Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Subtle, Surprising Tastes of Summer

Past summers have been marked by brewers taking intriguing turns with fruit beers or pulling unexpected flavors out of their hats, and 2016 is likely to see more of that. But as Memorial Day weekend rolls around, there also seems a pattern this year toward something decidedly old-fashioned - crisp, clean lagers or golden ales that don't dazzle the palate so much as they go down smoothly with a surprisingly high amount of quality.

Nothing typifies this trend as much as the new Colorado Native Pilsner from AC Golden. This is a Coors offshoot that has tried and missed with a number of bland variations on the all-Colorado lager before. But the recently released pilsner is a spot-on, authentically German-style creation that cleanses the palate and finishes with a very subtle bite of hops to remind you it's got something more.

And if AC Golden surprises with its fresh entry into the lager market, maybe an even bigger surprise comes from Rock Bottom Denver. The Burro is an exceptionally smooth Vienna lager with a straw-hued body and a hint of nutty malt. Though one of the lightest beers currently on the brewpub's menu, it's arguably the most satisfying of the bunch.

It was be inaccurate to call maibocks summer beers, as they specifically are made for the spring season. But there are a couple that bring different characteristics to the current shoulder season. Strange Craft Beer's version weighs in at a meaty 7.5% ABV, and the slight alcoholic sting adds a new-world robustness to the old-world German flavor. Bristol Brewing's take on the style is more traditional and without much sweetness, but its full flavor reflects a good use of malt. I recently debated a server at Colorado Plus (see taster picture below) about which was better; the consensus was that you couldn't go wrong.

Not everything appropriate for the warmer-weather palate has to be of the lager variety, however. Dillon Dam's Go Devil Golden Strong Ale, sampled after a recent late-season ski run to the area, comes in at a full 9% ABV and packs the punch you might expect from the Belgian-style ale. But it also has a sweet, estery smoothness that translates well to mountain porch drinking, and should be sought out as such.

The summer season is almost upon us. Luckily, the beer offerings have beaten the calendar to our door steps, and the bounty looks impressive.

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