Since today is the Summer Solstice, thought it would be a good day to talk about summer beers.
Each year I go to my local beer store that sells singles of anything they have in the store (buy 12 and get a 15% disount - which just brings the individual bottle/can prices more in line with buying a six pack) and pick out all the summer beers and grade them based on what I think makes a great summer beer - refreshment, balance, drinkability, and if its flavor is interesting enough to keep me interested in the beer. My selections are mostly New England centric since I live in New England and these are what were available at the store 2 weeks ago:
Peak Organic Summer Session - Pale ale - 4/5
Spritzy carbonation, citrusy hop flavor, light sweetness, finishes with firm hop dryness. Could have been really good but a slight grassy, oxidized hop aroma/flavor held it back.
Berkshire Gold Spike - Kolsch - 4/5
Not advertised as a summer beer per se, but its the right style for warm weather refreshment. German noble hop aroma combines with hay like maltiness to make a very clean, refreshing, drinkable beer.
Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager - Pilsner - 4/5
Clean, crisp, drinkable. Moderate spicy/floral hop aroma and sweet bready malt with a touch of sulfur/mineral flavors from the lager yeast. Interesting enough to get me to buy a few 12 packs each year.
Wachusett Summer- American Wheat - 3.5/5
Brewed with lemon flavoring. Refreshing, clean and well balanced - light lemony snap on the backend.
Narraganset Summer Ale - Pale Ale - 3.5/5
A pretty good pale ale with classic microbrew pale ale flavor (Cascades hops?)- a little sweet with light caramel malt flavor, but has decent balance and a clean finish.
Sam Adams Summer - American Wheat - 3.5/5
Brewed with lemon peel and grains of paradise. More refreshing and less cloying than I remember it being in the past - subdued spices when cold, but grains of paradise leaves an unclean finish when it warms.
Harpoon Summer Ale- Kolsch - 3/5
Doughy malt flavor, lightly carbed for smooth mouthfeel, clean when cold but hop/yeast aroma is slightly pukey when warm.
Brooklyn Summer Ale- Pale ale - 3/5
Bready english pale malt flavor, grassy hops, but englishy hop/yeast profile becomes less clean and not as drinkable as it warms.
Otter Creek Summer Ale -Pale Ale/American Wheat - 3/5
Probably the most interesting summer beer flavorwise, but medium thick mouthfeel and substantial caramel malts make this not quite as refreshing as I'd like.
Southern Tier Hop Sun - American Wheat - 2.5/5
There's no there, there. Very little flavor from hops or malt until it warms then there's a little froot loop fruitiness. Clean and drinkable, but not interesting enough for more than one.
Geary's Summer - Amber ale - 2/5
Advertised as a Kolsch but tastes more like an amber or esb. Nutty, caramelly, clean up front, no buttery diacetyl flavor but finishes with classic diacetyl slickness and a slight astringency.
Goose Island Summertime - Kolsch - 1.5/5
Lemonaid like tartness, substantial sulfur aroma, vinegary malt flavor. Poorly homebrewed kolsch at best.
Mayflower Summer Rye - Rye Ale - 1/5
Looked and tasted like someone mixed 25% lemonade with 75% seltzer water. Light lemony flavor if anything - no spiciness from the yeast like last year which made it interesting. Lots of chalky yeast sediment - if poured, makes it look like milk.