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Best summer ale for 2009?

Jeff C. Jun 9, 2009 08:56 AM

Bell's Oberon gets my vote!

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  1. k
    Kenji RE: Jeff C. Jun 9, 2009 09:32 AM

    Ipswich Summer Ale from Mercury Brewing of MA. It is light-colored but very tasty and firm-bodied; it's not at all a typical dumbed-down "lite" summer beer.

    I'd love to try Bell's Oberon, but it's not available where I live. The Bell's brews I have tried, while traveling, were just remarkable.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Kenji
      Jeff C. RE: Kenji Jun 9, 2009 09:41 AM

      I guess we're even, then, as I don't think the Ipswich is sold in N. Carolina. (Will have to check the specialty markets to be sure.) Do try the Oberon if you get a chance. The label says its has the color and scent of a summer day, and for once the label is correct!


      1. re: Jeff C.
        brentk RE: Jeff C. Jun 10, 2009 11:28 AM

        Actually, Ipswich has recently entered the NC market. At least, I have seen it in the Triad.

        1. re: brentk
          Jeff C. RE: brentk Jun 10, 2009 11:30 AM

          Good to know. Thanks. Will see if I can find in WNC.

      2. re: Kenji
        Josh RE: Kenji Jun 9, 2009 03:36 PM

        Oberon is one of my favorite beers, regardless of season. Kills me that we can't get Bell's in California.

        1. re: Josh
          pininex RE: Josh Jun 9, 2009 11:13 PM

          I couldn't agree more about Bell's. I have been doing a lot of trading for Midwest beers recently and have tried a ton from Bell's, 3F, Founder's, and Dark Horse. Bell's has easily been my favorite out of all of these repected breweries. I particularly love the Expedition Stout, Third Coast Old Ale, and Porter. I have to try Oberon.

          I do like the 3F Gumballhead a lot.

          Locally, I am loving Lagunitas' Little Sumpin Sumpin, but its higher abv limits it.

          1. re: pininex
            Jeff C. RE: pininex Jun 10, 2009 05:10 AM

            Don't think I've seen the 3F G. locally. What kind of beer is it?

            1. re: Jeff C.
              Shaggy RE: Jeff C. Jun 10, 2009 09:19 PM

              Gotta go with Three Floyd's Alpha King, followed closely by their Gumbalhead.

              1. re: Shaggy
                Jeff C. RE: Shaggy Jun 11, 2009 05:54 AM

                Crap. Three Floyd's beers are available only in the Midwest! (Guess I'll have to make a trip to Chicago sometime.)

            2. re: pininex
              crewsweeper RE: pininex Jun 15, 2009 11:19 AM

              You'll have to also try their Two-Hearted Ale! It's as good as OBeron, IMO.

              1. re: crewsweeper
                Jeff C. RE: crewsweeper Jun 15, 2009 03:54 PM

                I have. You're right! (I like everything I've had by Bell's.)

                1. re: crewsweeper
                  Solstice444 RE: crewsweeper Jun 17, 2009 04:48 AM

                  I was out in the Plains last week and was able to try Bell's Two-Hearted Ale on tap while in Kansas City. I remember hearing about it, probably on this board, and knew I had to try it. It was wonderful!

          2. l
            lcool RE: Jeff C. Jun 11, 2009 07:17 AM

            and mine
            the mini cask is even better

            1. Flaco RE: Jeff C. Jun 11, 2009 01:57 PM

              Picked up River Horse Summer Blonde Ale and Hive Honey Stung Ale and like 'em both when I'm sweaty. Good to see some US brewers toning the machismo down a bit for the summer months...

              1. j
                juantanamera RE: Jeff C. Jun 13, 2009 12:57 AM

                Oberon is delicious, and Gumballhead is even better, IMO. Some of my local favorites are Port Carlsbad's State Beach Blonde, the Bruery's Berliner Weisse, and Ballast Point Even Keel. AleSmith's summer version of YuleSmith is one of the best beers I've ever had, but with a fairly high alcohol content it may not fit everyone's idea of a 'summer' ale.

                1 Reply
                1. re: juantanamera
                  DougOLis RE: juantanamera Jun 15, 2009 09:23 AM

                  Was up at Alpine on Saturday and Pat said the next batch of Exponential Hoppiness that comes out in a month or so is supposed to be amazing and their best yet. Probably the most excited I've ever seen him about a beer before.

                2. Chinon00 RE: Jeff C. Jun 13, 2009 01:59 PM

                  Dogfish Head Festina PĂȘche. A beer that screams out to be drank amongst bright sunshine and high temperatures.

                  1. l
                    LStaff RE: Jeff C. Jun 14, 2009 08:09 AM

                    Sierra Nevada Kellerweis just came out and is delicious. Authentic German Hefeweizen flavor with a balance of banana and clove, and appropriate mouthfeel for the style that most US versions seem to be missing. And freshness that the imports of this style just can't compete with - about a $1 less per six pack than the imports too.

                    36 Replies
                    1. re: LStaff
                      Jim Dorsch RE: LStaff Jun 14, 2009 11:27 AM

                      This is an interesting choice for SN. (By the way, everyone, this is a year-round product, not a summer seasonal.) It doesn't fit their image of a hop-oriented brewery, but it does fit their interest in tradition and in doing something absolutely the right way, in this case with open fermentation, for example.

                      1. re: LStaff
                        Kenji RE: LStaff Jun 14, 2009 11:28 AM

                        Wow, another new year-round brew from Sierra Nevada. They're certainly staying active. I can't wait to try the Kellerweis.

                        1. re: Kenji
                          Jeff C. RE: Kenji Jun 14, 2009 01:08 PM

                          Wrong season, I know, but Sierra Nevada's Anniversary Ale is also splendid...

                          1. re: Kenji
                            crewsweeper RE: Kenji Jun 15, 2009 11:23 AM

                            Just had a couple of SN's Summerfest over the weekend. Definitely a lawnmowing brew! Light lager and great for the season.

                            1. re: crewsweeper
                              Jim Dorsch RE: crewsweeper Jun 15, 2009 12:37 PM

                              I still miss their pale bock. Nothing to do with summer, but wow, a pale bock with nice hop character. At least that's what I recall last time I had it, probably 20 years ago. I understand you can sometimes get it at SN's pub.

                              1. re: crewsweeper
                                Kenji RE: crewsweeper Jun 16, 2009 10:32 AM

                                The Summerfest is okay, but it's probably the one beer in the SN range (the one I've tried, anyway, since I still have not encountered the new German-style weiss) that I wouldn't instantly identify as a Sierra Nevada brew; it doesn't stand out, in my view, the way the other brews do. There is what Jackson described as a "house character" to everything else in the SN range.

                                Even the Pale Bock, which was unique at one time as the only lager SN bottled, screamed "Sierra Nevada."

                                But the Summerfest is still a respectable pilsner.

                                1. re: Kenji
                                  Wolfgang RE: Kenji Jun 18, 2009 05:47 PM

                                  I quit Stella about 2-3 years ago, so my memory of it's unappealing taste has faded some. SN Summerfest reminds me of Stella.

                                  1. re: Wolfgang
                                    Jeff C. RE: Wolfgang Jun 18, 2009 06:00 PM

                                    BUT...Stella is skunky and SN Summerfest isn't. (Big difference, IMO.) I agree that it may not be the best summer ale out there, but it is far from the worst. (Tastes pretty damn good after yardwork, I can tell ya.)

                                    1. re: Jeff C.
                                      Chinon00 RE: Jeff C. Jun 19, 2009 04:35 AM

                                      I'm not a fan of Stella personally finding it to be a typical euro-lager. But if you find it "skunky" then you are drinking it from either an old bottle or one that has been light struck. I know of no beer produced that tastes of skunk leaving the brewery. That particular taste is a function of poor handling of the beer.

                                      1. re: Chinon00
                                        Jeff C. RE: Chinon00 Jun 19, 2009 05:01 AM


                                        But the Stella I've had here in NC is still skunky.

                                    2. re: Wolfgang
                                      Kenji RE: Wolfgang Jun 19, 2009 02:38 PM

                                      I haven't had Stella in years, but when I did, it tasted of adjuncts. I thought, "This is like a malt liquor -- minus the kick!"

                                      Sierra Summerfest, while not their most distinctive brew, is at least wholesome tasting. It doesn't taste as if any corners were cut in its production. However, there are many pilsners, both domestic and imported, that I find more interesting. In this respect, it differs from the other brews in the SN range, most of which strike me as being near the top of their respective classes. (I just wish the stout had a stronger, thicker, richer malt base to hold up all those hops.)

                                    3. re: Kenji
                                      chuckl RE: Kenji Jun 18, 2009 09:38 PM

                                      I liked the pale bock a lot too. SN does a lot of experimenting and the Chico IPA (not a summer beer, I know) was recently available and quite good, along the lines of torpedo

                                      1. re: chuckl
                                        Jeff C. RE: chuckl Jun 19, 2009 06:53 AM

                                        By now Sierra Nevada is too large to accurately be called a "microbrewery," so it is remarkable how consistently good their beers are given the scale of the production. I just hope they don't get so big that the corporate brewers are tempted to buy them out/off.

                                        1. re: Jeff C.
                                          crewsweeper RE: Jeff C. Jun 19, 2009 11:34 AM

                                          Agree. Same for Sam Adams. However, I'll still take a "midi"-brewery brew over a big beer brew, including BB attempts at craft beer.

                                          1. re: crewsweeper
                                            Kenji RE: crewsweeper Jun 19, 2009 02:43 PM

                                            The Boston Beer Company was never a microbrewery. They were a contract brewer from the get-go. In hopes of silencing critics (some of whom were real microbrewers), the BBC purchased the old Haffenreffer Brewery in Jamaica Plain, MA. Last time I checked, however, the so-called "Boston Lager" was never made there.

                                            I like some of the BBC beers, though, such as the Imperial Pilsner and the recent Longshot bock & 2IPA.

                                            1. re: Kenji
                                              Jim Dorsch RE: Kenji Jun 19, 2009 08:28 PM

                                              I don't believe BBCo makes any of its beers for sale at the Jamaica Plain brewery. However, they do a lot of experimenting there. At the brewers conference in Boston in April, BBCo opened the doors to attendees and provided great hospitality. We got to try some interesting beers such a gueuze, and we saw lots of barrels of Utopias and such, resting gently, waiting to be bottled some day.

                                              As to its contract status, BBCo is making more and more of its beers itself, now that they own two large breweries in addition to the Jamaica Plain facility.

                                        2. re: chuckl
                                          Kenji RE: chuckl Jun 19, 2009 02:41 PM

                                          Yeah, when I lived in CA., I used to encounter lots of SN experimental draft brews. It was always a joy.

                                          I've heard of Sierra Nevada doppelbocks, Scotch ales, and rauchbiers. How I'd love to try those! I visited the SN brewery in Chico once, but I was out of luck in terms of finding anything outside their year-round brews. Still, the beer & food were good.

                                          1. re: Kenji
                                            chuckl RE: Kenji Jun 19, 2009 04:14 PM

                                            I think one of the things that makes SN so consistently good is that they grow their own hops and malt. There's a lot to be said for quality control. Point well taken on the hops, Kenji, most of their beers tend to be quite hoppy, which is fine with me. I'm an unabashed hop head.

                                            1. re: chuckl
                                              Flaco RE: chuckl Jun 19, 2009 06:45 PM

                                              Not a big fan of SN but my Barcelona raised wife is... funny. I'm not so sure that the "House Character" that Kenji refers to is a good thing. Why not be true to your school and forget the long tail? Personally, I believe the whole hop heavy micro-righteousness thing has gotten out of control and is similar to the upscale pot business in its weird pretense. Conversely, the big beer boys internationally have all sweetened their products to appeal to teenagers... sick. As for best summer ale, I just bought another case of Hive Honey Stung straight out of Salt Lake... those Mormon's have been holding out on us!

                                              1. re: Flaco
                                                Jeff C. RE: Flaco Jun 20, 2009 05:58 AM

                                                Speaking of beers designed to appeal to teenagers, has anyone tried Shock Top? It doesn't suck because it's a Michelob product. It sucks because it's AWFUL.

                                                1. re: Jeff C.
                                                  Jim Dorsch RE: Jeff C. Jun 20, 2009 08:54 AM

                                                  Isn't this a witbier? I'd hardly call it a beer for teenagers.

                                                  Do you like other beers in this style?

                                                  1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                    Jeff C. RE: Jim Dorsch Jun 20, 2009 09:19 AM

                                                    Yes to both of your questions, only this one is so sickly sweet you'd swear it has corn syrup in it. Have you had it?

                                                    1. re: Jeff C.
                                                      Jim Dorsch RE: Jeff C. Jun 20, 2009 10:54 AM

                                                      I tried it once quite a while ago. Didn't care for it, but I don't recall why.

                                                2. re: Flaco
                                                  Josh RE: Flaco Jun 21, 2009 11:11 PM

                                                  Not all craft beers are "hop heavy". Your brush is too broad.

                                                3. re: chuckl
                                                  Jim Dorsch RE: chuckl Jun 19, 2009 08:22 PM

                                                  The brewery does grow some of the hops it uses, but I don't believe they grown any barley. And I expect the amount of hops they grow doesn't go too far.


                                                  1. re: chuckl
                                                    juantanamera RE: chuckl Jun 20, 2009 03:49 PM

                                                    While I like most SN beers, I tend to disagree that growing their own hops and malt is the reason for the quality. Anheuser - Busch owns fields of hops and grains, and makes their own malt (one of very few brewers to do so), but their beers are generally quite low quality. On the other hand, nearly every craft brewer buys all of their malt and hops from the same handful of commercial suppliers and many of them make great products. In my opinion, beer is much more a product of brewers than farmers.

                                                    1. re: juantanamera
                                                      Scotty100 RE: juantanamera Jun 20, 2009 05:15 PM

                                                      I've just discovered Stoudts Pils. What an awesome beer. Without doubt my choice of Summer beer '09.

                                                      1. re: Scotty100
                                                        Jeff C. RE: Scotty100 Jun 21, 2009 06:33 AM

                                                        Thanks for the recommendation! (And for sticking to the original topic.) Where is Stoudts brewed?

                                                        1. re: Jeff C.
                                                          Chinon00 RE: Jeff C. Jun 21, 2009 07:01 AM

                                                          "Where is Stoudts brewed?"

                                                          Where ALL great American Pilsners are brewed: Pennsylvania;)

                                                          1. re: Chinon00
                                                            Jeff C. RE: Chinon00 Jun 21, 2009 07:53 AM

                                                            But of course!

                                                      2. re: juantanamera
                                                        Flaco RE: juantanamera Jun 20, 2009 06:07 PM

                                                        You know back in the day Bud and Miller in the tall skinny bar bottles were actually drinkable. I imagine that Heineken in the local brown bottle is still righteous if one is in Amsterdam. Beer might be a product of brewers but big-agriculture just loves to sell rice and corn fillers to all of the major players, hops are an afterthought. I love a nicely crafted small scale brew but there's nothing sacred about it. Success breeds mediocrity in most cases... give 'em all time. I used to love Prestige from Haiti in the summer, now it's pumped full of alcohol because it was "too light" for the suds snobs...

                                                        1. re: Flaco
                                                          Josh RE: Flaco Jun 21, 2009 11:17 PM

                                                          Heineken is a perfectly acceptable, if boring, Euro lager if you have it out of the can, or out of one of the magnum-sized bottles they release here for New Years' Eve. The mediocrity of macrobrew isn't anything to do with success, IMO. Those beers were engineered to taste the way they do, because post-Prohibition America had gone a long time without good beer being available.

                                                          I'm aware there's a "backlash" out there against craft brewing by people with very short memories, who mistakenly believe American beer production began with Anheuser-Busch. Meanwhile, craft brewers who actually know about beer are not only turning out great beers, they're also dabbling in recreating pre-Prohibition American beer styles - styles which show that Americans did drink good beer.

                                                          1. re: Josh
                                                            Flaco RE: Josh Jun 22, 2009 09:39 AM

                                                            I happen to live in a neighborhood in NYC that used to have several German brewers a hundred years ago... I'm well aware of the history. As far as Heineken, I was referring to the local brown bottle unpasteurized brew made at the old factory in Amsterdam. I'm sure something similar was available in St. Louis only a generation or so ago... maybe AB still does?

                                                        2. re: juantanamera
                                                          Jim Dorsch RE: juantanamera Jun 20, 2009 08:09 PM

                                                          I don't believe AB grows its own barley, although the company does contract with farmers. They grow some of the hops they use.

                                                          I agree that growing the ingredients doesn't necessarily make the beer better, but I disagree that AB makes low-quality beer.

                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                            LStaff RE: Jim Dorsch Jun 22, 2009 11:03 AM

                                                            Jim, I think you are correct that A-B does not grow their own barley - or even do their own maltings, but has strict control/audits on its malt and hops suppliers and are very well suited and in position to buy the best.

                                                            Coors is a large brewery that does their own malting out in CO.

                                                            1. re: LStaff
                                                              Jim Dorsch RE: LStaff Jun 22, 2009 02:17 PM

                                                              You're correct on most counts. However, I've been to an AB malting facility, so they malt at least some of their barley, though I would expect a lot of it is malted by others. I suppose this could change with the new ownership.

                                                              BTW, I recall in the early days, Coors used to supply malt to the Boulder Brewery.

                                          2. Otterby RE: Jeff C. Jun 21, 2009 11:11 AM

                                            Can't bear my darker favorites in the heat of a summer day. My first sip of Bell's Oberon was on a hot summer afternoon, and it was PERFECT! Just right for the "lightness" dictated by the season.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Otterby
                                              Jeff C. RE: Otterby Jun 21, 2009 03:56 PM

                                              There are several worthy summer ales out there right now, but Oberon exists at a whole other level, IMO. It is truly sublime. My ony regret is that it isn't available year-round (at least in NC)--could really help one beat back the winter blahs!

                                            2. r
                                              ReggieL. RE: Jeff C. Jun 25, 2009 11:06 AM

                                              Harpoon UFO. crisp and light.

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