Like pilsners, summer brews are meant to be thirst quenching and refeshing. We've moved out of the leftovers from winter or last year's brewing. Traditionally this would have been some of the first real fresh brew of the year and it was meant to be enjoyed that way. What you find is a beer that is a bit lighter, more crisp, a bit reserved on the hops and a touch of fruitiness, though sometimes fruit is added in to amplify the tastes. literally. We aren't dealing with the richness of stouts or barleywines here but that doesn't mean flavor has taken a back seat. It's just more refined and subtle. If there was a style for a summer seasonal in the American craft beer scene then it is a pale wheat beer, but that doesn't tell the whole story, you can find saison, kölsch, pilsner, and others style being offered too. The Summer seasonal then is another misnomer like the festive beers of Christmas or the spring seasonals that we just left. We are just going to use it as an excuse for trying these beers out and considering how they would taste on a hot summer day.
Bell's Brewery Oberon
The beer poured a nice hazy golden color with a fair share of sediment that swirled around then settled at the bottom of the glass. A small white head that slowly dissipated but never disappeared and moderate carbonation. You can taste the wheat but it isn't as forward as you would find in a Witbier or here-weiss though both of those really aren't apt comparisons. This is meant to be more subdued than those styles, a welterweight fighter compared to those middleweights. There is a whiff of spice in the nose, but on the drink it blends in with the subtle fruitiness in the beer. It finishes pretty smooth with a minimal bitterness in the aftertaste that clears off very quickly. Lighter than you expect but adequately charged at 5.8% ABV. I would say this would be a good 80 to 85 degree beer. It is a beer that requires just a bit of time to warm a bit to reveal itself, but it would not be as enjoyable in the big heat and humidity. There is a reason this beer has become the classic it is and it is safe to say it is a suitable benchmark for comparison as we dive into other summer seasonals. Go enjoy one of these. Here is the 'party line' on Oberon:
Bell's Oberon is a wheat ale fermented with Bell's signature house ale yeast, mixing a spicy hop character with mildly fruity aromas. The addition of wheat malt lends a smooth mouthfeel, making it a classic summer beer.Goose Island Summertime
Back when I lived in the Midwest Goose Island's Hex Nut Brown, (now discontinued sadly) was a quality session beer. A few months ago I had a Goose Island IPA at the Kennedy Center and I was surprised that I found it there. After a little research I found out why, Goose Island had been purchased by Anheuser-Busch which meant its distribution had been expanded. I'll admit that it dampened my enthusiasm a little but it is time to move on and see if the Goose still has it.This is a kölsch-style beer which means its comparison is more in line with a pilsner except this isn't a lager, it's an ale. It was a response to the success of pilsner, a local style that changed enough to be competitive, hold on, and actually stop pilsner in its tracks.
It poured a clear golden straw color with high carbonation and a fluffy white head. Like pilsner this is better when fresh and chilled. Unlike a pilsner with it's earthy bitterness, kölsch goes more for a fruity bitterness though in the case of the Summertime it is rather mild and leaves little impression. It has a decent crispness on the drink but the rest is rather uneventful. I hoped for more out of this beer and I am not finding it.
Some of this may be chalked up to the fact that kölsch as a style is one where I don't have as much experience as I would like but if you compare this to the three I have had over the last few months this is rather lackluster. There is another commonality kolsch and pilsner have and that is there is nowhere for the brewer to hide. Because of the simplicity and purity of the ingredients both demand diligence and skill to to get the most out of them, the Summertime is not delivering on that front. It has 5% ABV.
The Summertime falls into the category of a gateway beer. It's an easy beer for folks used to industrial lagers to drink and enjoy. It also would do well on those really hot summer days. But like the really hot and humid day you are going to want a change of pace sooner rather than later. Here is the 'party line' on Summertime:
The color of sunshine, with a light fruity aroma and a hint of fruity acidity, Goose Island Summertime is the perfect summer session ale. A kölsch beer brewed in the traditional German fashion, you'll find yourself enjoying and savoring each sip of summertime as much as you do those hot summer days and cool summer nights.