Sunday, June 16, 2013

Founders All Day IPA: 10 Beers of Summer

Look, hops are great. Hops are awesome. Hops are glorious.  But hop bombs are not necessarily the way you want to fuel your summer yard work. That's why the advent of "session" IPAs (which are IPAs in name only, they're actually bitter pale ales) is a great thing.

And it couldn't have been done by a better brewery than Founders, one of my very favorites.

See, the whole craft beer revolution has lacked in one major respect: providing tasty beers that are still low enough in alcohol that you can drink them all day. Hey, don't take my word for it. Look at the Data: The average ABV for beer is about 4.5 percent, but if you drink good shit the average ABV of new beers hitting the market jumps to 7 percent. Well farking hell, you can't spend an entire day playing cornhole and downing brews if you're drinking 7% percent beers!

(Well, I can't, at least.)

Founders addresses this with All Day IPA, a bright, hoppy brew that comes in at a modest 4.7 percent ABV. You'll smell tangerines and mango and pine in this bitter-but-not-too-bitter brew, a beer that has flavor enough to satisfy while being easy enough on the alcohol that you can keep at cornhole without getting smashed. Yep, this is a tasty beer made even better by the fact that you can quite literally drink it all day. In other words, perfect for summer.


Portions of this post originally appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Duvel: 10 Beers of Summer

I bet Duvel doesn't strike you as a summer beer. Heck, take a look at the background on that photo. It's pretty clear the picture was not taken during summer. (It wasn't; I snapped it during the winter.)

Look at it this way: Not ALL summer beers need to be low-alcohol beers for all-day quaffing. Sometimes you need a sipper. Ommegang Hennepin is one of them. Duvel's world famous golden ale is another. It is light and effervescent enough to drink nicely on a hot summer day, but at 8.5% ABV and featuring intense aromatics it's the sort of beer you're going to want to savor.

Duvel is a Belgian strong golden ale, and in many ways it is the definitive beer of its style. The unique yeast strain gives it a bold, spicy aroma of Earth, grass, and pepper, and the taste is all spiced crackers and lemongrass and just a hint of barnyard, balanced out by perfectly matches noble hops. The fact that it's crisp and dry seems at odds with its potent alcohol content, but it's also what makes this beer (and this style in general) something special.

If you've never had a Belgian strong golden ale, make this your first one.

And DO drink this beer during the summer. When the day is winding down and you're relaxing with a cigar around the fire pit at dusk, this is a great sipper to cap off the day.

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bell's Oberon: 10 Beers of Summer

I've written about Oberon before, but it's worth touching on again. Bell's beers are not available in New Jersey -- a tragic thing, that -- so I've had to rely on the kindness of friends to enjoy their beery goodness. I don't think I've ever had a dud from them. This one, in fact, is low down the list of my favorites by Bell's, but it was my first Bell's, and it's still a good beer, AND it's a great summer, beer ...

So here we are.

I had my first Oberon about seven years ago when a friend from Michigan brought some to a BBQ I hosted. He said it was served in Michigan garnished with orange, so that's how I had it. I fell in love instantly. I ended up in Michigan not long thereafter, and since then a friend and coauthor has kept me supplied every summer.

Oberon is an unfiltered American wheat beer with a medium body, bubbly carbonation, and a zesty, slightly bready taste. It drinks easy and is very approachable, making it right for summer, but has just enough character to be right for lovers of better beer. Some might liken it to a cleaner, crisper Blue Moon (if you like Blue Moon, try these beers). I'd liken it to something that is good. Tastes nice on its own, and if you're inclined to blaspheme it with fruit -- I'm all about garnishing some beers -- it goes great with both an orange slice or a very thin slice of lemon.

If you're in New Jersey you're SOL, but elsewhere? Well, then you probably already know that Oberon is a summer tradition.

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Don't forget, win FREE STUFF courtesy of Corona!

Lest you forget, we're giving away lots of cool stuff courtesy of Corona as part of their Corona Summer promotion. A bitchin' cooler as well as T-shirts, beach mats/picnic blankets, iPod speakers and more are all up for grabs. Entering is pretty easy. Do one of these:

Every action is an entry to win something -- you'll find the details here -- and you can enter multiple times, so comment LOTS, comment here, comment there, and like that Facebook page! We'll be drawing winners on Sunday, June 16 at 9 pm.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Ommegang Hennepin: 10 Beers of Summer

There are few beers styles better suited to summer days than the saison, a rustic, brightly spicy style of beer out of Belgium that is starting to grow in mainstream popularity here in the United States. Over the last few years, in fact, it has become one of my two or three favorite styles. If you brew a saison, I'm likely to try it. I brew my own saisons, too, including a black saison made with chocolate malt and a saison spiced with black peppercorn, basil, and thyme.

One of the very best saisons on the shelves is Hennepin by Cooperstown's Ommegang, arguably America's best brewer of Belgian-style beers.

This is a beer that suggests grassy fields and fresh farmland. The smell of Earthy air and the wind blowing through turn of the century farmhouses. The invigorating air of a reedy creekside and the unmistakable taste of something made by hand.

This is a beer that drinks better than its 7.7% ABV would suggest, a musty, spicy beverage that isn't as much designed for beach drinking as it is for old rocking chairs on covered porches. It also pairs remarkably well with a good meal, giving it a high class edge absent from many other beers.

Delicious by any measure, if I were inclined to create a personal top 20 beers list, this one would be likely to end up on it. Available in 12oz bottles and corked 750ml bottles, see it, get it, drink it. It's summer spent on a farm in a bottle. Perfect.

I talk a little more about why Hennepin is awesome in this piece for the Philadelphia Weekly.

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tröegs Dreamweaver Wheat: 10 Beers of Summer

I like me some Troegs. They're probably best known for Nugget Nectar and Mad Elf, two bold seasonal beers with a legions of passionate fans -- personally I'm partial to their Javahead Stout and the woefully underrated Flying Mouflan -- but this is a brewery about more than a few high profile beers. Even their standard, year-round stuff is worth seeking out and drinking.

Dreamweaver Wheat is among those "normal" beers that rise above the pack. Available on its own or in a very worthwhile mixed pack also containing their pale ale, Sunshine Pils and HopBack Amber, this isn't strictly a summer beer. You can get it any time.

But it sure does make for great summer drinking.

Unlike the dry, crisp approach taken with Bell's Oberon, Dreamweaver Wheat is closer to a traditional German wheat, a chewy, aromatic brew with an Earthy yeast character and sparkling spice on the nose. It's medium-bodied and nicely carbonated, drinking as easily as the best of summer beers with just enough doughy flavor to give it some heft (balanced, of course, by fine noble hops). On an especially hot day you can squeeze a thin slice of lemon peel into it to add some zest. Otherwise, suck down a few of these with some brats and you'll have a little slice of heaven.


For more on this brewery and this beer, read my super awesome little writeup on it in the Philadelphia Weekly.

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Landshark Lager: 10 Beers of Summer

Time to turn in my Beer Geek card, because I'm about to shoot my credibility in the foot with a Howitzer. I should probably just go ahead and plug the Corona Summer giveaway we're doing all this week and next, because I'm about to lose half my audience.

But I don't care.

It's like this: The sun is blazing hot above you. Your shirt is soaked with sweat. You're doing yard work or bouncing along the bay in a boat. You want to have a beer you can suck down right from the bottle, and you don't want to think much about that beer, you just want something you can tip back and consume in big, refreshing gulps.

Landshark is one of those beers. They call it an "Island Style Lager," but that doesn't mean jack squat, really. It's just a light lager loosely in the style of Corona and firmly aimed at the same market, i.e. people relaxing on or having a good time at the beach. Clear bottle, summer at the beach feel, and better when you jam a wedge of lime into the bottle. It's a Corona alternative. That's all it aspires to be, and it does a pretty good job at it.

And you know what? Every now and then, during the doggiest of the dog days of summer, something like this is exactly what I crave. It's brewed by the people who make Budweiser, so if you don't want to support the big brewers you'll want to skip this, but for those who like to drink some lime wedge-adorned yellow fizz on 100 degree days? No shame!

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bell's Oarsman Ale: 10 Beers of Summer

When I first had Bell's Oarsman ale last May, I was not expecting heaps of flavor from a little 4% ABV session ale. Something nice, yes, something drinkable, sure, but not something packed with goodness.

Not only was I wrong, I also fell in love with the beer, so much so that I asked my friend and writing collaborator Jim McDevitt to bring me a case of it the next time he visited. (Bell's beer is sadly not available in my state.)

When it comes to summer beers, few are more perfect than this. Oarsman Ale is based on the Berliner Weisse style, a German classic few American brewers make. The style is typically very, very sour, so sour that in Germany it's served with a side glass of sweetened syrup intended to be poured into the beer. Bell's beer has prominent tartness -- if you don't like sour or tart candies and food you'll hate this -- but it's not nearly as sour as a traditional Berliner Weisse.

What it is, is refreshing as hell.

The aroma features a bit of fruitiness and a distinct tartness that is unmistakable. The taste follows suit. It's zippy, refreshing, fruity, tart, and utterly perfect for hot summer days. Frickin' delicious. Coming in at a dainty little 4% ABV, you don't expect much, but this is an outstanding session beer and is now among my favorites.

CONTEST: If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

River Horse Summer Blonde: 10 Beers of Summer

When it comes to beer, New Jersey is underrated. Sure, we don't host iconic breweries like Dogfish Head or Stone or Shiner or Samuel Adams or New Glarus, but we do have fantastic beer. Hell, believe it or not, when it comes to beer distribution New Jersey is one of the best in the nation. You can get a wider variety of beers here than you can in just about every other state, including California's much heralded beer scene.

Being underrated is too bad, because New Jersey has a few really great breweries. River Horse is one of them ... and since we're celebrating summer beer, let's celebrate their Summer Blonde Ale, a beer that is (obviously) intended for the summer months.

This is a light, refreshing, vaguely Belgian-style blonde ale that is as crisp and refreshing as summer beers come. The ABV is low, just 4.5% (it used to be as low as 4%), but it has more taste than the most common beers in its weight class. There is a vaguely grass-like character to the malts balanced by a lemon-tinged bitterness. Neither are strong -- compared to other golden ales they are pretty much nonexistent -- but that's the point. Nothing overpowering, nothing fancy, just simple, subdued, slightly zesty (but not too much!), and utterly drinkable.

Nothing wrong with that.

If you dig summer beers, be sure to enter to win loads of awesome summer beer stuff! It's EASY!

Monday, June 3, 2013

21st Amendment Hell Or High Watermelon: 10 Beers of Summer

"Fruit beer" doesn't have to be a dirty term. Hell, some of the most drinkable, refreshing, tasty brews of summer are fruit beers or even (gasp!) beers garnished with fruit. (Yes, I'm an advocate of blaspheming Bell's Oberon with a slice of orange!)

But fruit beers can be pretty divisive. As far as a lot of people are concerned, fruit and beer are two things that do NOT belong together. This beer, 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon, is especially divisive, with even some people who like fruit beers giving it a big thumbs down.


I'll gladly take a few cans of this crisp wheat beer on a hot summer day, thankyouverymuch. This is a highly refreshing beverage, light and easy drinking, with a zip of Jolly Rancher-like watermelon at the end that tastes just perfect when under the hot sun. A friend considers it his boat beer; when he heads out to go fishing, this is what he brings. Good choice. Sure, your Bud Lights and Coors Lights of the world go down easy, too, but this one actually tastes good.

If you want to get it, though, you'll have to buy it in cans. Much like the fellas at Oskar Blues, Surly, and others, 21st Amendment doesn't deal in bottles. If you want their beer you're going to have to find it on draft or in a case. If that's a problem -- and there are many reasons why it shouldn't be -- better move on.

That would be a silly choice. Forget what the haters say. This beer is perfect for hot days, even right from the can. Next time the thermometer hits 99, grab a sixer and try it.

And don't forget, you wan WIN BEER SWAG by commenting on this post here and on Facebook!

You can read more about this beer in the Philadelphia Weekly.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer Beers! WIN a bunch of cool BEER SWAG

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone, and you know what that means: Cold beer on hot summers days.

Celebrating the Suds wouldn't have it any other way, so we're going to count down 10 of the most refreshing beers to drink during the hot and humid days of summer -- and to celebrate this celebration of celebratable summer beers, we're going to give away tons of BEER SWAG courtesy of the folks at Corona as part of their Corona Summer promotion, including this bitchin' cooler:

Sa-weet! We also have T-shirts, portable iPod speakers, beach mats, and magnets.

Entering to win is easy. Just comment on any blog post made during our 10 Beers of Summer countdown and you'll be entered to win the Corona Summer cooler. You can enter multiple times by commenting multiple times, so comment away! (Limit, one entry per blog post.) Comment = you're entered. Boom, simple.

We're also giving away two sets of portable iPod speakers. To win those, just leave a comment on any of our Facebook posts. Oh yeah, that's right: We're on Facebook now. So surf over, comment there and you will automatically be entered to win a set of iPod speakers. Just like with the cooler, you can comment on multiple posts and be entered to win multiple times. One entry per Facebook post, and only posts to summer beer countdown content counts as an entry, but otherwise enter multiple times!

T-Shirts! All you need to do is "like" our new Facebook page and you'll be entered to win some Corona Summer shirts. Simple as that. We'll choose four winners from everyone who "likes" the page between now and midnight, June 11. Go, like, maybe win.

The beach mats are pretty cool. We'll be announcing how to win them later in the week because ... well, haven't figured it out yet. And ALL winners will get a fridge magnet, which is designed to be written on so you can leave your significant other or roomate messages like, "Buy more beer" or whatever.

So summer beers and some swag from Corona. Yeah!

The Philly Beer Top 50 - Part 10

Philly Beer Week is pretty much the biggest beer thing ever this side of the Great American Beer Festival when it comes to the not-shitty side of the Mississippi, so needless to say I'm stoked to be writing the 50-Beer Countdown To Philly Beer Week for the Philadelphia Weekly.

And hey, I care for you (not really), so I'm happy to divide it up into handy little five-beer lists like this. So here are five of the 50 beers available in Philly that you MUST drink. Part 10 of 10!

Stone Imperial Russian Stout

Weyerbacher Merry Monks

Southern Tier Oat

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack

Stillwater of Love and Regret

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Philly Beer Top 50 - Part 9

Philly Beer Week is pretty much the biggest beer thing ever this side of the Great American Beer Festival when it comes to the not-shitty side of the Mississippi, so needless to say I'm stoked to be writing the 50-Beer Countdown To Philly Beer Week for the Philadelphia Weekly.

And hey, I care for you (not really), so I'm happy to divide it up into handy little five-beer lists like this. So here are five of the 50 beers available in Philly that you MUST drink. Part 9 of 10!

Founders Porter

Terrapin Monk's Revenge Imperial Belgian IPA

Stillwater A Saison Darkly

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Monk's Safe Flemish Sour Ale