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Best summer ale for 2009?

Bell's Oberon gets my vote!

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  1. 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

      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!

      Cheers.

      1. re: Jeff C.

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

        1. re: brentk

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

      2. re: Kenji

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

        1. re: Josh

          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

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

            1. re: Jeff C.

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

              1. re: Shaggy

                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

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

              1. re: crewsweeper

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

                1. re: crewsweeper

                  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. and mine
            the mini cask is even better

            1. 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. 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

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

                  1. 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

                      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

                        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

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

                          1. re: Kenji

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    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.

                                      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

                                        Agreed.

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

                                    2. re: Wolfgang

                                      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

                                      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

                                        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.

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                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.

                                                  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

                                                    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.

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

                                                2. re: Flaco

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

                                                3. re: chuckl

                                                  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.

                                                  http://www.sierranevada.com/beers/har...

                                                  1. re: chuckl

                                                    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

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

                                                      1. re: Scotty100

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

                                                        1. re: Jeff C.

                                                          "Where is Stoudts brewed?"

                                                          Where ALL great American Pilsners are brewed: Pennsylvania;)

                                                      2. re: juantanamera

                                                        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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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. 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

                                              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. Harpoon UFO. crisp and light.