Warm weather is finally upon us, and as such, it is high time that you look at shifting your beer selection away from stouts and porters, and to some of these refreshing and thirst quenching spring and summer beer options:
What’s a Saison? Saison is a style of beer native to Belgium, and is the French word for “season.” This type of beer was traditionally brewed in Belgian farmhouses and served to the farm’s seasonal summer workers. As such, this style lends well to drinking in hot weather, as that was the style’s intended application (if you go back a couple of hundred years). Saisons are typically light in color, coming in around 7.0% alcohol on average (sip accordingly!), and have a crisp, clean, dry, and refreshing finish. This style of beer is gaining a lot of traction in recent years, and you should have no trouble finding some good examples of a saison from many, if not most, of your favorite craft brewers. Or, if you’re being adventurous, seek out some of the saisons which are imported from Belgium at your local bottle shop.
We all love big IPAs, right? I do. Most of the time. In fact, about the only thing I don’t love about big IPAs are a handful of memories of the occasions where I packed a growler or 6-pack of my favorite 9.0% X2IPA to a family barbecue, or the beach, drank it by myself over the course of an hour or so, and end up being absolutely wasted by 2PM. But don’t worry – there is a solution. The Session IPA. A “session” beer is one that you can drink all day, without becoming a hot mess and puking in front of your children and your in-laws, during a mid-day family BBQ. (I mean… hypothetically…) To be classified a true “session,” the beer should be between 3.0% and 4.9% ABV. A well executed Session IPA will still have big hops flavor and aroma, but will be easy drinking, thirst quenching, and will be a beer you can drink all day without embarrassing yourself. Some mainstream and fairly available examples: Founders “All Day IPA,” Sierra Nevada “Nooner Session IPA,” Deschutes “Hop Slice,” or Ballast Point’s “Even Keel.”
A shandy is a beer cocktail, comprised of a lighter beer, with between ⅓ and ½ of the glass being filled with lemonade or ginger ale, or orange juice, etc. I prefer lemonade. Shandys are the ultimate in refreshing summer cocktails for the beer lover. They also help you pace your drinking, while staying well hydrated. Although there are commercially available premixed shandys out there, (which may best fit your application if you’re just grabbing and going to the beach, or going fishing, or whatever), I’ve found it to be a lot of fun to do some experimenting. Try your hand at mixing a variety of beers and juices, changing up the mix ratios, and come up with a formula that suits your palette. This cocktail works best with lighter beers, from your typical domestics, to craft pilsners, lagers, hefeweizens, saisons, and the like.
Ok. “Cider.” But that didn’t fit my spring theme here… And its not even beer. But bear with me… Hard ciders are about as thirst quenching and refreshing as an alcoholic beverage can get. And as craft cider mills are on the rise, there are more and more fantastic craft ciders out there to choose from. Ciders range from very sweet to extremely dry, and of course everything in between. As such, you’re certain to find a cider that suits your tastes. Many ciders are given additional complexity with the infusion of other fruits, such as cherry, strawberry, pear, or oranges. Even more exciting than fruit, however, is the rising trend of hopped ciders. As in, actual, dry hopped, hard ciders. This particular style of cider is a beer lover’s dream. Nice floral and fragrant hop aroma, subtle bitterness in the flavor profile, all wrapped up in a crisp and refreshing hard cider package. What’s not to love? Some examples of hopped ciders currently on the market include: Anthem “Hops,” Square Mile Cider Co. “Spur & Vine,” and Reverand Nat’s “Hallelujah Hopricot.”