.
It has a very fruity bouquet of the aforementioned berries, and the opening does not disappoint on that promise. But it slides nicely into a wheat flavor buttressed with just enough malt heaviness to give it a little ommph. Goes down easy in warm weather next to a grill. 3.5 out of five stars.
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
This one's a little more high-end, a farmhouse saison that pairs well with party foods like fine cheeses, or seafood like some fresh boiled shrimp or crabs. It's from Brooklyn Brewing, which has been in distributing in Baton Rouge for a while now and has quite a few offerings. The name comes from the special breed of hops developed in Japan:
The unique flavor of Sorachi Ace was bypassed by the big brewers, but we thought it was pretty cool. So we made a special beer with it, and added the beer to our Brewmaster's Reserve special draft beer program last year. Most Brewmaster's Reserve beers are only available for a short time, and then they're gone. But we liked this one so much, we decided to bring it back and give it the star treatment. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace is a classic saison, a cracklingly dry, hoppy unfiltered golden farmhouse ale, but made entirely with now-rare Sorachi Ace hops grown by a single farm in Washington. We ferment it with our special Belgian ale strain, and then add more Sorachi Ace hops post-fermentation. After the dry-hopping, the beer emerges with a bright spicy lemongrass / lemon zest aroma backed by a wonderfully clean malt flavor.
It's got a 7.6 percent ABV, so it's only available in 22-ounce bombers or on draught. This beer has a very fruity bouquet, and the first taste kind of dives you into some malty spiciness. Not like an IPA -- smoother, like a lager, almost. There's a fruity aftertaste that contrasts really well with the hops. Enough that you never get too much of one or the other. It's a bit heavy to session on, but it's a crowd-pleaser. Another 3.5 out of five stars.
Santa Fe Free Style Pilsner
Santa Fe is a new brewery on the Louisiana scene. I was first able to taste their wares at the Baton Rouge Beerfest, and they've started to distribute in the area in the subsequent weeks. Their Java Stout is exquisite, but this one fits the summer a bit better:
As its name suggests, this Pilsner does not like to be categorized. Inquiring whether it is a German, Czech, Bavarian, American, or any other style pilsner will result in an impatient sigh and the explanation that the whole philosophy behind this pilsner is that it does not fall into any categories. True, it is brewed with traditional ingredients (soft water, pilsner malt, saaz hops, and German yeast), but it is the way that these ingredients interact, and the characteristics of the yeast, that cause this particular pilsner to defiantly stand alone. The assertively hopped Freestyle pils exudes the flavor and the aroma of the classic Saaz hop (a tribute to "the original" pilsner), while maintaining enough body to balance but not overpower this hop's pleasant, spicy tone. An unhurried lagering process so frequently overlooked by American craft brewers is strictly adhered to in the production of Freestyle, which makes this beer by far the most light, clean, and quenching beer in the Santa Fe Brewing Company's line up.
5.5 percent ABV, available in six-pack cans or draught.
Like they say, a straight-ahead pilsner. Malty bouquet and a light flavor. The malt and the hops balance well just to give it some depth without being too filling. But I have to admit at around $10 a six-pack, it's a bit pricey for something that's not radically different from your basic Miller Light or Bud Lite. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly of better quality, but if we're factoring it all together, I give it just a 3 out of five stars.
Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy
Now we're getting into the much much fruitier tasting stuff. A shandy is a beer typically mixed with something else. This one blends the Leinenkugel's wheat beer with some natural lemon flavor.
The refreshing lemonade flavors pair great with backyard dishes like BBQ chicken, fruit salads, watermelon and freshly caught, grilled fish.
They ain't kidding with the lemonade part. That's basically what it smells like. You get some hoppy zest on the front side and you definitely taste the whit beer, but man is that lemonade overpowering. If you're a huge lemonade fan, this might be for you, but it's not really my taste. 2.5 out of 5 stars.
I have to say, this one took me by surprise. I tried this on a lark, given that all my Founders experiences have been pretty good.
This is a shandy in the same model, only with an incredibly distinct raspberry flavor.
Not another boring summer wheat beer or lemonade shandy-Rübæus is Founders' way to celebrate the season's warmest months. Optimizing the flavor of fresh raspberries added at multiple stages during fermentation, this stunning berry red masterpiece is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. No question about it, with a hefty malt bill and 5.7% ABV, this beer is 100% Founders.
That 5.7 percent could definitely knock you on your ass with this one, because it's definitely a smooth drink. It's also why you can only find it in four-pack bottles, as opposed to the typical six. As you can see, there's a bright red color, and the bouquet and flavor is heavy on the fruity sweetness. Almost like a malt beverage like a Mike's Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice. There's a bit of malty body that finishes with that distinct sour raspberry flavor. It's relatively refreshing, and again, with a higher ABV than the average light beer, it could get you in trouble if you're going to town. But again, not really my jam. 2.5 out of five stars.