Holy Jesus, it’s HOT! I said that a lot in my 12 summers in Slower Lower Delaware. Not only is it hot there, it’s wicked humid as well creating the heat index which tells you what it really feels like. It doesn’t feel great. Now entering my second summer here in Colorado, I can say with 98.476% confidence, it’s going to be hot here, too. Drinking beer makes it feel better. A lot better.
It goes without saying that there are so many activities that are better enjoyed with a beer. But which beer do you choose when you are playing whiffle ball? How is that choice different from the one you make while you are sweating over the grill? What about washing down the food you just cooked? The decision is entirely situational and rest assured, there is a beer to match that occasion.
So three years ago, my wife and I fulfilled our American Dream by building a white picket fence around our half acre in town to contain our 2.5 children; Charlie, Max, and Larry the Dog. The added privacy opened new opportunities for relief seeking activities because, quite frankly, some of them are a tad south of classy. I need to point out that there is nothing more refreshing after mowing the lawn than hopping in the kiddie pool with a cold can of Chesterfield Ale. I was a little ashamed of myself in doing this prior to the fence, but no more.
Summer beer drinking is often a prolonged experience that can span hours because, you know, you’re hanging out. A solid summer beer should enable you to do that by being crisp, refreshing and lip smacking delicious without bogging you down with a full beer belly or too much head change. They should be beers you can and want to drink a whole mess of. These beers are often called sessions beers, but really a session is defined by your intent and goals in engaging in beer drinking… so any beer can be a session beer. Let’s discuss some classic summer situations and think about a few beer choices for each.
A quick anecdote about mowing the lawn to get us started. Shortly after purchasing our home, my parents came to town to graciously help us get it ready to move in. The lawn hadn’t been mowed in weeks, and it was just about knee high. My father took on the project with much gusto, and did an amazing job knocking it out. Two hours in as he was nearing completion, he headed to the fridge for some refreshment. Working at Dogfish, I always had lots of unlabeled bottles identifiable by me by fill height and crown color. Well, twenty minutes later we found him sitting down under a tree swigging a bottle remarking about how dizzy he was feeling. He was drunk as he had found a bottle of 120 Minute IPA and the 18% abv was hitting him hard and fast.
While this is an extreme example, it illustrates why a huge, face melter of a beer is really not the best choice while mowing the lawn. A more appropriate beer for this situation could be a light, delicate witbier. Fresh herbals, crisp wheat, spicy phenols and a subtle tartness coalesce into an experience that will surely refresh, as well as restore following hours of toil. I think you’ll find the aroma of the beer will be complemented by the smell of fresh cut grass that surrounds you. Colorado has more than a few stellar examples of this style so go out, find one, and get yourself prepared.
Work is done and we’re feeling refreshed and the troops are getting hungry. It’s time to fire up the grill and start cooking. If you’re like me (and I’m sure you are), lighting the coals means its time for a(nother) beer. As we prepare our meal, an apertif is always appropriate. Two beer types come to mind that will serve this function with grace and style. Dubbed “the Champagne of the North” by Napoleon’s army, the low ABV, tart Berliner Weiss style is a distinctive way to whet the appetite. It’s light and dry and refuses to overtake the senses. The flavor is intriguing enough to get the juices flowing leaving you wanting more. Totally perfect. While a bit more robust, a classic German-style pils with its zippy noble hops, biscuity malt and dry finish is also a great fit, especially while surrounded by smoke manning (or womanning) the grill. The stronger flavors and aromas will be less likely to be overtaken by your surroundings. The sensation of the cold pils will be welcomed relief from the heat of summer and of the grill.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to pretend we’re grilling up some burgers and dogs accompanied by any and/or all of the classic sides. To wash this down, a classic American pale ale is going to do the trick every time. The malt and hop character of these beers, along with the more robust yeast produced flavors and aromas are substantial enough to not get lost in the hearty flavors of the food as it cleanses the palate with its crisp dryness. The modest body will keep you from filling up so you’ll be able to have a few more after the meal, is done as you know you will. We can’t overlook, however, the classic American Pilsner. There are a few regional stalwarts that are totally stellar and completely at home here. These smaller breweries produce lager beers with unique character and flavor distinguishing them from their much, much larger mega-counterparts. I will take a dog and a Straub any time. I will take a Straub alone anytime in the summer. It is a glorious all-American companion to hot and humid.
There is no doubt a time and a place for strong flavorful beers in the summer time. At the end of the day after the sun has gone down and the air has cooled, I love a big ol’ West Coast IPA or a robust American porter while sitting with my lady on the porch swing. It’s a beautifully romantic way to wind down and enjoy some pleasant conversation. Hell, I might even have two.
There is a beer for every situation, and choosing the best one for you is very simple. Armed with the knowledge of beer types and flavors, as well as understanding and trusting how you feel and what your body needs, you will make the best decision. The summer time is a spectacular time for beer drinking. There are so many engaging ways to find refreshment and relaxation. Beer is a mood setter. Let’s get in a good one.
Here’s a bonus homebrew recipe for you. I obsessively made this beer in the late 90’s. It’s not too dissimilar to Ol’ Zippy here at The Post. Brew it. Drink it. Have fun.
Let’s dispel a terrible myth. Beer made with corn is not bad beer. Big brewing corporations have surely made it seem that way but when used by the right hands and in the right form, corn adds a subtle sweet flavor yet leaves a great crisp body that can’t be replicated without. Most of my favorite beers of summer are corn beers. These beers are undeniably refreshing and full of character.
With this recipe, we are going to brew a total knockout of a summer thirst quencher that is light, crisp and full of great flavors. And best of all we are going to do it with corn. Get ready because this will require a partial mash to make the best of our choice ingredient.
Starting Gravity: 1.044
Final Gravity: 1.008
Target ABV: 4.25
Bitterness: 24 IBU
Color: Deep Yella
Here’s what you need to make it:
1 Pound – American Two Row Malt (Crushed)
1.25 Pounds – Flaked Maize
3 Ounces – 20°L Crystal Malt (Crushed)
4 Pounds – Light Dry Malt Extract
.3 Ounces – Cluster Hops
.5 Ounces – Cascade Hops
7 Gallons – Filtered Water
2 Pouches – Safale US-05 Dry Brewers’ Yeast
Here’s what you need to do:
In a large kettle, heat your water to 160°F.
Thoroughly mix the crushed Two Row, Flaked Maize, and crushed Crystal Malt and place the grain in a good strainer bag (cheese cloth will work but double up to reduce the amount of breakthru you may encounter). Don’t pack it too tightly. You want it loose so the next step is effective. Use two if necessary and make sure the opening is tied shut. We want to keep the grain in the bag.
In your brew kettle (I’m totally assuming that you have two large pots… if you don’t, no need to stress. This is a great opportunity to show off how well you can improvise), mix two(2) gallons of hot water with the bag of grain ensuring all of the grain is well hydrated. We need all of it to be wet for the enzymes in the malt to convert it’s starches into sugar along with those in the corn. Get a lid on that pot or cooler and do whatever you have to in order to maintain the temperature which should be around 152°F. Hold this mini-mash at this temperature for thirty-or-so minutes. During this rest time, you can heat the remaining water to a boil.
The rest is over and the other five(5) gallons of water is boiling. Very carefully, lift the grain bag out of the liquid (which should smell super delicious right now) and squeeze as much of the liquid out of the grain that your hands can handle. It’s hot so be careful. Put the bag aside so you can add the spent grains to your compost heap later. Now, super carefully, add the boiling water to the liquid in the brew kettle. Add the Light Dry Malt Extract and stir well.
Get the brew kettle onto your burner or stove and bring the liquid (wort) to a boil. Once the wort is boiling, allow it to boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure the entire boil is conducted with the lid off.
Following this initial boil time, add all .3 Ounces of Cluster Hops and keep boiling.
45 minutes after the Cluster Hops have been added, add .15 Ounces of Cascade Hops and boil some more.
15 minutes later kill the flame and add the remaining .35 Ounces of Cascade Hops and stir with a sanitized stainless steel spool in a circular fashion to create a whirlpool (don’t get carried away so we can minimize splashing. Air ingress at this point of the process can be damaging to the beer’s quality further down the road). Put the lid on the brew kettle and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
Cool the wort as quickly as you can using whatever method you are used to using. When the temperature has reached about 72°F (or thereabouts) transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermentation vessel. Make sure you get a sample to check the gravity and to taste the wort. Now is the time you want air to get into solution in your wort so splash away. If you have aeration equipment, then you know what to do. If not, once you’ve transferred the wort to the fermenter, put the lid on and cover any openings and shake the living shit out of it until you can’t shake it anymore. Open the lid and add the two packets of yeast. Put the lid on and shake it real good, again. Put a sanitized airlock in place and move the fermenter to a cool dry place.
Once fermentation is complete, transfer the beer to a sanitized secondary fermenter and allow it to condition for a week or two. Be mindful of air ingress here, too because now that we have beer, air will be truly detrimental to the flavor.
So now it is time to package the beer. Since you’re reading this online, do a quick search for homebrew bottling and kegging. No need taking up bandwidth with information that’s been sitting out there waiting for you all along.
Have fun making this beer. I have made it a gazillion times. Save me some so I can drink it and pat you on the back for a job well done.
Note: All grain brewers, take out the malt extract and use 7.5 pounds of American Two Row and brew as you normally do. If you want to do the math for your system, the extract contribution of each grain is as follows: 84% Two Row, 14% Flaked Maize, 2% C-20. I recommend a liquor to grist ratio of about 2.85:1 for this delightful beer.