If the title doesn't already give it away, this month we'll be discussing summer beers, how they came about, what styles classify and different beers to look out for.
If you look back through the history of beer, you'll notice a trend of darker or mild beers being available in the colder seasons and lighter, more flavorful beers available in the warmer months. There are a few reasons for this. To start, we'll jump back to the two types of which every beer falls under, ales and lagers.
Lagers are fermented and conditioned at cooler temperatures, originating in caves for cold, consistent temperatures. Although lagers vary in color, flavor and composition, most pale lagers are typically mild and meant to be served well refrigerated. Although no longer the case, historically, these beers were offered in the cooler months when the temperatures were appropriate for this style of beer.
With the equipment available today, we can replicate these conditions, allowing brewers to make almost any style of beer any time. However, since lagers are still mostly very traditional to their respective styles, you'll see most of them offered as either mild year-round beers or winter seasonals.
Ales, on the other hand, were historically brewed in the warmer months because these yeast strains require warmer temperatures to ferment. Ale yeast will ferment the beer quickly, typically giving it a more sweet, fruity and full-bodied flavor.
Due to the seasonal variation between ales and lagers, they were offered at different times of the year.
Again, we can now brew both any time of the year, but we are currently speaking historically. When modern ale brewing came to fruition, brewers started experimenting with different malts, hops and spices.
Throughout the year, they would pick the freshest ingredients available to them to put in their beers. Since the spring and summer offers ripe fruit, brewers would use these in their summer beers. The perfect stylistic example of this is the Belgian Witbier. Traditional Belgian brewers typically brew this style with some type of citrus peel along with coriander, a very herbal/orange-flavored seed. Other ripe fruits such as raspberries and cherries are also traditionally found in Belgian-style beers.
You will find most summer seasonal beers to be light-bodied and very flavorful. Modern brewers who offer these styles of beers have trended toward fruity and citrus flavors.
For example, Deschutes Brewery's Twilight Summer Ale is made with whole-flower hops that combine to give this beer very grassy, floral and citrus flavors.
Another beer to look out for is Dogfish Head's Festina Peche, brewed with peaches.
Looking back to the historical difference between ales and lagers versus the modern examples, brewers have begun making light-bodied summer lagers.
An example of this would be Troegs Sunshine Pils, a fuller-bodied pilsner lager with a citrus and floral character. These are commercial examples of summer beers you should definitely give a shot before the end of the season.
After mentioning a few of the larger breweries' summer beers, we have to give a shout-out to all of the local breweries. Your local breweries also offer fantastic beers to be enjoyed this summer. Moon River Brewing Co. brews their Wild Wacky Wit, a Belgian Witbier brewed with spices.
Coastal Empire Brewing Co. offers their year-round Tybee Island Blonde. This session-able beer with clean and crisp notes is brewed with the noble hop variety.
Last, but not least, Southbound Brewing Co. recently launched the Scattered Sun Belgian Wit, another Belgian Style Witbier brewed with bitter orange peel and coriander.
You can find all of these beers around our area. We'd suggest you give these local beers a try, then start exploring some other summer seasonal options brewed by other fantastic brewers of the southeast.
Smith Mathews (brewmaster) and Carly Wiggins (marketing director) are founders of Southbound Brewing Company, Savannah's only production microbrewery. Go to southboundbrewingco.com or send an email to email@example.com.