I got a boatload of samples last week, and I thought I'd taste a few.
Samuel Adams Summer Ale -- 'Wheat ale brewed with lemon and grains of paradise.' I like pepper in beer; it gives it a spike nothing else can. The SASA pours a cloudy dark orange, and has a full nose: mostly lemon, but some spicy notes as well. It tastes a bit heavy for a summer ale up-front, but the lemon and grains of paradise (a peppercorn-like spice, also called alligator pepper) clean things up quickly, and it finishes with a clean note of malt sweetness. Very interesting beer, with surprising complexity; seems like it would be great with chicken and pork.
Samuel Adams Hefeweizen -- Okay, tamp down the prejudice: this is not a hefeweizen, it's an American unfiltered wheat ale, and I get really pissed by the whole idea of calling that a 'hefeweizen.' That's an established style, and it's all about a specific yeast character married to a high-wheat grist. This is all about unfiltered beer and innocuous flavor. That said...The SA "Hefe" is not bad as these abominations go. It's got some body, it's got a bit of hop, and it's fresh. Call it a Wheat Ale, and I might even like it. But I just can't get past it not being a hefeweizen.
BridgePort Haymaker Extra Pale Ale -- BridgePort makes some beers I really like: their IPA is a PNW classic, and I loved the new Beertown Brown seasonal. The Haymaker is good, too, but I'm having a bit of a problem with it. I like the idea of a summer beer from the PNW being malt-balanced (Haymaker is only lightly bittered at 15 IBU), but I'm afraid it may be too big at 12.8 P and 5.3% ABV. It's tasting more like a fall beer to me than a summer beer: heavy with the malt. If they backed off on the size, and re-tooled this as a mild (while still calling it an extra pale ale, of course), I think they'd have a winner for a summer beer.
Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat -- This beer always smells like it ought to be bright red, like a Sno-Cone. The cherry aroma blowing off it is rich and sweet. The label says it "combines Michigan cherries with a generous portion of wheat malt." Well, I have to say I think they've changed this one. The SA Cherry I remember tasted like a damned Sno-Cone, too, but this is a much better beer. There's cherry, particularly up-front, but it quickly slides into a malty middle that's quite impressive in its complexity: cookie and oats and bread, very nice. I'll be having this again, should be good with barbecue.
Stegmaier Midsummer White -- You guys know I'm a big Steg/Lion fan. I've been particularly digging their new line of Stegmaier seasonals, the Brewhouse Bock, Summer Stock Lager, and the Winter beer. They replaced the Summer Stock with Midsummer White this year, so I gave it a try. I'm not happy. There's an overdose of spice that tastes plastic/resiny, and the body's too heavy. This needs to be a lot lighter in the body, and the spicing needs adjustment. Bring back the Summer Stock. This ain't cutting it.
Probably have more samples to taste next week.