Thursday, May 17, 2007

Five Summer Beers

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.


Loren said...

Don't know if it's around anymore but have you ever tried SLO Extra Pale Ale? Quintessential summer offering. Light, bouncy and LOADED with floral hops.

Another XPA that gets zero love is Bear Republic's.

Looks like avoiding the Stegmaier is a good thing to do.

Steven said...

"...and I get really pissed by the whole idea of calling that a 'hefeweizen'"

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

There's a whole thread over at RealBeer connected to the new Widmer campaign of plopping a lemon in your Widmer "Hefeweizen." It ain't a Hefeweizen, and keep the fruit outta my beer.

They even have traditional Weizenbier glasses emblazoned with Widmer. Blasphemy! Hello, Bayerisch Bier Polizei?

Lew Bryson said...

Haven't seen the SLO; haven't seen any SLO by us. And...much as I hate to say it, I won't be getting any more of the Steg Midsummer. Just doesn't do it for me.

Lew Bryson said...

Saw a guy with a Widmer Hef t-shirt at GABF: "Beer of the Gods." What weak, anemic, plastic gods they must be.

Steven said...

"Beer of the Gods."

Oh my... yah.

AFA Summer brews go, being from the Midwest I must highlight Bell's Oberon and Goose Summertime. Again, I know, I know.

Scott said...

I'll second the Bear Republic XPA. I just recently picked up my first bottle thinking it was most likely another west coast over-hopped IPA but figured I'd give it the benefit of the doubt. Anything in the name of research! I loved it - it was nice & balanced, interesting & refreshing. Wanted another one when I was done which is the goal. I think the name XPA might sound misleading. XP meaning simply "exceptional pale" - not extra as in an insane amount of hops - which is what I initially thought I was getting myself in to.

Drew said...

Regarding XPA, I've always taken the Extra as modifying the Pale part of the name. Hence Alesmith X, Green Flash XPA, Bear Republic XPA, Steelhead, yada yada are all paler pale ales with a drier finish to accentuate the hop bite.

In other words, a more drinking friendly beer that gives you the perceived hop charge of an IPA.

roan22 said...

Didn't Sam Adams Summer used to be "brewed with coriander, orange zest and grains of paradise?" That beer doesn't quite taste the same as it did in the late 90's when I first had it.

Lew Bryson said...

Don't know about the formulation of the Summer Ale...I've got it somewhere in my hard drive from an interview with then-brewer Jim Pericles (he sent me some grains of paradise, which I used in cooking and enjoyed)...but I do know that I like it a lot more now than I used to, so maybe it was changed. I damn sure like the Cherry Wheat a lot more now.

Sam Komlenic said...

I was disappointed to read that you weren't pleased with the Stegmaier Midsummer White, but as I was passing through W-B this past weekend, I stopped and got some anyway, along with some of the Brewhouse Bock. As a fan of the style, I respectfully suggest that taste is truly a subjective thing. I thought the Steg White was indeed a tad overspiced, but certainly not to the point of 'resiny.' In fact, I have enjoyed those that I've quaffed so far. Go figure! I guess my point is that one man's meat is another man's poison. The bock, BTW, is a killer beer!

You gonna make the Steg 150th party? Hope to see you there!

Lew Bryson said...

That's why it matters so much that more than one brewer makes a style. As far as disagreement: I'm just saying what I found in my mouth. You got a different mouth. I am not in the business of telling folks what they should like, just passing along what I like. Well-expressed, politely expressed contrary opinions are welcome.

But you knew that.

Lawrence said...


I was surprised you didnt have Sierra Nevada's Summerfest beer on your list. I was surprised at how delicious it was. Not hoppy but very refreshing on a hot summer day. What gives?

Lawrence said...


Also as to the Cherry wheat had an interesting combo when I was visiting my gramps in Michigan, the Black Cherry. Like a black and tan but Cherry and Guinees!

Lew Bryson said...


This wasn't meant to be an exhaustive tasting of summer beers, just five summer beers that I'd received samples of. Summerfest is good, you bet, but I was writing about these five this time. That's all.