As the summer nears its midpoint, and a New England heat wave bears down upon us, it becomes increasingly difficult to find that perfect intersection between flavor and refreshment. This is the time of the year that big, sticky malt bombs become, for the most part, undesirable to me. My mind flashes back to a recent sweltering day on my front porch. I had recently acquired a certain American version of a Belgian Dubbel via my brother in Los Angeles. As I watched my lawn brown right before my eyes and my two black pugs hide under my chair to seek refuge from the heat, I came to realize that the Dubbel that I had popped open was going to become the victim of a drain pour (lawn pour, in this case). The beer was a wonderful interpretation of the style which I have grown to love over the years, but on this day, it would not do.
I must admit, I have never been a huge fan of breweries’ traditional summer offerings. Typically, I look forward to beers of autumn or winter with more enthusiasm. Recently, though, I have found that a few year-round styles are appreciated so much more during these summer months.
On a recent visit to Los Angeles to visit my previously mentioned brother, I found that nearly every reputable beer bar that we visited offered a Belgian white. More specifically, each of these bars offered either Allagash White or Unibroue Blanche de Chambly. Living in New Hampshire, I have had access to both of these beers on a regular basis, but have not consumed much of either. That changed on my west coast visit. Both beers are excellent interpretations of the Belgian white style. The Belgian ale yeasts impart wonderful and unique spicy and fruity notes. I also find a bit of lactic acidity in both beers.
Another style that I drink exclusively in the summer months is the saison. Fortunately for us beer folk, the saison has made a minor resurgence in recent years with some newer nano-breweries producing strictly that style. Of course, Saison Dupont is the quintessential version of the style, but many other American breweries are producing products that can stand with the best Belgian products. Ommegang’s Hennepin is one of the very best versions of a saison, and like previously mentioned beers, is readily available in our neck of the woods.
Finally, in the summertime, I must rely on an old friend, the IPA. Yes, I know, IPA’s are great all year long, but there is just something about those pungent, citrusy, piney aromas and flavors in IPA’s that are so refreshing at this time of the year. Just yesterday, I hiked North Twin Mountain, one of the 4000 footers in New Hampshire. After seven hours of hiking, I could not think of a better way to celebrate our adventure than an ice cold beer at the trailhead. In a cooler, iced down in the back of my pickup, was one can of Sierra Nevada Torpedo. There, sitting on my tailgate, Torpedo in hand, in that moment, could not have been a more perfect beer. On a side-note, kudos to the craft beer community for embracing the canned craft beer, because at times like this, a bottle just isn’t the same.
So as I reluctantly purchase a sprinkler for my scorched lawn and continuously feed ice cubes to my two black pugs, I am thankful for this time of year for so many reasons. But, the condensation forming on the outside of my beer glass tells me that it is time to drink up, so here’s to summer and its beers!
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