By Dan “the Beer Man” Oliver
Standing a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the balmy
breeze, cold beer and good conversation, I had this thought: "Why don't I
do this more often?" Now this may qualify as a "duh" moment to many of you,
so I'll go even further to contend if you haven't taken a six pack to the beach, you are not a true Floridian. It's a simple pleasure, but a good one.
I must admit it was difficult deciding what summer beers to feature for this article. There are dozens of summer beers on the shelves these days. It seems almost every brewery in America — from A-B to Z Street Brewing — has come up with a quenching warm weather quaff.
A few years ago, I would have scoffed at talk of “summer beers” and just told you to go out and find a beer you like, whatever the weather. But things change. I will still stick to my guns in pointing out beers such at Belgian Wits and German Hefeweizens are natural summertime suds, and if you find a couple of good ones you like, you need look no further.
But of course, I did, and selected for review beers from across the summertime spectrum.
With eight intrepid tasters on board, we took to sampling six different beers of summer and came away with some surprising results. We rated each on a 10-point scale. Here’s how they ranked (with lowest to highest scoring), although I think you’ll see how the points may not tell the entire story.
Sea Dog Raspberry Wheat: Average score 5.1
This is a good seller in our area, but polarizing for the panel. They either loved it or loathed it. Fruity wheat beers are a summer staple, but the consensus seemed to be that this Dog was interesting at first, but probably wouldn’t hold that interest for too long.
“It does taste like fresh raspberries, especially those first sips.” … “This tasted more like an alcoholic Mister-Misty.” … “A delight at first and then you realize this is not a beer you’d want to spend the night with.”
Franziskaner Weiss Beer: Average score 5.4
This German Hefeweizen, with flavors of cloves and banana from the yeast, comes from Munich’s oldest brewery, and my guess is it would garner more respect in a more “beer nerdy” environment. We made a Hefe fan out of two of the panelists though, so it wasn’t a total loss.
“I really liked this one. It was light, but had a full flavor. I would buy this and drink it on a hot day.”… “Hated this beer, tasted like Double Bubble bubble gum.” … “Love the clove aroma.”
Native Lager: Average score 5.6
Brewed “specifically for Florida,” Native Lager would seem to be a natural summer quencher. While it claims to have “NO aftertaste,” our panel was coming up with “orange, citrus, fruity,” definitely NOT what the makers are looking for. (My guess is some tasters were actually identifying the hops as fruit, which isn’t a stretch, since many hops have a citrusy flavor.) Comments:
“Very pleasant but slightly heavy and no sparkle … not as Sunshine State-y as the label.”… “Tastes like a wheat beer with a fresh orange slice in it.” … “Like the bottle and the label.”
Harpoon Summer Beer: Average score 5.8
Brewed in the Kolsch style of Cologne, Germany, but with an American twist, Harpoon Summer Beer is meant to be mild in flavor with a crisp, dry finish, but our tasters were all over the map. Generally, let’s just say the men preferred this more than the women did. Comments:
“Crisp, hoppy, refreshing … this would be great on a hot, sticky day.”… “At first taste I thought of lemon dish soap.”… “Too sweet for me.”
Dale’s Pale Ale: Average score 6.0
The Oskar Blues flagship beer, Dale’s Pale Ale is “America’s first hand-canned craft beer.” It’s not really what you might consider a summer beer, except for the fact that being in a can makes it more nature friendly in outdoor pursuits. Our group recognized the quality, but wasn’t entirely sold.
“Easy for camping, floating in the pool and on the beach … but too strong for me.”… “This is a fine beer, rich color, nice aroma.”… “Wouldn’t drink it on a hot day, but good on a cooler one.”
… And now for the real shocker:
Shock Top Belgian White: Average score 6.07
The guys at Anheuser-Busch win this one by a nose! Shock Top is an Americanized version of a Belgian Wit, brewed with orange, lemon and lime peels and coriander, with the latter spice taking the lead in aroma. And while it came out on top in points, only one panelist listed it as her favorite of the bunch.
“This would be a fine beer to drink one of right after trimming the hedge or washing the car.”… “The first taste of this beer reminded me of a mix of Bud and Nehi orange soda.”… “A bit too fizzy and left me burping.”
Conclusions? It’s easy to see by the close scoring no one beer was a runaway favorite, and only your taste buds can tell which of these would suit you best on a searing afternoon in Florida. Personally, I favored the Harpoon for a summer offering, but have long been a fan of the Kolsch style.
I think more research is needed. Perhaps we can turn this into a monthly summer beer series. We have plenty of time, that’s for sure. Meet you at the beach. I’ll bring the beer.
Dan Oliver is a local beer lover who writes about his favorite brews. He is a member of the Palm Beach Draughtsmen homebrew club.