Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Breweries continue to up their games when it comes to refreshing summer beers. It's not that they are raising the hops or the ABV counts like the general trends of three to four years would seem to dictate. But they are upping the flavor while keeping the bodies relatively light and manageable and the alcohol at a largely acceptable post-hiking or -lawnmowing level.
That said, with summer now more than two-thirds gone, here are the beers that truly stood out in the outdoor season of 2015.
Ska Estival Cream Stout
This is a dark and frothy beer that genuinely shocks you on your first taste. Instead of huge malt, you get a stout akin to a creamsicle, brewed with orange blossom honey and aged on sweet orange peels. The citrus fruit notes are loud and sweet, and the cream adds a beautiful underlying texture. You'll go to the brewery or beer bar thinking you'll have one, and you'll end up drinking it all night.
Berliner weisses are hip now. But by adding a strawberry taste, Ratio amped up both the uniqueness and the refreshing quality of the style, balancing tartness with a sweetness that makes you want more. And it comes in at less than 4% ABV, making it almost dangerously perfect for hot weather.
Mountain Sun Jah Mon Ginger
Those who don't like the taste of ginger in their beer are advised to stay away. But for those who do, this wheat beer brings out a freshness and fullness in the spice that is hard to find in any Colorado beer not made by Left Hand Brewing. It jolts your taste buds but handles them smoothly.
Strange Watermelon Hefe
Few fruit beers are as fruit forward as this one. But there is also a natural quality that seemed to increase this year in Strange Craft Beer's seasonal that made it feel more like a natural recipe about which few people had thought rather than some far-fetched experiment. And, as you see at the top, it's a beer good enough for babies to stare it down, which may be the ultimate compliment in the craft beer world.
Upslope Thai Style White IPA
IPAs are good anytime. But what makes this one so appropriate for the summer is the sharp but strangely cooling Thai spices that take your attention away from the reasonably sized body to the flavors within. Destined to become a summer classic.
Flying Dog Dead Rise Old Bay Summer Ale
The oddest combination of the summer - and one you only can get in the mid-Atlantic, unfortunately - takes the classic Maryland crab spice and churns its flavor into an appealing cinnamon-like addition to a light-bodied beer. Brilliant, and a reminder of growing up to all of us who moved west.