Favorite Alternative Summer Beers
Posted on July 31st, 2012
With our seemingly two month respite from Winter here in Maine about half over, I wanted to talk a bit about summer beers. No, not watered down American wheat beer with the summer moniker splashed all over it. But beers that some people might not think of on a scorching 90 degree day in Maine dripping with humidity.
We are going to eschew the obvious and delicious summer favorites like German hefeweizens, German Helles and Pilsner and Belgian Witbiers (although I do love a Ayinger Brau Weisse or an Allagash White on a hot day). Today I will focus on Berliner Weisse, Saisons and some American beers that don’t fit neatly into a style.
The first one is a beer style I can’t get enough of lately, Berliner Weisse. Traditionally Berliner Weisse is a low alcohol wheat beer made by allowing the lactobacillus that naturally exists on the grain to flourish in the mash tun, and then not boiling and killing the little critters. Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you, they just make the beer tart and a touch sour, like a unsweetened lemonade.
My favorite version of the style that we carry is Dr Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse. Although not really true to the Berliner Weisse style strenth wise (the ABV is too high at 5%), this beer has a really nice lacto tartness/sourness up front, but manages to finish with the flavors of a Belgian blond ale. Amazing beer on a hot day, just leave the traditional flavored syrups out of mine thanks.
In the similar sort-of Berliner Weisse theme is Dogfish Festina Peche and White Birch’s Berliner Weisse. Dogfish’s version is classified as a neo-Berliner Weisse and has peach juice added to the finished product. Again, great tart notes but the peach juice is nice and refreshing in the finish. The White Birch version has no added flavorings, but again is too high of an ABV to be true to style. Still a delicious beer, and very refreshing.
Another beer I think has a rightful place on a hot summer day is Stillwater Premium. The impetus for this beer was brewer Brian Strumke’s desire to make a good beer with corn and rice, a sort of beer geek Pabst Blue Ribbon. So he took that base recipe, fermented it with saison yeast, and two strains of the wild yeast Brettanomyces. What popped out was the ultimate beer geek lawnmower beer. Complex, dry and delicious, and only 4.5% alcohol.
Some of my favorite beers in the summer is the Bam series from Jolly Pumpkin. With the Brettanomyces present in all of his beers, brewer Ron Jefferies puts out some dry, dry beers. All three of the Bam series we have in the store clock in around 4.5% ABV, and all three have a ton of flavor. Bam Biere is a dry, funky farhmouse beer, Weizen Bam is a tart, dry take on a weizen beer and finally ES Bam is a ESB done the Jolly Pumpkin way.
Finally, the Belgian Saison category. This one isn’t truly an alternative summer beer, since the name Saison means season, and is meant to be drank during a particular season, summer. Our favorites in the store right now are the bone dry and slightly funky Fantome Hiver, Saison D’ere Mere and Blaugies Saison D’epeautre. The folktale behind the development of the saison style is that farms would produce saisons during the winter months for consumption by farm workers as they worked the fields in the summer months. Whether or not the story is true, it is certainly believable as the dry, spicy nature of the saison make it a great way to refresh on a hot day.