Most sports are broken up into summer and winter: Cricket for summer, rugby for winter for example. Whilst I firmly believe that beer is a 365 days of the year sport, there are definite times of the year when some beer work and some don’t.
No-one has ever finished mowing their yard in Australia in the middle of January and said “what I need now is a pint thirst quenching stout”, they reach for the beers that are more refreshing, with more tropical and citrus flavours rather than those big roasted and dark flavours, beers with lighter mouthfeel and aren’t big, chewy mouth-grenades. Crisp lagers and pilsners that quench your thirst, sours and IPA’s that cut through the oppressive heat and pale ales that are begging for fresh barbequed fish. That’s not to say that porters and stouts aren’t enjoyed in summer, especially by the hard core hop-heads, it’s just that most people are reaching for their weapons of mass consumption, those big stouts and porters are more of a contemplation type beer than a “refreshing” beer.
That drive to find a beer that “works” for those oppressive summer days has seen craft brewers create what’s been coined as “Summer”, “Tropic/al” or even “Seasonal Release” (although seasonal can be anything from a beer made especailly for winter too). The term “summer ale” was first coined by San Francisco based brewer Anchor Brewing way back in 1984 and, while there isn’t a hard and fast set of rules for what is a summer beer, breweries all over the world are knocking out “summer” beers that all have a few key themes:
- Fruit – either flavours derived from the use of interesting yeasts, from the hops or by simply adding in fruit to the brew, fruitiness is a key element of a summer beer. From citrus, guava, or blood orange through to watermelon or rhubarb sour ales. Flavours derived for sheer drinkability and refreshment
- Wheat – wheat and fruitiness in a beer go hand in hand. When barley and wheat are added together in the mash with light flavours that are utterly drinkable. A lot of people say they don’t like wheat beer, and then try Fat Yak Tropical. Those flavours are derived from the use of wheat.
- Pilsner – the P-word seems to get dropped off a lot of Aussie labels, consumers seem to be scared of the word. Instead we see lager (pilsner falls into the lager family), tropical even session are thrown onto the label. They’re light, range from heavy, muscled up versions right through to lithe, lightly hopped, and very refreshing. If you’re an adventurous beer drinker, don’t let the term “pilsner” turn you off.
- Pale and Hoppy –. The pale ale family encompasses everything from Amber and IPA through to Scotch and Red ales, but not all are great for summertime drinking. IPA and Pale Ales are the go to here, where the hops stand head and shoulders above the lighter malt flavours. However those highly hopped beers often have high alcohol content which can go straight to your head in the warmer months.
Summer beers aren’t just a fad, the naming kind of is, but the style isn’t. With the continuing rise of craft beer in Australia, we will see more beers hit the market, not just from the small craft guys, but also the larger macro-breweries (Fat Yak Tropical, Little Creatures Dog Days for example).
Here’s a couple to try, all tinnies, but all will show their best from a glass:
KAIJU! Krush – if there is one thing that you notice about KAIJU’s range is that they are all hop driven, and Krush is loaded with them. Think of nearly every tropical fruit and it’s probably here in the aromas. Those flavours dance across your tongue, with the bitterness complementing those flavours, a touch of cracker in the finish from the malt. But a superb beer and way too easy to drink.4.7%
VALE Tropic Ale – Vale have been on a role since their acquisition by Bickford’s, their Fox Hat range is looking superb, and their Vale range is becoming easier to find. The Tropic is their latest addition to the expanding portfolio and is an extremely easy to drink 4.2% ale. Summer stone fruits and a touch of pineapple in the finish, its clean, refreshing and very more-ish.
Nomad South Pacific Ale – probably more trans-Pacific than just south Pacific with the addition of US hops to the OZ grown, a fairly light malt base sees the hops really shine through giving it a storm in a fruit bowl flavour with a touch of pine in the backend. This has Easter at the beach written all over it. 4.1%
Stone and Wood Pacific Ale – Stone and Wood have always managed to capture a vibe in there beers, but were often difficult to take along everywhere because they were in glass. Now in cans, the Pacific Ale can tag along wherever you wanderlust takes you. Galaxy hops here which give the beer a lift and a unique aroma, almost gelati like. A little mango, passionfruit and citrus on the tongue. A little bitterness which trickles off and leaves the fruity tastes there, one of the most sessionable beers on the market with just enough complexity to make you come back for more.