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Summer Brews

After a normal CNY winter and what has seemed to be the longest, coldest, most terrible spring on record, it appears we are now diving right into summer, head-first. You certainly won’t find any complaining here and with restrictions beginning to be eased and lifted, sunnier days are definitely ahead!

There are several traditional “summer” beers to put you in that sweet summertime mode. Summer brews tend to be on the lighter side. Shandys, Lagers, Sours, and crisp IPAs are all brews that should be on your weekend grocery lists and in your coolers all summer long.

A traditional Shandy is a light beer mixed with citrus beverage, like lemonade. It may sound a little odd, but certainly don’t knock it until you try it, especially when the temperatures soar. Shandy’s are extremely refreshing and light. Leinenkugel Brewing Company’s Summer Shandy (4.2% ABV) from Chippewa Falls, WI is one of the most popular Shandy brews out on the mass market, and for good reason. It’s easy to come by in your local grocery or gas station and with their wheat beer mixed with lemonade, it makes for an easy drinking hammock beer. It’s best to drink a Shandy fresh and cold; you won’t want to let it sit in your fridge for weeks or months on end. Runner-up: Schöfferhofer Grapefruit (2.5% ABV), from Frankfurt, Germany – this is a Hefeweizen beer mixed with grapefruit juice. It’s very juicy and somewhat on the sweeter side. This is also a brew that is widely distributed and you can find this at your local Wegmans.

Lagers are brews that are made using bottom-fermented yeast and created under low temperatures, usually in the low 40s. The resulting brew is light and crisp. When most of us think about lagers we think about American lagers such as Budweiser, Coors, Miller and PBR, therefore making lagers one of the most underappreciated types of beer when we base them solely off of the aforementioned beers. My recommendations for Lagers come from Rare Form Brewing Company based in Troy, NY. Two of theirs come to mind that will please everyone from the PBR drinker to the more selective craft beer connoisseur. Freshy Hoppy Lager (5.5% ABV), is a lovely little brew, lightly hopped with slight citrusy notes. The second is Confetti (5.4% ABV), a Mexican-style lager brewed with New York corn and Zeus hops making this a very crisp and clean lager that you can still add a lime to. If you can’t make the drive out to the capital-region, you also have the opportunity to order from Rare Form online and have their beer shipped to you via UPS. Lagers are light and refreshing, which make them a welcome beer to have on hand in the summer and generally tend to be crowd pleasers.

Sour beers are brewed to be generally acidic and therefore tart on the palate. Traditional sours include Gose, Lambic, and Flanders red ale. Many different strains of yeast can be used and even “wild ales” or “wild sours” are produced using Foeders, which are giant open vats, and collect different strains of wild yeast and bacteria present in the air and the beer is fermented that way. Many sours are light, tart, and can have various fruit flavors in addition. They are notably carbonated and dry and are generally pretty refreshing. Sours are personally a favorite of mine and it’s hard for me to only recommend one or two. A local recent favorite is Syracuse’s own Willow Rock Brewing Company’s Godcilla: Curuba and Soursop (3.9% ABV). This sour is indeed fruited – with soursop being a prickly green fruit with flavors reminiscent of pineapple or strawberry and curuba being a variety of passionfruit – but is not overpowering. It is dry, tart, and generally so light, I could drink it like a lager or pilsner! I was very happy to have found this and hope that this one will continue to be on their menu straight through the summer. Runner-up: ANYTHING by K2 Brothers Brewing out of Rochester, NY – recent favorites have been Soursop/Pineapple/Pink Guava Sour, Strawberry Starburst Gose (Yes! They actually used Starburst candies to make this!), Rasberry Lemonade Sour, Strawberry/Gooseberry/Pink Guava Sour, & a Black and Blue Sour. Currently, they do not ship, but the brewery is open for pickup and Branching Out Bottle

IPAs – or India Pale Ales – are many and can almost be overwhelming with so many to choose from these days, but certainly a crisp, hoppy IPA can be a phenomenal addition to a warm summer’s day. There are also many varieties to choose from – New England IPAs, West Coast IPAs, Double IPAs, Triple IPAs, Session IPAs, etc. While the most prestigious of these are hard to get your paws on, there are several great IPAs that you can find almost anywhere beer is sold. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA) has their traditional Pale Ale that is great and is usually a staple for me, especially when I’m in a hole-in-the-wall bar, but they also have a “summer” IPA called Hazy Little Thing (6.7%), which is a New England Style IPA, made with Citra, Magnum, Simcoe, Comet, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops, giving it a citrusy, fresh, and definitely crushable summertime IPA to add to your list. I even found it to have some slight apricot notes. My second choice and a definite staple, even year-round, is Flower Power (7.2% ABV). This has a large body, with a noted pineapple and grapefruit finish. The brew is hopped and dry-hopped five different times throughout the brewing and fermentation process with Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade & Ahtanum hops and then dry-hopped with Chinook, Simcoe, and Amarillo. She’s a great one and super easy to find!

Pool, beach, barbeque, boating, camping, hammock, porch, patio, golfing or sitting around a campfire – whatever your favorite summer pastime is, enjoy it that much more with one of these summertime brews in-hand. Cheers to a safe and fun summer ahead!

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!