Now that triple-digit weather has settled in for the season, it’s time to talk about your defense from the cruel dry heat…summer beers! I’d like to use this column to discuss some of my favorites, in hopes that you will keep an eye out for them during the next couple months.
The first brew on my list is German Ale or Kolsch-style beer. Please note that I wrote Kolsch-style and not Kolsch, because if it wasn’t brewed in Cologne, Germany then it simply is not Kolsch. Similarly, if it isn’t grown in Hatch, well it’s not Hatch green chile. But seriously, Kolsch is the beer of Cologne and the only breweries that can rightfully use that name are members of a brewery organization called the Kolsch Konvention. Nomenclature aside, what is this beer all about?
Ingredient-wise this is pretty simple, it is a Pilsner Malt based beer, sometimes a bit of Wheat Malt is added for body, it is slightly bitter, brewed with ale yeast, and filtered. For appearance this beer should be crystal clear like a fine pilsner, but perhaps more bitter with little to no hop aroma and flavor. Yeast-based flavors and aromas should be subdued, and overall this beer should be super clean and very drinkable.
Next on my list is British-style Summer Ale, based on a brew called Summer Lightning that is made by Hopback Brewery in the United Kingdom. This is probably my favorite on the list, but unfortunately, rarely seen in American craft breweries. This beer is definitely hop-centric, but built upon a base of British Pale Ale Malt, which is toastier and more full-flavored than the basic 2-Row that dominates American microbrews. Most importantly, these beers get a big kick of British flavor and aroma hops, like Kent Golding, Fuggle, or Challenger.
These British varieties are quite different than what we consider to be “hoppy” in the United States. British varieties tend to have a subtle citrus character, with more earthy, woody, and herbal tones. Additionally, some spices like ginger, coriander, or grains of paradise can be added for some additional complexity. On our brewery’s pilot system, I made a pretty wicked version of this style that incorporates fresh lavender into the recipe, but unfortunately my brother and business partner Sam, hates lavender, so I sulk and drink alone in my apartment.
Now, let’s move on to the most “en vogue” of all summer beers, the Belgian-inspired Saison. Should we refer to these beers as “Farmhouse Ales” or not, because that terminology carries a fairly bold suggestion? An authentic Farmhouse Ale is brewed on a farm, and fermented by bacteria and wild yeast in the natural environment, unique to a region. Traditional Farmhouse Ales are not fermented in sanitized stainless-steel tanks with beer yeast propagated by a professional laboratory!
But, back to the Saison…as a baseline these are light colored, highly carbonated beers with a prominent spicy and fruity character, indicative of Belgian yeasts. Spices like ginger and citrus peel, almost any kind of fruit, and even souring bacteria like Brettanomyces can also be incorporated into these beers.
Furthermore, some breweries have started adding strong flavor hops for yet another twist on the style. This can be can be very interesting with the lemon and dill flavors of Sorachi Ace, the white wine tones of Nelson Sauvin, or the tangerine-like flavor of Amarillo.
This beer style offers a ton of space for experimentation, which is why I believe it to be so popular. There are lots of great examples being brewed in this state and I would definitely encourage you to try some.
- Cheers! and long live New Mexico Beers!
Boese Brothers Brewery