Beer: Mowing down summer thirst
Lawnmower beer: It’s not a brew made from grass clippings, but a thirst-quenching, low- to moderate-strength beer you can use to rehydrate after engaging in strenuous activity. (Forget about the grass: In this weather, lifting yourself off the couch would count as such.)
A can of PBR or Milwaukee’s Best might work, but for the more discriminating beer drinker, I present a six-pack of summertime brews:
Cerise (Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.): At 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, this is a little stronger than I’d prefer to quaff at triple-digit temperatures, but it’s one of the best American-style fruit beers on the market. A puree of tart Michigan cherries, added at five points during the fermentation process, gives the beer a mouthwatering, sweet-and-sour fruitiness without obscuring the malt and hops. Cerise is available locally in four-packs, and kegs have popped up at such local beer destinations as the Brickskeller and Galaxy Hut.
Lucy (Starr Hill Brewing Co., Crozet, Va.): Starr Hill’s The Love, a German-style wheat beer, was bumped up from summer seasonal to year-around beer, making room for this spiced ale flavored with ginger, lime and coriander. My initial impression was of a cross between a highball and a lime fizz. Melanie Rhodes, office manager for Starr Hill, offered a different take: “It has a very Asian feel to it. We’re selling a lot to Thai and other restaurants.” The name, she says, is an homage to the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky WIth Diamonds,” released 43 summers ago.
Summer Love (Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, Pa.): That’s Summer Love, not Summer of Love. This beer was commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, the same group that’s slapping its posters in Metro as part of its its “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO” campaign. This crisp golden ale premiered during Philly Beer Week in June, and distribution will soon be expanded to the New York and DC areas. Victory uses a base of spicy German hops, adding a little Citra (a more intense American strain) for notes of lemon and grapefruit. According to Victory’s Mid-Atlantic rep, Joe Gold, the first kegs of Summer Love (a draft-only beer) should hit the taps this Friday at ChurchKey, Pizzeria Paradiso (both locations) and the newly opened Meridian Pint.
Dundee Summer Wheat Beer (Genesee Brewing Co., Rochester, NY): American wheat ales tend to be the wallflowers of the craft beer world, mildly flavored, “gateway” beers you offer to a timid palate who’s never strayed from the mainstream brands. This new release has a little more oomph: a grapefruity hop aroma (from classic Pacific Northwest hop strains Chinook, Centennial and Cascade), and a dry, spicy finish from a pinch of rye (a very nontraditional grain for this style). It’s still light on the palate and refreshing. The beer comes from a 132-year-old regional brewery that’s probably best-known over the years for its cream ale.
Mermaid Pilsner (Shmaltz Brewing Co., San Francisco and New York): To accompany its He’Brew line of ales, Shmaltz is marketing a series of slightly off-kilter lagers under the Coney Island moniker. This brew, released in kegs last year but now also available in bottles as part of the company’s Coney Island Variety Pack, incorporates four hops and seven malts. It’s got a nice flowery, grassy hop character, though the caramel malt sweetness comes on a bit too strong for the style. In a blind tasting I might have pegged this as an amber ale, albeit a fairly good one.
Pott’s Landbier (Harpoon Brewery, Boston): The latest in Harpoon’s 100-Barrel series of limited releases is a collaboration between the Boston craft brewer and Potts Brauerei in Oelde, Germany. The name translates as “country beer.” It’s too dark for a pilsner or helles, too hoppy for a Vienna lager, not quite strong enough for an Oktoberfest, so what is it? It seems to belong to the amber lager style that Sam Adams pioneered in this country (adding to the similarity: one of three hop varieties in this beer is Hallertau, the same strain that gives Sam its elegant floral aroma).
Often, breweries reserve their 22-ounce bottles for fuller-bodied, stronger beers that are hard for a lone drinker to finish in one sitting.
But this one went down just like water, and made the sultry Washington summer a little more tolerable.
-- Greg Kitsock
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