Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Saying goodbye to summer is never easy. But after a year like this one, in which Colorado brewers added ingredients to beer that were quite unexpected - and, in almost every case, succeeded - it is especially difficult to want to turn the page.
From new fruits to vegetables to combinations of styles and additives that were a bit off track, breweries experimented and seemed almost to one up each other.
There were, for example, the grapefruit wars, in which beer makers went beyond describing their hop bombs as "having a citrus taste" and actually imbued it with a specific citrus fruit flavor. Strange Brewing made a Grapefruit IPA impressive in its combination of traditional hop flavor and acidity. But the best of the bunch - and maybe the beer of the summer - was Bull and Bush's 4.0 Grapefruit Pale Ale, which tasted remarkably similar to a fresh squeezed glass of juice with a malt balance and a tiny 4.0% ABV.
It was the summer too for watermelon. Fate's sublime Watermelon Kolsch (pictured to the left)
was full of both refreshment and watermelon pulp, adding to the joy of discovering a new style. Strange, ever the experimenter, also offered a Watermelon Hefe that brought a twist of excitement to a sometimes dull category of beer.
Trinity Brewing kept rocking its new sours but may have turned more heads with its Electrick Cucumbahh, a summer saison that used the natural sugars in the cucumber to sweeten the beer and make you see the vegetable anew.
Not content to stick just with fruits and vegetables as the new darlings of the season, Colorado Plus whipped out a Cinnamon Almond Ale that let the almond cream feel mellow the sharp cinnamon quite expertly.
Peach isn't a new beer additive, by any means. But Odell Brewing's Tree Shaker Peach IPA used the fruit in a different way. And even if the peach was only slightly perceptible, you knew you were drinking a hop bomb that had a different edge to it.
The summer became so ubiquitous with new additive experiments, in fact, that more traditional efforts almost felt half-hearted. A trip to Yak and Yeti for its summer wheat series left the Beer Geekette and I disappointed in a Strawberry Wheat that just didn't feel unique anymore.
The experimentation should continue in the raft of pumpkin and Christmas beers that are coming out now and soon will be on the horizon. But it wouldn't hurt to drop into some of the brewers mentioned above and remind them that a good idea works all year round, not just when it's hot.