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Summer Brews – Part Two

Last month we talked about traditional warm weather brews – Shandys, Lagers, Sours, etc. This month is a continuation of that theme, except to hone in on those darker brews… including some campfire and nightcap brews to round out your daytime summer fun.

S’mores seem to bring out the kid in all of us. Roasting (or burning) marshmallows over a log-wood fire, turning it into the perfect toasty shade of brown, slipping it off the end of your stick while delicately balancing a hefty half of a milk chocolate Hershey’s bar on a graham cracker square and then squishing the whole thing together using another graham, melding the chocolate with the marshmallow into an ooey-gooey sweet sticky but glorious mess. It’s the perfect summer evening treat! Luckily for us big kiddos, there are a number of beers that pay homage to the s’more and won’t give us sticky paws to deal with.

High Water Brewing out of Lodi, CA has an aptly named Campfire Stout (6.5% ABV) that has been on the market for years now and continues to garner rave reviews. You can find this brew in the greater CNY area and it’s definitely something to look for to take along on your next camping trip this summer. It boasts all three components of the classic s’more using 4lbs of graham crackers per beer barrel (31 gallons), chocolate malt, and a natural toasted marshmallow flavoring. I have partaken in this brew for the past few years, as far back as 2015, and it’s definitely one that’ll still be popular years from now. I particularly enjoy how much the marshmallow seems to shine. There’s also a hint of smokiness too.

S’more excellent choices (you’re welcome for the dad joke) include: Utica NY’s Saranac Brewery S’more Porter (6.2% AVB) and Chicago, IL’s Off Color Brewing Dino S’mores Russian Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV).

Fun Fact: The first published s’mores recipe was noted in the Girl Scout’s Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts handbook in 1927 and originally called “some mores.”

Coffee stouts and porters are also another excellent choice for summer. We drink coffee, iced or hot, all year round, so a coffee beer shouldn’t be any different. It also might be your go-to for a breakfast beer during a weekend of camping. (Hey, you’re on vacation and it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!) Look no further than Brooklyn NY’s famed Other Half Brewing Co. and their I Like My Sugar With Coffee and Cream Imperial Stout that comes in at a whopping 15% ABV! Brewed with vanilla, hazelnuts, milk sugar and coffee, this is sure to get your day starting off right. It’s definitely a very sweet brew but the danger is that it’s unbelievably smooth and full of flavor, so much so that that 15% will sneak up on you for sure!

Other tasty coffee brews to try this summer include: Raspberry Blush, by Mikkeller Brewing Company out of San Diego, CA (4% ABV); while not a stout or porter, this Berliner Weisse brewed with raspberries and coffee makes for an incredibly unique brew and hands-down one of my favorite coffee-flavored beers. It’s refreshing to boot. This one you can find around the CNY area as well. I would also be remiss to mention one of the best brews I’ve had in a long time, from my beer trade buddy in Colorado. Snow on the Grain (6.6%) is a white stout brewed by Timnath Beerwerks in Timnath, CO. It’s a lighter brew, which makes it appropriate for summer, but while it may be on the “lighter” side it certainly does not lack in a “lighter” flavor. It legit tastes like a chocolate covered espresso bean and is phenomenally full bodied. So while you might not be able to find this brew distributed here, some of you may be headed out west this summer or may have friends or family that might be able to obtain a crowler or two for you.

Lastly, another summer sipping nightcap good for camping, patio or porch-sitting, is a beer that has been bourbon-barreled. While in the winter, these beers can be considered “warming,” in the summer, they invoke relaxation on a cool clear-skied starry evening. One of our local breweries creates a Russian Imperial Stout that continually hits the high notes on my chart every single year: Middle Ages in Syracuse, NY produces their Dragonslayer Russian Imperial Stout and then ages it for over a year in freshly emptied and unrinsed Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels which infuse notes of oak, vanilla, and of course, bourbon, into their delectable stout. The complexity and smoothness of their Bourbon Barrel Aged Dragonslayer is one that I look forward to drinking and also storing/aging in my own personal collection of basement beers, every single year. 2019’s version is out for purchase and consumption at the brewery with an ABV of 12.1%, and she’s a tasty one.

A great second bourbon-barreled choice is Cooperstown NY’s Brewery Ommegang Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Smoked Porter (10.4% ABV). Vanilla dominates, but it’s woody and smoky, with hints of chocolate and caramel as well. Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable brew.

The point is, don’t limit yourself to light lagers and tart sours this summer. You can still enjoy a dark brew even when the sun stays out later and the nights are warmer. Cheers! And enjoy!

Kristin Merritt
Just a brief introduction that I’ve joined the Table Hopping crew as your new craft-brew-loving gal who will be bringing you your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope that I can give a few recommendations for your grocery lists, event suggestions and local hotspots for an afternoon out with friends or planning a date, and if not for nothing, perhaps enlighten you with some random knowledge that you can amaze your teammates with at trivia night – or at least give you and your pals a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! I have some mighty large shoes to fill that my friend and fellow Syracuse Women of Craft Beer member (& founder), Gloria Rakowsky, left for me, but I hope that my style (and shenanigans) will keep all y’all coming back for more each month. Cheers!