Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Chill out with seasonal summer beers

By Andrew Sheridan

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The weather outside is still cool and the trees are still in full bloom, but while the world outside your window may tell you that springtime is in full swing, the world inside your liquor store’s fridge tells a different story. Summer beer season has already begun, and many consider it to be the most flavorful season of the year. Choosing the right bottle of suds to cool down with on a hot summer day can be a tough decision, but it is not one that you have to make alone. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian has got you covered, with some guidelines to help you pick the perfect pint for the summer season.

First of all, let us define what makes a beer a “summer seasonal.” Summer beers are meant, of course, for warmer weather, and accordingly are generally light to medium-light in body for casual ease of drinking. The typical flavor profile includes fruity flavors, often provided by citrus fruits, with lemon and orange zest in particular. Brewers also often provide fruity notes with honey, as well as floral hops and unique brewing spices.

The category is largely dominated by ales, with a special emphasis on wheat ales, for a number of reasons. For one, ales are receptive to a large range of hops, and their lighter flavors are relatively simple to tweak and toy with. Second, the smooth taste of wheat ale, made from malted wheat as well as barley, provides an excellent background for fruit and sweetness. Look for this marked difference in flavor in any wheat-based summers you try.

First on the list of seasonals this year is Honeymoon, Blue Moon’s summer offering. The Honeymoon is a good example of the category, as it blends most of the typical summer flavors into one beer. Although it is technically a wheat beer, it distinguishes itself as being both a pale and a white ale, with an interesting balance of smooth wheat and tangy white. The flavor is filled out with an orange zest, and is mellowed by a hint of clover honey.

If you are looking for a sweet summer beer to drink on its own or sip with raw shellfish, this is one of the best brews available. Be wary, however. If you plan on downing a six-pack, the sweetness of this honey-laced beer may prove to be too much.

Harpoon Brewery’s seasonal brew, simply named Harpoon Summer Beer, is an excellent choice for fans of beer. Running nearly twice as long as most of their seasonals, the beer is wheaty and smooth. Possessing just a hint of sweetness, it is a more understated summer beer than those offered by other companies, but the flavor is rich and the body is at the fuller end of the category.

Sam Adams Summer Ale is perhaps the most famous warm-weather brew in the nation, and its taste is certainly distinct. Although technically a wheat beer, it does not have the smoothness of German- and Belgian-style white beer, and the texture is nearly syrupy. Summer Ale packs a threefold bite of floral hops, lemon zest and grains of paradise, a brewing spice that the company claims has been used for centuries. The result is an extremely tangy beer, and the taste may be difficult to acquire for those who enjoy the beers listed above.

The last brewing company on our countdown is Sierra Nevada, a company that goes against the flow by offering a pilsner-style summer in the form of the Sierra Summerfest. From a brewer that produces almost universally strong, hoppy beers, the Summerfest forgoes the fruits, citrus and sweetness that characterize the category. The pilsner is a light style, lighter than their signature pale ales, and uses a delicate combination of floral hops and light-roasted malt to create a crisp, refreshing beer that fans of the hoppy bite are sure to enjoy.

While these are some of the most popular brewers around to put out a summer seasonal, they are by no means the only ones. If you enjoy the sweet, tangy taste of summer beer on a hot June afternoon then keep your eyes peeled for local offerings available in your area. Shop around, try everything and find out what you love. And until next time, bottoms up.

Andrew Sheridan can be reached at [email protected]

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