The Beers Of Summer – Wheat Ales, And The Only Clouds You Want On Your Day At The Beach

Halfway through mowing the lawn you realize just how hot it is.  Waves of heat seem to be moving through the air all around you, and at this point, feel like they’re radiating from the top of your head as well.  It’s officially summer, and suddenly, you’re less interested in how to create a criss-cross pattern worthy of hosting a major league baseball game in your back yard as you are with grabbing a beer from the fridge.  Ultimately, what beer hits the spot when the summer heat moves in up to you, whether in the yard or on the beach.  But just as quickly and easily as August seems to appear out of nowhere with its sauna-esque days, so do the seasonal “Summer” beers.  What kinds of beers are these usually, and what makes them a good fit for helping cope with the heat anyway?

After all, there are a few beers that seem to be as fitting for summer as your Hawaiian print swimsuit.  While they vary some in flavor characteristics, there do share a couple common tasting points.  Usually, they are somewhat low in alcohol content.  After all, no sense in getting tanked while dealing with the lawn mower, or dodging sharks at the beach.  Another commonality is a crisp taste.  Whether it’s from the hops or the type of grain used, most “summer” beers are able to help take the edge off with a quick snap of flavor.

Below is a look at one of the more common “Beers of Summer” styles, something that you just might want to have in that fridge when you’re done mowing, on in the cooler for the beach.  Other styles to follow!

American Wheat Ales – The Only Clouds You Want On Your Day At The Beach.

While low alcohol levels and a crisp taste may be common among many of these styles, any doubt to what is the arguably the most popular overall type of summer releases should’ve been cleared up on March 26th.  Few annually released beers, unless they are a rich, aged stout or insanely hopped IPA, can boast having as much celebration centered around their release date as Michigan based Bell’s Oberon Ale.  It is arguably the most popular example of its style in the country, no matter what you call it – American Hefeweizen, American Pale Wheat, or simply a Wheat Ale.  The use of wheat typically gives these beers a crisp taste and feel, a slightly more generous feeling “body”, and the traditional haziness found in any unfiltered wheat beers – the latter two coming from a greater amount of protein found in wheat malt.  These beers are often called an Americanized version of the German Hefeweizen, but differ most in how they will lack those traditional “estery” flavors (of banana, for example) found in German wheat brews.  Often, they have a slight citrusy taste and aroma, usually from the way the hops are used in making the beer, and bitterness is usually kept very low.  An additional element of flavor can be a bit of spiciness, given by the yeast or by additional ingredients added to the beer.  Occasionally, some of those ingredients can be very summer-like, such as Watermelon, Lemongrass, or even Pineapple, and only build upon those citrusy flavors from the hops.  Yes, of course these beers are good any time of year.  But within their pale, golden, hazy appearance, which almost glows like the sun when held up to light, that seems to live the spirit of a perfect summer day.  It’s as if captured inside that beer is the exact moment when your beach chair finally settles itself into the sand, the worries of work fade away, and you peer out through the waves of heat lifting off the sand at the ocean, feeling summer’s warmth slowly sink into your body.

SOME EXAMPLES.  Below are some of these beers which are definitely worth checking out – they represent, after all, the only cloudiness and haziness that you want on the beach.

Bells Oberon Ale (Michigan) – When summer starts to set in, lovers of warm weather and good, craft beer contend you must seek out this beer.  Available in six packs and popular, beach house ready “party” sized mini kegs, this semi cloudy brew looks like sunshine captured in a glass.

If you like Oberon, there are a bunch of other examples fairly easy to find on the market.  A few include Maui Brewing’s Mana Wheat, which is literally brewed using pineapple, Pyramid Brewing’s Hefeweizen, Harpoon Brewing’s UFO Hefeweizen, Boulder Brewing’s Sweaty Betty, Tommyknocker Brewing’s Jack Whacker Wheat, and Samuel Adams Summer Ale.

“Hoppier” Versions:

Lagunitas Brewing’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’

As if the hop heads were going to be left out.  This is a wheat beer for them, and for the curious at heart as well, this delicious beer is a mixture of both worlds.  Featuring the hazy appearance, crisp snap, and a bit of the typical wheat beer flavor found in pale wheat beers it also has plenty of both juicy citrus and floral hop flavor.  If you’re interested in wheat beers but the moment hops were mentioned, began to look away, stay curious, beer friends – this is a beer that’s big on flavor and not to be missed, and yes, the bitterness is still relatively low.

If you do care for this one, another to check out is Southern Tier’s Hop Sun, which also showcases a hoppier flavor and aroma as well.


~ by thebeerroad on May 29, 2012.

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