My Hero in the Dog Days of Summer: Beer

7 Aug

Oh, beer.  How you are cold on a hot summer day; how you add flavor to the final days of this season.

I’m not talking about Keystone Light or any related beers produced in the piss style.  This summer, I have been enjoying various beers made with care in microbreweries across the U.S.  Of course, there’s nothing better than a nice cold one on a hot day, but for me, the flavor is just as important as the temperature (as I hope is the case for most people).  Admittedly a stout girl (with respect to the beer–not my size), I tend to lean towards the heavier beers.  However, any beer made well that has great flavor is a friend of mine.  The wheaty hefeweizens can be lighter and less heavy. Meanwhile, certain IPAs have made turned me into a believer; I used to find IPAs on the cliche side.  I have also developed a passion for red ales, with their deep, alluring hue and equally pleasing flavor.  All in all, my summer with beer has been a good one.

Let’s start with my old time favorite: Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.  I couldn’t ask for more in a beer.  Sam Smith’s (Do you mind if I call you Sam, Samuel?) is a dark, delicious beauty.  It’s malty flavors are deep but not overpowering, not too sweet, and not too heavy.  The beer is toasty, as if it wants to comfort you from all your troubles.  And it is just plain tasty.  Recently, in a cheese and wine/beer pairing I did, I paired Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout with Stinking Bishop cheese.  The combination was intense–a bold beer with a super-bold cheese, but most of the tasters said that without the beer, they would not have liked the cheese.  It was a match made in heaven!  Just like a couple can look cute as long as one person is a looker, Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout can make many interesting flavors sing.

Now, onto wheat beers–those bready yet light beers so well suited for summer.  Although these beers are sometimes too bready tasting for me, they also hit the spot when I’m looking for a light and less sweet brew.  One of the nicest wheat beers I’ve tried this summer is Magic Hat’s Circus Boy (brewed with lemongrass).  It has a light lemony scent that harmonizes perfectly with the wheaty taste.  Perhaps my favorite thing about Circus Boy is that it isn’t too wheaty.  Some beers taste like straight up bread, while Circus boy offers a pleasant hint of bread.  In the end, this edition of Magic Hat is a perfect example of how a hefeweizen can be welcome on a hot, unbearable day.

Now for my summer lesson: IPAs can be much more than a lightish-hued beer with mad hops.  Two great IPAs, albeit IPAs unlike many others, are Bear Republic Brewing Co.’s Hop Rod Rye IPA and Piraat Ale, by Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Belgium.  Both of these beers have intense flavor, powerful levels of alcohol, and the ability to turn a boring day into a great one.  The Hop Rod Rye IPA is darker with a small head, and as it names suggests, the beer is made with a higher percentage of rye.  It tastes hard core; the slightly bitter and spicy flavors remind me of the divide between lovers of white bread and lovers of rye bread.  Certainly, those white bread fans are out drinking a very light and crisp IPA as I, a fan of dark rye bread, would relish tilting back one of these Hop Rod Rye’s.  Just as a good dark rye is a bread of survivors, like the many Eastern Europeans who have eaten it in trying times, Hop Rod Rye is the beer of the man who knows what flavor, hardiness, and nourishment will get him through the tough times.  Hop Rod Rye is a friend of mine.

Onto the Piraat Ale.  Admittedly, I bought this beer for three reasons, two of which were silly ones: 1) I like pirates, 2) 10.5% alcohol by volume.  The third reason, that I like Belgian Beers, was relatively legitimate.  I was pleasantly surprised by the beer’s flavor when I tried it.  The beer was bitter with hints of citrus.  It also had a beautifully hazy orange color.  When I looked up the beer online, many beer fans had commented that Piraat Ale seems more like a Belgian tripel than an IPA.  Well, either way, it was yummy.  So yummy that a forty went down smoothly, with its not-too-complex yet enticing taste.

Last but not least, the red ales.  This style of beer is basically a trap.  Not liking red ale is nearly impossible, no matter how much a person claims to hate beer.  With its caramel undertones, hypnotizingly rich color, nuttiness, and light fruit notes, how could anyone be a hater?  After trying Red Rooster Ale, from Heartland Brewing Co., my sister (not a big fan of beer) claimed to like it!  Another red ale I tried recently was Red Rocket Ale, by Bear Republic Brewing Co., the same brewers who make Hop Rod Rye.  This red ale is a bit different; the label describes it as a “bastardized Scottish style red ale”.  It is bastardized.  When very cold, the nut and caramel flavors take a back seat to citrus and flower aromas and a bitter, bracing flavor.  However, when the beer begins to warm to cellar temperature, the sweet nutty and toffee notes become more apparent.  Flavors of butter and oranges seem present on the palate no matter what the temperature, however.  For me, this beer is like an interesting boyfriend: it has good qualities that endure, but it’s always surprising you with interesting complexities.  Go buy this beer now and enjoy it with a good gouda cheese, french fries with malt vinegar, or even pecan pie.

Damn.  So many beers and so little time.  Are you a person who “doesn’t like beer”?  I suggest you retract your badittude and get your ass on trying some truly hand-crafted microbrews.  Not only will you be doing yourself a favor, but you will be stimulating the American economy with your purchase.  Now get to it!  And for those of you who need no cajoling to get your beer on, I hope you try some of the suggestions I made; they aren’t to be missed.

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