Despite the recent respite from the heat, it has been a long hot summer in more ways than one. When the mercury rises, there’s nothing like a nice cold beer to slake your thirst. Beers that fill this role, sometimes called lawn-mower beers, tend to be light bodied, neither too bitter nor too sweet, with a low abv and a clean finish. Gen Xers like myself might harbor some nostalgia for the mass market lagers that fit this bill in our youth, whereas millennials are more likely to reach for a hard seltzer. I hate to be the one to disparage your guilty pleasures, but now more than ever is a time to support local breweries, and here in Central Ohio we are fortunate to have a bevy of crushable summertime beers bursting with flavor and laser focused on quenching your thirst. Here’s a representative sampling of some that have been helping me make it through the dog days of summer.
This hazy pale ale from Homestead Beer Company clocks in at a sessionable 4.9%. If you choose to decant from the frisbee golf themed can you’ll be rewarded with a fruity nose rich in grapefruit and lemon. The beer pours hazy with a white head that doesn’t persist for too long. The color is somewhat unusual, a pale straw-yellow with a pinkish-beige tinge. You wouldn’t be missing too much if you opted for an opaque drinking vessel, like a solo cup. Citrus forward fruitiness is the centerpiece of this beer and every element supports that one defining mission. New World hops (a generous helping of Citra if I’m not mistaken) carry the bulk of the load. Malt sweetness and hop bitterness are dialed back to the point where they only register subliminally. The finish is clean, with no lingering sweetness, but not so dry that it fails to quench your thirst.
Land Grant has released an impressive array of new beers this summer, enough to que up 1-2 newly released beers each week on their Beers with the Brewers podcast. Lemon Glow debuted last summer and has made two appearances this summer, but it never lasts long once it hits the market. It’s very much in the same vein as Ace Run—bright and citrusy, highly quaffable, maximum juiciness and minimum bitterness. The abv is a bit higher (5.7%), but you’d never know that from the taste. The appearance is hazy to the point of opacity. The aroma and flavor deliver on the promise of the name, with juicy lemon notes occupying left, right and center stage. The underlying resinous streak is a testament to the quantity of fruit-forward hop oils that have been extracted from generous doses of Lemondrop, Loral, Centennial and Citra hops. It’s impressive that a Reinheitsgebot-compliant beer could so closely capture the essence of a freshly squeezed lemon. This easy drinking summer crusher might be a one note beer, but it hits that note out of the park.
If your goal is to brew a beer that goes down like a glass of fruit juice, why not take it to the next level by adding a little fruit juice directly to the beer. That’s what the team at North High Brewing have done in this radler-like mash up of a citra pale ale and grapefruit juice. I first reviewed this beer when it deputed in 2016, but to save you from traveling through the interwebs I’ll recount the highlights of that review here. The beer fills the glass with a pale golden liquid that is hazy to the point of being opaque. A head builds on the surface and grows like a towering cumulonimbus cloud on the horizon. Before long the snow white head has grown to fill nearly half the glass. The aroma is largely that of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, tinged with the unmistakable dank, cannabis-like aroma of citra hops. After waiting impatiently for a couple of minutes the head recedes enough for a drink. The taste follows the nose with grapefruit flavors playing the dominant role. The sweetness of the malts balances the acidity of the grapefruit juice perfectly, leaving behind just a touch of tartness. The citra hop flavors emerge at the finish reminding you that the base beer is an IPA. The mouthfeel is light bodied, as expected, but the malts add the slightest hint of creaminess. The finish is crisp and dry with minimal bitterness.
Rockmill White Ale
Among beer styles, Belgian Witbier is firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of refreshing summertime sippers. Among Ohio breweries, Rockmill is the place to go for authentic takes on classic Belgian beer styles. When you put the two together the Rockmill White Ale is a no brainer for this list. Spiced with orange peel and coriander, it’s a beer that would make Pierre Cellis proud. The pale straw colored beer certainly looks the part; hazy like most of the beers on this list but with a sheen that leans more toward translucence than opacity. For it’s lean 4.7% abv the malt base is surprisingly sweet. A delectable orange flavor sites on top of the sweet malt base, spicy notes from the coriander and a touch of clove from the yeast add the finishing touches. The sensory experience is not unlike a slice of orange spice cake in a glass, but more refreshing.
Truculent – Cucumber, Lime and Habenero
The sour beer specialists at Pretentious Barrel House are not oblivious to the seasons, and the golden sour Truculent is a favorite base beer for summer-friendly infusions. The most recent iteration features cucumber, lime and habanero peppers. The beer, which tips the scales at 6.3% abv, is a clear, golden liquid topped by two fingers of ephemeral white head. The nose is an intriguing melange of volatile carboxylic acids and the aforementioned fruit infusions. One sip is enough to let you know this is no simple kettle sour. The acid profile is complex, there’s definitely more than lactic acid going on here, but clean. Oaky highlights from the barrel contribute in the background. With each sip (and make no mistake this is a sipper not a crusher) habanero presents itself with a retronasal hit of capsaicin that peaks in the mid-palate and then recedes. The lime blends almost imperceptibly with the acidic, fruity flavors of the base beer, and the cucumber shows up at the finish. The harmonious integration of ingredients makes for a beer where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This might not be a beer to throw down after a session of pulling weeds, but it’s a great complement to summertime food.
The Confessor Foxy Pale
Given the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. An upside of this limitation is that I’ve been able to spend more time than usual homebrewing. My most recent foray into this arena was done in collaboration with my friend and podcast partner, Mark Richards. Using samples of hops from Hopsteiner we designed a recipe for a low abv, hazy pale ale. Starting from a malt base of floor malted Czech pils, white wheat and Quaker oats we piled on Lotus and Bravo hops in the whirlpool and dry hopped with Lemondrop and Bravo lupulin pellets. The piece de resistance was my first successful oxygen free pressure transfer from fermenter to keg. All my previous attempts at making hazy IPAs and pale ales suffered from various degrees of oxidation brought about either by too much sampling in the fermenter, self-inflicted wounds from transferring to a secondary fermenter, or the unavoidable exposure to air that occurs on bottling. I’m happy to say that two weeks post kegging, this über pale beer shows no sign of the darkening and strange off colors that come with oxidation (see photo below for proof). Much like the first three beers on this list, citrus-forward hops dominate the flavor, but the adjunct grains do lend a soft, pillowy mouthfeel and great head retention. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’ve got the tools to minimize oxidation in those beer styles where it is the most damaging.