August/September 2005, The Beers of Summer
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mission of the Beer Beacon is to guide the GLBN readership to the best
beers available in the Great Lakes region. To this end, an informal
tasting is convened at a local pub before every issue, and a team of
tasters (some expert and some novice) sample a variety of selected beers
available on draft and/or in bottles throughout the region. The theme
for this month's column is "Summer Beers", and a variety of
bottled seasonals were blind-tasted and rated on a scale of zero to
five mugs. The tasting was carried out at the Pizza
Plant Italian Pub (Walker Center location) in Williamsville, New
first beer sampled was Leinenkugel's Honey Weisse, described by
the brewer as a refreshing American style wheat beer with a clean,
crisp and sweet taste. Taster reviews were mixed; Karl and Pasty
described the beer as delicious, smooth, quenching and likable.
Others were impressed with the aroma, but found the body to be on
the lighter side. Overall, the tasters agreed that, if served ice
cold, Leinenkugel's Honey Weisse would make for a satisfying way
to beat the summer heat.
wheat beer from Ithaca Brewing is infused with apricot puree to
produce a light-bodied beer intended for the easy-drinking days
of summer. Some of the tasters found the fruity nose and malty sweetness
of the beer to be overwhelming, and Hop Jack suggested that more
hops were needed to balance things out. Other tasters enjoyed the
fruity malt character and felt that the combination of sweetness
and apricot tartness worked well. Like the Honey Weisse, it was
agreed that the Apricot Wheat would be most refreshing when served
summer offering is a Belgian-style white beer produced using imported
Belgian yeast. It is a delicate beer with a spicy aroma and body
that the tasters generally found both enjoyable and refreshing.
Hop Jack described it as "very nice, a good example of the
style - balanced and refreshing". Annie inferred the witbier
style and called it "gentle, with a characteristic banana-clove
finish". Meanwhile, Vinny thought Victory's interpretation
of the style was "clean and refreshing - it's simple but it
works". Pasty registered a dissenting opinion, calling the
beer soapy: "It smelled like soap. It tasted like soap
good for a beer".
4th beer to be sampled was Blanche de Chambly from Unibroue. It
is a white ale that is lightly-hopped and partially filtered so
that the beer contains fresh yeast in suspension. Relative to the
Victory Whirlwind, tasters agreed that the Blanche de Chambly offering
was a lighter, perhaps blander, interpretation of the style. While
some tasters faulted the beer for its bland quality, others found
Blanche de Chambly to be quite enjoyable. Vinny enjoyed the beer's
lingering tartness and Pasty (who strongly disliked the Whirlwind)
called it "the most traditional beer yet, a common beer for
the common man."
summer offering surprised most of the tasters, as they expected
more from such a reputable brewery. It is an all-malt brew, with
more than half the malt coming from malted wheat. The beer has been
around since 1984 and is the first modern American wheat beer. While
the brewers intend Anchor Summer Beer to be light and refreshing,
most tasters found the beer to be too light and lacking in flavor.
As a summer beer, Vinny and Pasty found that Anchor's brew grew
on them. Vinny enjoyed the "sweet berry nose" and thought
the body started out mediocre but developed into something reminiscent
of a pale-ale at the finish.
Point Brewing produces its Summer Ale using a blend of wheat and
barley malt. A dash of lemon and a secret ingredient are added to
give the beer a light and quenching citrus flavor. Tasters liked
the pilsner quality of the beer and Magistrate commented that the
"malty pilsner nose smelled great - like Urquell." Although
the beer lacked a solid hop finish, it was generally appreciated
as a good summer beer that could be taken hiking (Pasty) and would
go well with a picnic lunch (Karl). Vinny has had Blue Point Summer
Ale on draft and maintains that it is "totally different on
Tier's Hop Sun was the best reviewed of the eight sampled summer
beers. This wheat beer is filtered and dry hopped, resulting in
a refreshing session beer that is meant to accompany a variety of
summer activities. Annie commented that the beer "combines
the notion of summer with a pale-ale", and Hop Jack found it
to be "well-balanced -- my kind of summer beer." Meanwhile,
Vinny detected some spice and a hint of lemon in the body, which
had "a nice, fresh hop follow through."
out of Middlebury, Vermont, Wolaver's line of organic ales is distributed
throughout the northeast and in an increasing number of Great Lakes
states. Wolaver's Organic Pale Ale is made in the classic American
Pale Ale style using certified organic barley and hops, resulting
in a full-bodied beer with a characteristic hop finish. The tasters
agreed that the organic pale ale showed promise and were inclined
to regard the beer as a work in progress. Annie "wanted more
out of it" and Pasty concurred that the beer "started
out good, but is not quite there." Other tasters enjoyed the
body and hop finish, but described the nose as "very faint"
(Hop Jack), and "like a [paper] ballot" (Vinny). Hop Jack
commented on the "harsher bitterness" of organic ales
and noted that organic brewing is in its infancy and should be expected
to improve with time.
most part, the tasters found something they liked in each of the eight
summer beers that were sampled. The tasters generally found the selected
beers to be "average", "pretty mild", "traditional",
and/or "light". Judging by these adjectives, many self-proclaimed
hop-heads will no doubt regard such beers with a certain level of disdain.
But on a hot summer day, is there anything quite as refreshing as a
light-bodied beer with a mild hop finish? Maybe that's what summer beers
are all about.
--- by L. Shawn
Matott, Beer Beacon columnist
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2005, Great Lakes Brewing News